Weaning a Co-Sleeper: One Mom's Story

Cynthia Dermody
15


toddler in bed

Photo by roxysmommy

As so many moms here will tell you, co-sleeping can be an extremely positive experience for both mom and child. But at some point, even attachment parenting mothers may decide it's time to move their toddler to a crib or big kid bed--for their own various and personal reasons.

For Lsmom, owner of the private Sleep Issues (non cry-it-out) group, that time came when her oldest daughter was 19 months old (she's nearly three now) and she was two months pregnant with her youngest. 

"It was getting harder for me, my daughter, and my husband to sleep well. It was fine when she was smaller, but she began to toss and turn around a lot in her sleep. Plus, I didn't want a toddler kicking me in my pregnant tummy all night long."

So, how do you teach a co-sleeping toddler to sleep in her own bed without cry-it out? Read on to find out how Lsmom did it ...

Cafe Cynthia: How did you begin co-sleeping?

Lsmom: I have always been an attachment style parent and never wanted to have my baby in another room, but at first I was afraid I would roll over on her. So I had her in a bassinet next to the bed. She, however, did not sleep well unless she was right beside me. After many many nights of being up and down, I finally realized that it was easier to have her in the bed with me. With my second, I was a seasoned mom and knew that I was not going to roll onto my baby. My second, who is now 6.5 months, has slept with me since the day she was born, and will until at least a year.

How did you know it was time to transition your older daughter to her own bed?

I thought that it would be a good idea to get her used to sleeping in her room before the new baby came. I didn't want her to feel like she was being replaced, so I wanted her in her own bed long before the new baby came. We got her a new big girl bed and she was very excited about it ... so that told me that it would not be too hard of a transition.

How did you do it?

Step One I started out by night weaning her, because she was still nursing a lot at night. She was nursing every 30 minutes, all night long. I would hold her and rock her, sing to her, whatever it took, but not allow her to nurse. That was the hardest part, and heartbreaking at times, but I was determined that we had to do it. 

I would tell my daughter that at nighttime the "mimis" went night-night too, and would not wake up until Mr. Sun came back. We would go to the window and look out and I would ask her if she saw Mr. Sun. She totally understood, but sometimes would get really upset about it. I just held her and cuddled her and told her it was okay. It was hard at times. Sometimes I would start crying right along with her.

I was so sleep deprived from the year and a half of no sleep and the craziness of nursing all night long. I just wanted to sleep!!  But, we stuck with it and I cuddled her and loved on her and soon it got better. Before we knew it she was night weaned ... and then we could start working on transitioning her to her room.

Step Two I waited until she was totally used to the night weaning thing, so that it would not be too big of a transition. Then we started doing her normal routine of a bath, snack, reading books, prayers, and bedtime.

I laid with her in her twin bed and patted her bottom until she went to sleep. Sometimes, this took hours at the beginning, and sometimes I fell asleep and slept in the bed with her in her room. But, soon it got to where she was falling asleep faster and faster.

When she fell asleep, I would leave her room. If she woke up, I would very matter-of-factly take her back to her room and lay with her and pat her back until she fell asleep. This took awhile, but after a matter of a few months she was falling asleep quickly at night (within 10 minutes) and she was waking less and less at night.  After about 8 weeks she was waking once a night most nights and going right back to sleep after a quick drink. We succeeded!!  And it was all done gently.

Does she sleep in her own bed all night long? 

It took her several months to get to where she was used to it and falling asleep and staying asleep easily. I still allow her to come into our bed and climb into bed with us at times, but she loves her room and her bed and will ask to "go to my princess bed" when she is laying in our bed.

How was the transition for you!?

I miss it greatly. I have a 6.5 month old now that is co-sleeping, and I love it. I think about our "big girl" across the hall and it makes me a little sad. I just want to go get her and have her with me. I love nothing more than when my 6.5 month old, my 2.5 year old, my husband, and myself are all laying there sleeping together ... it is so blissful.

++Did you have a similar or different experience weaning a co-sleeping toddler? How long to you plan to continue co-sleeping with your tot?

Read More