During the early months, many parents keep their babies in their bed at night—a sleeping arrangement known as bedsharing. In fact, one recent survey found that roughly half of all parents bedshare for at least part of the night. When done safely, bedsharing can make nighttime breastfeeding easier, extend the duration of breastfeeding, contribute to infant and maternal health and wellbeing, and even save infants’ lives.
Some parents continue a so-called “family bed” sleeping arrangement long-term, waiting for their children to “self-wean.” For other parents, the decision to move a child into his own crib is one the parents make when mom, dad, or both are ready.
Here are a few things to consider when you are ready to move your child into his own crib:
- Consider your child’s readiness. Is your child ready to move out of your bed? Is a “sidecar” an option? Can you place a playyard or a portable crib next to your bed? Consider the full range of options as possible steps along the way to solitary sleeping.
- Start with naptime. A full night’s sleep alone may be too big a challenge for your child initially; children who awaken during the night often gain a sense of security from their parents’ presence. Naptime presents a shorter goal for sleeping alone and is often easier to achieve. Also, sleeping alone during the daylight hours may be less stressful for children who are afraid of the dark.
- Develop a bedtime routine. A consistent routine that enables your child to feel loved and secure may help him relax and accept lying down—and falling asleep—in his own space.
- Adjust your expectations. Many children awaken during the night. Knowing you will respond to your child’s needs fosters his trust and confidence. Recognize that weaning to a crib is a process. Adjust your expectations based on your child’s developmental stage. Know that your child may still need reassurance if he awakens during the night.
- Set reasonable limits. Your child may understand and accept simple rules such as “stay in your bed until the sun comes up,” or “you may call to me if you need me,” and these guidelines may be comforting during nighttime awakenings.
- Consider a toddler bed. Some older children who have never slept in a crib might enjoy the ceremony of moving straight into a “big kid bed,” and may be more eager to sleep in their very own space. Don’t be surprised, though, if your child asks to return to your bed after a night or two.
Decisions about your family’s sleep arrangements don’t need to be etched in stone. Finding the perfect arrangement for everyone is a process of trial and error. Be flexible, and, most important, be responsive to your child’s changing needs.