Not too long ago, when my middle child was still the baby, she would regularly come into our bed in the middle of the night and sleep between my husband and I. I didn’t mind much because she always went to bed in her own bed at an appropriate hour and was only coming into our room at night because she was frightened. However, as soon as we learned I was pregnant with baby number three, I knew this habit had to stop. There wasn’t going to be enough room in the bed for me, my husband, my daughter, AND my baby bump! No way!
I knew that I had to start the bedtime transition while I was still pregnant because, once the baby arrived, I’d probably be too exhausted and would just let her do whatever she wanted. Yup, while I still had the patience, I did as follows. If you’re having similar troubles, maybe this will work for you, too.
Sit down with your child during the day (not at bedtime) and explain what change is going to take place. Every night before bed, my daughter asks me, “What are we doing when we wake up?” I know not every child is like that, but I know that every child needs to be warned before a transition takes place, especially in the preschool years. They like to know what’s going to happen next and when you give them enough of a heads up, you’ll have a better chance that they will cooperate.
I explained to her that because she’s a big girl and was going to be a big sister, she could not sleep in my bed anymore. I reminded her as often as I felt appropriate (usually before bed and in the middle of the night) and I always tried to use a gentle tone of voice when doing so. There were plenty of times when, amidst her not-fully-awake-to-comprehend-stage of rest, she would throw a fit about the new rule. As long as you understand that your child isn’t being uncooperative on purpose during those times, you’ll have a better chance of remaining patient with them and keeping calm.
Try what you think will work best for your unique situation. Weaning your child from sleeping in your bed might take some trial and error. If you think your child can relatively easily be walked back to their own bed and tucked in, try this. If that sounds like too big of a jump, you can do what we did instead: have them sleep on the floor in your bedroom.
My daughter learned quickly that if she came to my room at night, she’d have to sleep on a nap mat so she always stumbled in with her pillow and blanket. Remarkably, this was a very easy transition for her because she still felt that comfort of being close to mama. I loved it too because it meant I didn’t have to get out of my bed often (as if it’s easy moving around with a huge belly!) and sometimes I’d even sleep through the night and wake up in the morning to discover she was there.
Understand that fully transitioning your child will take as much time as your child needs. My daughter continued to sleep on the floor by my bed until the baby arrived. At that time, it became the perfect time to tweak the arrangement: she was no longer allowed to come into the room because she might disturb the baby’s sleep.
During that bedtime transition, there were a few times where I’d let her in the room and sleep there anyway because she’d stumble in while I was breastfeeding, so the baby and I were already awake. However, this wasn’t for long.
We moved shortly after I had the baby and in our new home, the new rule was to sleep on the living room sofa. Since the living room was close to my bedroom in our new house, this worked great for her. She would bring her pillow and blanket from her room and stop outside my door and cry, waiting for me to come out so I could situate her on the sofa. Sometimes she didn’t want to sleep there, so I’d offer her to sleep on the floor near her brother in his room. After a few months, she eventually stopped waking up in the middle of the night and currently stays in her bed all night.
I hope that sharing how I transitioned my child to sleep in her own bed will help many of you through your own experience, too.
Do you have any other tips and tricks for transitioning your child to sleep in their own bed? What worked for your family?