If someone asks me, “Sarah, what’s your ideal sleep arrangement like with your baby?”
I don’t have a small baby anymore but my answer would be, “Co-sleeping (either in the cot next to me or sharing the bed with me) for the first 2 years of their life.” This would be the same answer from my husband too. We both love the idea of sleeping closely with our babies.
I room shared with my oldest daughter until she was 4 years old and my youngest, until she was 1.5 years old.
After going through two babies, the circumstances were different and after supporting many moms with the cot transition, there is no ‘right time’ to end co-sleeping.
It’s when you feel the sleeping arrangement doesn’t work for your family anymore. Then I feel that’s the right time to consider changing your baby’s sleeping place.
In this post, I’m going to answer the following question,
“OK, I think I’ve just about had it with this co-sleeping arrangement. My 11 month old has been waking up at weird hours, standing up, wanting to play/nurse/pull on my nipples/bite me, etc. For the sanity of my little family, please tell me how you’ve transitioned from co-sleeping to the cot?”
So this mom particularly wants to end bed sharing for the above reasons. Her reasons are similar to mine also as to why I didn’t enjoy bed sharing with my youngest as much or as long as I wanted her to.
The following are my suggestions on how to gradually introduce your baby to their own sleeping place other than your bed.
This is especially important if your baby is not familiar with the cot at all. During the day, or at bedtime – you would introduce games to play in the cot. Peek-a-boo using light blankets, or soft toys and in between the cot bars are great games to start with.
I suggest to do cot play for a few days or even weeks. There is no pressure for your baby to go to sleep in it immediately. Focus on making the cot a happy and safe place.
If the cot acclimation is done during the day, one thing that’d be helpful is if you could try folding your laundry on your bed while he’s in the cot next to you. Keep the connection going while he explores the cot.
If it’s done at bedtime, after the cot play is over, take him out and continue bed sharing for a few more nights.
Talk to your baby about new expectations of where and how he will fall asleep that night. “Tonight sweetie, after we play and story, I’m going to put you in the cot and I’ll stay very closely to help you go to sleep.”
Your bedtime routine could look something like this:
Bath, pajama, play, breastfeed or bottle feed, lights out and sleep in cot.
Expect the crying
Firstly, your baby is going to feel scared about this new way of going to sleep. But if you have done the cot play as preparation for this day, his fear is minimised and he’s crying out of frustration and resistance to the new way of him going to sleep.
Secondly, when there is a loving limit placed on the comfort mechanism, in this mom’s case breastfeeding, your baby is going to cry as a form of healthy release instead of him repressing his feelings before he goes to sleep.
It sounds like her baby has some agitation that he’s trying to deal with when he wakes up at weird hours, wanting to play, biting and pulling on mom’s nipples in the middle of the night.
Crying then is a means for emotional release and healing to occur when strong feelings can no longer be held in.
Support the crying
“I hear you sweetie, you really want to come back to the bed and sleep with me. You’re safe here in the cot. I’ll make sure you stay safe.” Offer lots of hugs if he’s standing up crying and allow him to cry freely in your arms.
As long as your baby needs to release all that emotional pain. When he is done, he will want to lie down to go to sleep. It will be incredibly difficult to listen to your baby’s crying in the beginning. I invite you to listen to your heart. If you feel 10 minutes is too long, then pick him up and soothe/stop the crying and then try again another day.
Mom needs to take care of herself too
To be able to support the crying with compassion and calmness, there are things that you can do to help with that. First and foremost, get your needs met. Have your dinner, take a shower, have some yummy tea and talk to someone who is willing to listen to what you’re about change with your baby’s sleep. If you have been doing this all by yourself (stay at home mom) then getting help from your husband will most definitely help as well.
You help your baby to fall asleep by going in there awake, and then when he wakes up again few hours later, you could do the same as the suggestion above, or bring him into bed for that second half of the night.
You will not be creating any confusion or bad habits by splitting the night in the cot and in your bed. You are meeting his needs for reassurance, safety and physical closeness. That’s what we all need to fall asleep and stay asleep peacefully!