Oh! The elusive commodity all parents crave....SLEEP! It will be amazing if my child would stay in his/her bed and sleep by themselves the entire night!
We must emphasise that sleeping independently (in their own bed, through the night) and (falling asleep by themselves) are PROCESSES. Nobody can promise you magic to get the child to do both of that instantly. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance and some tricks to get this right.
Start from day 1
Newborns require a lot of attention and therefore new parents are often tempted to save time and effort by having the child sleep on the same bed. That however has a huge impact on your sleep, sex life and may even end in a tragedy. (yes, we are not exaggerating)
You can read more about the dangers of co-sleeping with a baby HERE
It is possible to have a child sleep in his/her own room from day one! We have done it with both our children!
You will be surprised that newborn babies love being lulled asleep but actually don't mind sleeping alone in their own room. It is often the adults that prefer having the child around that forms that dependency.
It does take a lot of effort to get out of bed and soothe/feed the child every 2 hours but it is well worth it. The longer you have your child co-sleeping with you, the harder it is to get them to sleep in their own bed.
Ensure that the child sleeps on his/her back and the bed has no loose bedding/blanket. Swaddle them up securely and make sure the room is cool/ventilated. If you are worried, you can always install a baby monitor or IP camera to monitor your child. If you don't have another room for the child, the best option would be to have them in a separate cot/bed/mattress. Anything but in the same bed!
Transitioning with some tricks
If you have already been co-sleeping with your child for some time. It is still possible to transition them to their own beds. You should also expect it to be difficult. Once a child associates sleep with the parent's bed and sleeping with them, it does take a lot of effort to wean them off the habit.
We placed our children in cots with railings that keep them in bed until they are around 2 years old. Children being children will try their luck at sneaking back into your bed but a sturdy cot will prevent that.
If your child cries or throws a tantrum, repeat simple phrases like "Matt, you can sleep by yourself". We must have repeated this more than a thousand times. It does take quite a lot of patience to get a toddler to understand this.
Depending on a child, a sleeping buddy (usually a soft toy), Pacifier (dummy) will be helpful. They will feel less insecure when their little soft toy is there with them. If they do wake AGAIN and make a fuss, REPEAT the phrases, assure them and get them back asleep. It can take a day or two to get your child to adjust, it could take weeks.
Getting a child to fall asleep by themselves
This part of the training only comes after the child turns one. Younger babies and toddlers should be able to self-soothe and sleep through the night but will still require some help with falling asleep. You can try sitting beside them by the cot, singing to them or patting them until they fall asleep.
To begin transitioning away from being helped 100% of the way to fall asleep, you can perhaps pat/sing or rock the child until they are groggy and half asleep before putting them down to fall asleep on their own. Once your child can self-soothe and fall asleep when they are sleepy, learning to fall sleep independently is close by!
The next stage would be to simply sit beside their cot and tell them to lie down, hold their sleeping buddies and try to fall asleep. Your presence is just to assure them and make them feel secure. Children around the age of 2-3 years old should be able to fall asleep by themselves and sleep through the night in their own beds when consistently instructed to. It is also good time to wean off the pacifier (dummy) at this age and move on to a sleeping buddy to prevent damage to the teeth or speech development. Some children take longer, some get it quicker but it is possible for every child to do this.
The key is really CONSISTENCY.
Clear instructions, consistent repetition and providing alternatives to help the child feel secure will help you achieve the goal eventually.
Let your child know that they are not abandoned! Invite them to snuggle in your bed when everyone has woken up in the morning.
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Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.