Transition from Co-Sleeping to the Crib
Oh, the joys of co-sleeping! Watching that little baby sleep, listening to the soothing sound of slumbering breaths, oohing over every little expression of his resting face. What do these things have in common besides the great joy of motherhood? I’m not sleeping – that’s what. Co-sleeping is a beautiful idea and often necessary, but I find my own quality of sleep diminished by my fear of crushing my child or my desire to watch his sweet face. To take the best care of my children, I realize I need to first take care of myself. To improve my own quality of sleep, and therefore, my own functionality, I transition my babies to their own bed when they start sleeping through the night. I wait this long mostly because I hate getting up and going to another room to fetch my baby and feed him at o-dark-thirty. Here are my top tips for transitioning baby from co-sleeping to crib.
1. Take your time.
I realize this seems counter-intuitive – I mean, I need sleep TONIGHT. But babies, like most humans, take time to adjust to new things. Poor kid, everything he has every known is mom, so naturally he wants to spend all his time with you! I find sleep training before 4-6 months extremely difficult and hardly worth trying. Give him some time to adjust to life, he will be ready to transition soon.
2. Start during the day.
I don’t know about you, but my babies spend little to no time in their own room for the first few weeks, even months of their little lives. So, not only are you asking baby to sleep alone, without the warmth and comfort of mommy, but also to be alone in a new place. I often take my child to play in his crib while I clean the room, fold laundry in there, or something else where I am not actively holding the baby. Later, for nap, after I have rocked or nursed him to sleep, I will lay him down in his crib to sleep.
PRO TIP: The biggest cause of baby startling awake when you put him in his own bed is the change in temperature. I HIGHLY recommend using fleece pajamas or sleep sack to help maintain a consistent temperature from being held to being in his crib.
3. Keep going back to the crib.
I can pretty much promise the baby won’t sleep in his own bed the first twenty or thirty times you put him in it, unless you gave birth to a unicorn child that loves to sleep alone. Honestly, my son is one such unicorn, but my first born and youngest are quite the opposite. Baby will fuss, probably quite a bit. Please understand, again, I don’t start this transition until baby is sleeping through the night almost completely. I generally give the baby a minute or two, just to see if he will figure out self-soothing – but without much hope. With my middle son, that was all it took. He instinctively began sucking his thumb and we never looked back (except now I need to figure out how to stop the thumb sucking). The other two, I let them cry just for a minute or two, then I returned to comfort them. I’d pick them up and cuddle and coo at them to help them calm down. Once baby fell asleep, I would try putting them back to bed. It is a vicious cycle of hoping and despair, but it pays off in the end.
As baby grows older, the time I will let him fuss lengthens. Some due, in part, from needing to meet the needs of others as well. Baby may be crying, but big brother needs to go potty (he’s potty training – all pity appreciated). I don’t let baby cry for very long, but fussing and crying are different. A fussing baby will quickly put himself to sleep. A crying baby needs something whether it is food, a clean diaper, a soother, or just some comfort.
Soon I transition to comforting baby without picking him up from his crib. I will stroke his face, sing to him, help him hold his paci in place (by the way, I LOVE the little pacifiers with a stuffed animal attached. We use a Wubbanub, which helps hold the pacifier in his mouth). Often, this bit of comfort helps baby to feel at home in his crib and he will fall asleep.
If baby continues to cry – I mean full blown crying, red faced with tears – most likely the baby needs something. Double check the basics. A clean diaper, a full belly, and a warm sleeper are a MUST.
PRO TIP: Babies love to be stroked across the forehead and in the “t-zone” of their faces. Something about this motion relaxes and calms them (or maybe my babies are just really weird). If baby is very upset, you may need to soothe for longer, but this is one method that always works for me.
4. Be understanding.
I have mentioned several times before, but I feel the statement merits an entire point of its own. Remember, you are all your baby has ever known. You are his source of food, comfort, and warmth. Try not to get too frustrated in the seeming never-ending cycle of hoping as you place the sweet slumberer to bed, then despair as his face contorts into anguish and demands your presence. Soon, he will be independent and not need you, so give him some time. I believe sleep training is still important, but it doesn’t need to happen overnight. Be sure to also check out the top reasons baby won’t sleep and how to help in my other post.
5. Feed before putting him down for his long sleep.
Most babies develop to sleeping 5-8 hours a night by the time they are 6 months old (some sooner, some later, but most people are different – even little ones). For me, when I am ready to sleep, I want as much sleep in one long stretch as possible. To achieve this goal, I ALWAYS feed baby one last time before I go to bed. I don’t care if he ate thirty minutes or an hour ago. Feed him again. A full belly equals a warm belly. A warm belly equals a happily snoozing baby. Remember, the PRO TIP earlier? Consistent warmth is the key to maintaining a sleeping baby through the transition to the crib.
6. Be patient.
While I believe sleep training is important for most mothers (and by sleep training, I mean just sleeping), it will take time. As I mentioned before, baby won’t transition from co-sleeping to crib in one night, he may well take weeks to fully acclimate to his new sleeping arrangements. But, from one motivated, sleep-deprived mother to another, we can do this! We will sleep again, someday! Just maintain consistency, be loving and comforting, and this too, will soon be a dream-like memory. Mostly because once they finally sleep train, they go through sleep regression – but more on that later!
These tips may not work every time, but they seem to work most of the time - at least for me. Please understand, every baby has days that he just needs mommy. Maybe he is teething, maybe he is just feeling puny. Motherhood means days of letting the laundry go, and sitting on the couch, and comforting tired, sick, or emotional children. The laundry can wait, their childhood won’t.
Sleep training isn’t a myth. Transitioning from co-sleeping to the crib is possible! Each parent will experience varying levels of difficulty based on their child’s personality and preferences. Endure! You, too, may be well-rested again!