How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep in Their Own Bed After Co-Sleeping

By Elizabeth Caraway
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You've enjoyed having your little one co-sleep with you, but now that he's not so little anymore, it's time he move to his own bed. The transition from co-sleeping to separate sleeping is one that parents may dread, but never fear -- your child is still very adaptable at this stage. Although toddlers take comfort in routine, they will adjust quickly to this change with your help.

Establish a bedtime routine before making the transition; you don't want to be implementing the change at the same time as other changes. Toddlers like knowing what to expect. A predictable nightly routine might include toy clean-up, bath, tooth brushing, pajamas, stories and then getting tucked in.

Go shopping for new bedding, a new stuffed animal or pillow together. Make this feel like a special, positive transition, not a punishment. Talk about the transition with your toddler.

Spend time with your toddler, with her in her bed, during the day; read stories, snuggle, chat about happenings.

Allow him comfort objects -- a soft night light, a sound machine, a security blanket or beloved stuffed animal. These objects can offer your child a sense of warmth and security.

Start putting her down for naps in her own bed. It helps if you have her play hard in the morning so that she's very tired by nap time.

Start doing his bedtime routine in his room -- put on his pajamas, read his bedtime stories in there -- and put him in his own bed to sleep.

Respond to crying/complaints in one of four ways. First, use a reward system like a sticker chart. Second, tell him you'll be back to check on him in a couple of minutes. Often, he'll be asleep by the time you return. Third, use "gradual withdrawal or retreat"; put him to bed and then stay in the room with him as he falls asleep. Each night, move further and further from the bed until you are no longer in the room. Finally, try "controlled crying" -- allow your child to cry for a set amount of time (starting with five minutes) -- and if he is still crying at the end of that time, go back in, comfort him, give him a drink, and return him to his bed. Increase the amount of time you let him cry between your subsequent comfort visits.

Respond to nighttime wanderings either with repetitive replacement, co-sleeping or by putting an extra mattress on the floor of your bedroom for your toddler. In repetitive replacement, continually return your child to her own bed whenever she leaves it during the night. Be quiet and dull; this is not play time and you want to send the message that she will not get much attention if she leaves her bed during the night. Some parents allow their child to co-sleep again, from time to time, if it's infrequent. Still others prefer to have an extra bed in their room that their child can crash on if they come in during the night -- ideally, their toddler will get better at sleeping in her own bed and go to her parents' room less and less.