One child is laying horizontally across your bed, the other vertically and your infant is sandwiched between you and your husband. Or you hear the pitter-patter of little feet in the middle of the night and it’s easier just to haul your child into bed instead of getting up. The pediatrician says it is dangerous to co-sleep but here you are. It temporarily provides a little bit of sanity. But does it really? It is called reactive co-sleeping and over 50% of all parents do it at some point. Do you want to end it, but now sure how? Here are a few steps to reclaim your bed.
- Sit down and have a family meeting. It might sound a little ridiculous but it is a good first step to set some ground rules. Use this meeting to empower older children and make them feel part of the process. When children take ownership of a new behavior and are rewarded for their positive behavior, you are much more likely to have success. Although younger children (under age three) might not completely understand the purpose of a family meeting, it is important to include them in the process and explain what is going to happen. Explain that they are going to start sleeping in their own bed or crib and you can even say something like “Mommy and daddy can be with you when you learn how to do this on your own.”
- Create a sleep manners chart. Choose three or four manners you expect from your children. Avoid using the words “no” and “don’t.” Rather stay positive. A sample manner can be something like “Stay in your bed all night until your wake up light comes on” instead of “Don’t get out of bed.”
- Purchase a behavior modification light like the Good Nite Lite or the Tot Clock. Both offer simple to understand visual cues to when it’s time to sleep or okay to wake.
- Temporarily co-sleep in your child’s room. Set up a mattress on the floor of your child’s room and co-sleep there for a few nights. This helps to acclimate your toddler to her room. After 2-3 nights of co-sleeping in your toddlers room, move her into the crib and move the mattress right next to the crib. This allows you to be close, offer touch and verbal support but you both have as separate space to sleep. After 3 nights, move the mattress away from the crib and only offer verbal support. Eventually move the mattress out of the room and only offer verbal support from the door.
- If your toddler is in a bed, follow the same steps as above but when it’s time to move out of the room gate the door so your child isn’t able to roam the house at night. If a gate doesn’t sit well with you consider attaching a bell to your child’s door so you can hear her coming. If she wants to climb in your bed out of habit, lead her right back to her bed and tuck her in. Remind her of her sleep manners and leave the room. You can offer verbal reassurance from the hallway.
Reclaiming your bed is a process that often takes a few weeks. There will be ups and downs but if you are consistent for long enough, your child’s behavior will change. For more information on ending co-sleeping, please contact Cate.
Photo Credit: http://www.babysleepsite.com