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Transitioning Children From Co-Sleeping To Their Own Beds

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Co-sleeping offers many parents and children a loving environment that can build bonds, comfort, and trust. Sometimes parents co-sleep out of necessity when they have fussy or restless children who are only calm in bed with Mom or Dad. Other parents are using attachment parenting techniques and co-sleeping is a part of their plans. For some moms, co-sleeping offers an easy way to nurse their babies at night without disturbing others, and allowing them to get a good sleep as well. No matter what the motivation is for co-sleeping, there will come a time when this is not the preferred situation for either child or parent. Encouraging children who co-sleep to slumber in their own beds, in their own rooms, can be done several different ways.

One of the first things to remember when transitioning children from co-sleeping to independent sleeping is time. It more than likely took weeks or months to develop this habit, and if it is the only sleeping style known to a child, can be a difficult pattern to change. Parents should realize right away that time and patience are keys to any successful sleeping pattern alterations. Sometimes parents will wait until their child has fallen asleep in the shared bed, then carry them to their own beds. This will occasionally work for families, but sometimes it results in children awakening repeatedly at night and parents losing patience as well as sleep.

Parents might have the most success with very small transitional steps, such as bringing the child's crib, bed, or even a sleeping blanket, into the parent's room. At first the child doesn't even need to be encouraged to sleep separately, but instead be shown that the other sleeping place is safe and near Mom or Dad. Some parents might find it easier to encourage children to nap on the child's bed or in the crib at first, because sometimes daytime sleeping feels safer for children. Then parents can gradually move to separate sleeping at night, staying just within reach of their child.

Independent sleeping can also be achieved when using approaches to make it more comforting and appealing. Special night lights, extra bedtime stories, or favorite stuffed animals tucked in beside the child can provide security and comfort. Establishing routines is key, and centering these new routines away from co-sleeping should be done with positive, reassuring, safe, and peaceful methods. Sometimes the small things like spending an extra 30 minutes reading bedtime stories or snuggling can help to relax the child can help make the transition easier.

Children who are very reluctant to separate from the parent's bed might be more motivated if there are incentives for independent sleeping. These can be as small as a favorite treat in the morning after they have stayed in their own sleeping place over night, or for older children, when multiple nights have been successful, a larger reward such as new pajamas, bedtime book, or fun breakfast choice on the weekend.

It is important for parents to emphasize through this process that the child is not being punished or is unwanted. Instead, the child is growing and becoming such a wonderful little human being that he or she needs to have their own special place to get enough rest to become even stronger. Parents need to focus on the long term goals, have patience, and be consistent and firm, and soon they and their children will have pleasant dreams.