From co-sleeping to solo sleeping: Expert tips for transitioning beds

Kinderling News & Features

Whether you’re co-sleeping or they’ve just snuck in, once kids are in your bed, it can be hard to get them out. And who can blame them – it’s snug, it’s safe and us parents are awesome, of course. But once you’ve made the decision to snooze solo, how do you transition bub back to their own bed smoothly?

Transferring can be a slippery slope that can disrupt everyone’s night so Kinderling Conversation asked sleep consultant Natalie Herman what to do. Here’s her top tips for making the move as painless as possible.

1. Transitioning requires time and guidance

Patience is key, as children need time to adjust to change. Natalie advises that we give children a couple of days to get used to the new sleeping arrangements. Be gentle and loving and avoid just closing the door and walking away. Talk to them in the lead up to bed time to explain why they are going back to their bed.

Listen to Natalie's interview on Kinderling Conversation:

2. Beware forming new bad habits

Change is very hard for a child, and transitioning back to their own bed may mean you need to pat them to sleep. Natalie says this is fine, as long as you don’t do it for longer than a couple of days. After that you need to scale back the patting. Then you can stop patting and sit quietly in their room, and finally you can come in and out to check on them and reassure them.

The secret is not to do anything for too long, as your little one will then get used to that behaviour.

3. Don’t underestimate what your kids can handle

Sometimes it feels like our kids will never get to sleep on their own, but Natalie says that kids can surprise you. She says to keep talking to your children, as she consistently sees better results with parents who try this approach. Children can transition, and Natalie is clear that there’s no reason why they can’t learn to sleep on their own.

4. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to change

If you’ve been co-sleeping for a long time, Natalie says to expect things to take a little longer.

“It’s like us as adults,” she explains. “If we’re used to having coffee every day and then all of a sudden we don’t, we’re going to find that really difficult. Just put yourself in their mind, if they’ve had a year of lying down next to you and then all of a sudden you’re going to change that, then yes it’s a lot harder.”  

5. Make their room a positive place

On top of discussing the move back to their room, Natalie suggests actively spending more time there. This creates a positive association and makes them feel more at home. She says to aim for four to five visits a day, on top of nap times. Do this for a few days to a week, to build up the good vibes.

6. Be consistent when your child is sick

When your little one gets ill, it’s naturally tempting to take them back into your bed. Natalie says this isn’t a bad thing, because you can monitor them and be satisfied that they’re okay. The thing is to be consistent when you transition them back to their bed or cot.

Once they’re recovered and you decide it’s time for them to go back, stick to that decision. Changing your mind afterwards if it gets too hard will only confuse them, and make it worse for you in the long run.

Ultimately, Natalie believes that it’s possible to transition even the most clingy snuggle-bear back to their own bed, it just takes a bit of time, patience and TLC. Good luck!