Bedsharing works wonders for many families and if it's working for both you and your little one then great! You don't need to do anything! For some families, they don't plan to bedshare but do so because it works better than attempting to settle a little one in their own sleep space. Whether you've fallen into #bedsharing unplanned or you planned to do it for a period of time and it's no longer working for you, I have decided to write about different things to consider when moving away from bedsharing but also alternative options that may work better for you!
I very commonly work with parents who want to move from bedsharing to their little one sleeping in a #cot. For younger babies I find this is doable with a lot of time and patience, for toddlers I find it could be an unrealistic goal… The reason for this is probably quite self-explanatory but when you think about the freedom and space they have in your bed with you close by their side, to being put into an empty cot with bars between you both and restricted space, you can understand why it might not go down so well.
For younger babies I generally find that encouraging them to fall asleep in their own sleep space at the beginning of the night tends to help them remain settled in their own sleep space easier than if they fall asleep in any other way but you can also consider the approach with toddlers below if this works better for you! The thing that is worth keeping in mind, is that it's biologically normal for babies to want to be close by to their parents so no matter the age, any change moving away from this is likely to cause upset so I would approach it as gently as possible with ALOT of support.
For toddlers, I generally find floor beds work much better. Floor beds can actually work in more ways than one:
You can still lay with your little one and offer them the comfort they need to fall asleep and roll away when they are in a deep sleep
You can settle your little one and join them part way through the night if they need you rather than spending the whole night with them
Your little one can come and find you if they need you. You could even set up a little floor bed in your room for them to settle if this works better!
You aren't faced with the restricted space and bars challenge mentioned about
The most important aspect of #floorbeds to consider is that you need to make sure the room is completely baby proofed! The way I would look at it, is essentially turning the whole room into a giant cot. Make sure any heavy furniture is secured to the wall and there is nothing out that your little one could come into trouble with overnight. I have a highlight saved on my Instagram page with real life bedroom set ups if you want a bit of inspiration! www.instagram.com/thegentleparentcoach
If your little one is still feeding throughout the night, it's unlikely that moving them to a separate sleep space will reduce or eliminate feeds altogether. It's entirely normal for little ones to feed overnight up to 18 months and beyond and I actually wouldn't suggest completely #nightweaning before the age of around 18 months if this is what you're aiming for. Beyond this, there are lots of gentle options to approach night weaning but I'm going to try and stick to topic here!
I also wouldn't suggest night weaning and moving a little one to their own sleep space at the same time. This change is HUGE and is likely to be too much for your little one to handle which can cause some serious resistance - understandably.
If you take a view of moving away from bedsharing completely separate from #nightfeeds, this is probably more realistic. As above, using a floor bed option can be a great way for you to join your little one and feed with minimal disruption. If your little one is over 18 months and you want to do both, I would night wean before moving their sleep space so you can give them lots of support while you navigate the change.
It's important to remember here that YOU are your baby's comfort. If all they know is sleeping with you, it would be unreasonable to expect them to take to this transition with no resistance so I would suggest supporting them through this as much as possible by stacking up a number of associations or habits that don't necessarily require parental input. The whole idea of this is to offer them comfort while you aren't in the room (keep in mind that this is completely separate to HOW your baby falls asleep). This is more about conditioning the environment with familiar comforts to help your baby feel more secure in their own sleep space.
Some ideas to consider are:
A comforter (please refer to the safe sleep guidelines if your little one is under 12 months)
#Essentialoils to leave a nice, calming scent in the bedroom which your little one associates with sleep
A particular blanket they can sleep with (again, refer to #safesleep guidelines for littles under 12 months)
White noise that plays continuously overnight
A night light if your little one isn't so keen on the dark - make sure it's red in colour so it doesn't interfere with the production of the sleepy hormone (melatonin)
I suggest you implement whatever habits you decide to introduce for a good 4 to 6 weeks with you present before attempting the transition. We want your little one to feel secure with their new #sleephabits and the best way we can support them to feel this way, is to be there with them when changes are made.
Making the new room familiar
If you are moving your little one from your room to theirs, it's important in the same way as the habit stacking, to make them feel secure and safe in their new #sleepenvironment. I would avoid springing a new room on them and hoping for the best. Instead, I would make sure the room is ready around 4 to 6 weeks before you decide to make the transition and encourage positive, low-key play in the room every day in the lead up.
If your little one is napping, you could start naps in there before approaching night time sleep too. It may also be worth considering doing some of the bedtime routine in the new room too i.e. reading a book!
However you decide to approach making the room familiar, I would suggest you camp out with your little one for the first couple of weeks at least and gradually move away at a pace that's comfortable for both of you.
When to make the move
Well quite simply, when you are ready! The only thing I would keep in mind is to avoid the transition if any other big changes are approaching such as:
A new childcare arrangement
When they are experiencing a phase of #separationanxiety (often between 8 and 10 months and again between 15 and 18 months) - you can still work on the habit stacking and room familiarisation during these times which all positively contributes!
A new sibling arriving - this is a tricky one as many parents often find this motivates the decision to move rooms. I would suggest doing this as early in the pregnancy as possible to avoid your little one thinking they have been replaced by the baby.
If they are unwell. Wait until the illness has passed before you make the big move.
I hope this has given you some food for thought! If you want to read more about supporting little ones with Separation Anxiety, check out this post. Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck with this big change! Please do reach out if you would like further support with this transition.