How to Gently End Co-Sleeping With Your Baby
In today’s episode of The Gentle Parenting Show, Kim is solo to discuss co-sleeping. In a previous podcast, she explained how to improve the quality of sleep for both parents and children while co-sleeping, but today she talks specifically about ending co-sleeping. In her thoughts today, she’ll outline steps to end co-sleeping with a baby and transitioning them to a crib on their own. Future episodes will include steps on ending co-sleeping with an older child and transitioning to a bed.
Types of Co-Sleeping
There are a few clarifications on co-sleeping that Kim makes before discussing how to end co-sleeping. Other phrases for co-sleeping include bed-sharing, making a family bed, etc. Co-sleeping is when you and your child are sleeping in the same bed. Not a bassinet or crib attachments to a bed, but fully sleeping in the same bed.
This is the best episode for you if you planned on co-sleeping, have done it for a matter of months but you’re ready to transition your baby into their own space. You may also be a parent who didn’t plan on co-sleeping, and are here out of desperation and want your baby in their own crib. Maybe your baby is waking up more often, and it’s harder to get them back to sleep. Perhaps you are co-sleeping with your child and your partner has shifted to a guest bed or couch, and the adults want to go back to sharing a bed together. If any of these apply to you, you’re in the right place to discuss how to end co-sleeping.
The First Step to End Co-Sleeping
The first thing you want to do when you’re ready to end co-sleeping is to make sure your baby’s crib is set up. Then, make sure you’re setting up a sleep-friendly room for them. Install shades, have a dimmable light, a night light, a lovey, a fitted sheet, etc. Now, start spending time with the baby in their own room. Read stories, play, change clothes and diapers, fold laundry – just spend time in their both during the day and at night in their space.
A great tip Kim shares is to start their bedtime routine in their room, and then bring them back to the family bed for co-sleeping. This way, when you’re ready for them to sleep alone, their entire nighttime routine won’t be thrown off.
If you’re not quite ready to rock and roll with independent sleeping, a step you can take is making a safe, makeshift bed in your baby’s room. Co-sleep in your baby’s room with them and let them know you are sleeping in their room, not mommy or daddy’s room. If you’d like, you can even start this with just naps and work your way up to nighttime independence. Kim encourages to only do the makeshift bed set up for 7-10 nights before the full transition.
Night Weaning When You End Co-Sleeping
When talking about baby sleep, you need to talk about night feedings. As long as you clear it with your pediatrician, you can begin to night wean when you feel ready. You may be in a situation where there is just a feeding fest with your baby – the baby is eating all night in the shared bed. You have two options here: night wean while co-sleeping or wait until your baby is independently sleeping.
To night wean while co-sleeping, Kim suggests reducing the number of minutes during each feed. If you’re in a situation where you don’t know of often or how long they’re feeding, then try to start tracking time. Even wear a nursing bra and a fitted t-shirt so you have to be more awake to feed your baby.
A great way to night wean while co-sleeping is to decide on one set feeding time. Feed your child at that awake time each night. During any awake times before or after, cuddle your child back to sleep. If this is too difficult, try leaving your baby in the bed with just your partner for a few nights and only come in for that one feeding.
It’s important for parents to have options for everything in parenting. You may feel like it’s too much to go straight from feeding all night in bed together to putting your baby in a crib in their own room. It may be too much too fast. Kim says “the faster you move in sleep coaching, the more crying there will be.” So, ask yourself what plan you can follow through with consistently. One that’s comfortable for both you and your child.
The First Night of Independent Sleeping
Now that you’ve taken the steps to begin the process to end co-sleeping, what do you do when you’re finally ready for the independent crib switch? Make sure the night you start, your child is well napped and in a good sleep pattern. When you do feed before bed that night, whether through nursing or bottle-feeding, do it upright with light. Don’t let your baby or yourself fall asleep. Then, follow the steps as outlined in The Sleep Lady Shuffle. You can find a brief overview of these steps here, or in Kim’s book or her e-course, Gentle Sleep Solutions. Offer verbal reassurance to comfort your child. It will take a few nights to fully transition, but if done gently, both you and your baby will be set up for sleep success.