Transitioning Your Toddler from Co-Sleeper to Crib-Sleeper
He’ll only sleep with us!
At first, Attachment Parenting sounds really good. Responding to the baby’s needs, keeping her close for skin-to-skin contact, letting her learn independence at HER pace. I get it. I live on Maui, people — this is Attachment Parenting Central.
Or maybe you just accidentally fell into having baby sleep in your bed. Lots of babies don’t sleep well in the first year, and we’re so tired that we’re willing to do anything to get a little rest. Plus, it really can be dee-lish to snooze with that little sweetie right there.
But eventually, your little baby grows — into a toddler. And realizes that she can 1) keep herself awake on demand, 2) insist on nursing constantly through the night, and 3) crawl, climb and play all over Mom and Dad, who are trying (in vain) to sleep.
So I get a lot of desperate emails from readers like Amy who are re-thinking the Attachment Parenting thing. Maybe not the WHOLE thing, but the “not getting any sleep at night after umpteen months” thing. Is it possible to transition a toddler OUT of your bed, and INTO her own crib? (Or is a toddler bed in your room better?)
This is such a complicated situation that I’m devoting an entire chapter in my book to it. But until that’s available, here are some things to consider:
Toddlers don’t associate cribs with “jails” or “cages”, as some might suggest. That’s an adult projection. Toddlers feel relieved to have a safe, cozy, predictable place of their own to retreat to, after a long day toddling, climbing, and falling.
Letting a toddler have free access to your room (or the whole house) at night while co-sleeping (or sleeping in a toddler bed in your room) is enough to cause most parents to sleep with “one eye open”. Too much freedom, not enough sleep — and maybe not safe, I say.
Parents who aren’t getting much sleep after many, many months risk SERIOUS health consequences (think: life and death), plus the obvious negative impact on the relationship. Parents need some sleep to stay healthy and sane — plus their own time — together — to be “on the same page” and have a strong relationship. Even babies and toddlers can absorb — and accept — this message.
But how to do it? This depends on your family’s needs, the setup of your home, and your kiddo’s temperament. If you’re struggling with this, let me know. We can problem-solve in the comments section.
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I'm a psychologist and Mom of four, here to make parenting easier -- and more fun. My advice is science-based and road-tested in the real world. I specialize in babies and young children through age 7. I'm also a parenting writer, national speaker, child development expert, and social media strategist.
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