Bed weaning
October 16, 2011 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Parents who were still cosleeping at one year: can you give me your stories of transitioning your little darlings to their own beds/rooms?

Baby Rabbit is 10 months old, and we're still cosleeping. He sleeps great at night, he goes down with me at 10pm or so, and sleeps in with his dad (Mr. Rabbit is a stay-at-home dad) until 9 or so in the morning. He nurses to sleep, but lately he's only waking up maybe once or twice to nurse overnight.

Naps are a bit difficult, he basically needs a parent to lay down with him, or to be in the car (the car is magic, but there are only so many car trips you can find excuses to take). But, he still somehow manages to get a nap or two in during the day.

We tried Ferber/CIO and it didn't work; BR is just not the kind of baby who responds to that (he winds up the crying, instead of winding down) and we're not interested in trying that again. But, we would eventually like to have our bed to ourselves again.

I'm thinking in a couple more months, I'll put a mattress on the floor in "his" room (that he's never slept in) and I'll nurse him down, then leave. He is sometimes OK with the partially-waking-up-then-going-back-to-sleep thing, but then other times when he reaches out and can't touch one of us, he'll wake up, sit up and start crying. So I know there's going to be some learning and adjustment, and probably some sleep deprivation (which we've never had before! because he sleeps so well in our bed! and we're wusses, so we keep on keepin' on).

Were any of you in a similar situation? How did you finally make the leap from one bed to two?
posted by rabbitrabbit to Human Relations (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
We have used this kind of cosleeper bed:{keyword}

It makes for a gradual transition as the bed on the "high setting" is nearly face level with the parent once the baby can hold his head up, and the parent can lay an arm by the baby without much effort. It's moved down as the baby grows, and then the cosleeper can be moved to another room or the baby can move to a crib in another room. The transition is never drastic.
posted by michaelh at 8:25 PM on October 16, 2011

Sorry, I guess I should have also mentioned that we sleep on a mattress placed directly on the floor. I know about the Arm's Reach cosleeper but I don't think it will work in this situation.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:32 PM on October 16, 2011

Even better! Set up a baby mattress/blanket pile near your bed and go from there.
posted by michaelh at 8:37 PM on October 16, 2011

We tried Ferber/CIO and it didn't work

Lots of parents do this in different ways. Can you outline the procedure you used from beginning to end?
posted by hal_c_on at 8:48 PM on October 16, 2011

I worked on transitioning Baby to his own crib in our room. Then we worked on transitioning to the baby's room.

In transitioning to the crib, I didn't focus on having him there the whole night. You can take baby steps. After all, you're dealing with a baby. :)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:57 PM on October 16, 2011

We could totally put a mattress next to our mattress, put him down there, and get in the other bed... and actually that sounds like a good first step. But I'm wondering how to prevent him from just getting back in bed with us, or if as a first step I should just let him?

hal_c_on: It's really too involved to get into here without writing a novel (in a nutshell we spent several weeks trying to give him new sleep cues, and doing the gradual transition and then progressive CIO) but didn't get anywhere. Yes I know he's an older baby now but I'm hoping to not have to not respond to a crying baby again.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:01 PM on October 16, 2011

Our first was more of a back and forth cosleeper - he would be happy in his pack and play in our room for a while, then move back into our bed for a month or two. Mostly coinciding with illnesses or teething, I think. Even when he was sleeping alone, often he'd be rocked down by us, transferred into his own bed, then back in with us at some point in the night. He was also very much inclined to wind up when crying, so we never even really tried cry it out. Also, he was a pretty easy baby. So we were kind of like the frog in the slowly boiling water - we didn't ever stop to realize that things had gotten bad.

A little after he turned two, we decided to move him once and for all, since bedtime was getting worse and worse - he couldn't fall asleep on his own at all and bedtime was turning into a 2+ hour ordeal with tiptoeing, rocking, stroller death marches, and lots of crying. I was pregnant and desperate for easier sleep without a kicking toddler. We tried CIO with timed checking (5 minutes, then 10 minutes, etc), and it worked like absolute magic. In two nights, I believe. As in, he cried like 15-20 minutes the first night, less than five the second, and not at all after that. So that's probably less than helpful, but apparently it was just an age thing. They usually say 6 months is about when it's appropriate, but our kid at 9-10 months was definitely not going to take to it. In retrospect, though, I think he could have handled it by the time he was 1 or a little later. I cannot state how much I wish we'd done it then. There is zero doubt in my mind that we would have saved him a ton of crying and misery. I also think he would be a better sleeper now if he'd adjusted his sleep cues at a younger age.

We did it with our 2nd baby at like 8 months and it took one night. We just put her in her own bed and she rolls over and goes to sleep. We avoided almost 2 years of walking to sleep in the stroller and need-mama-next-to-me falling asleep horribleness. But she was ready and he wasn't at the same age. We just failed to recognize that he was changing, his crying was changing in tone and that he needed to learn to fall asleep alone. So, every kid is different, but I am a late convert to CIO when the kid is ready.
posted by pekala at 9:06 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

We could totally put a mattress next to our mattress, put him down there, and get in the other bed... and actually that sounds like a good first step. But I'm wondering how to prevent him from just getting back in bed with us, or if as a first step I should just let him?

Generally when they come back we calm them down and then put them where we want them to wake up. With some child-transition combinations we have drawn a firm line and let them cry, but we try to be sure the crying is more in the angry/whiny/blows-over category than the genuine fear category to do that (it's pretty obvious.)

If you can't even leave your son for a second you're probably going to have to start with a lot of back rubbing and singing to get him used to the idea of falling asleep somewhere else.
posted by michaelh at 9:12 PM on October 16, 2011

We were in a pretty similar situation at ~11 months (baby would only go down with one of us next to her in our mattress-on-the-floor bed, we'd then sneak out and rejoin her a couple hours later). The steps we took to own-crib-in-own room took about three months, with a move in between that precipitated some backsliding:

Phase 1: Baby would be put down in our bed. When we came to bed, she'd be out cold and we could move her to the crib (in our room). If she woke up in the middle of the night, she'd come back with us. Duration: ~2 weeks.

Phase 2: Same procedure for putting her to sleep. We explained to her that she's a big girl now and could sleep until the sun came up in her own bed, and we'd be there and it'd be OK. Miraculously, this worked perfectly the first time. After a couple of nights, she'd occasionally wake up, and we'd tell her (from bed) that it's still nighttime and she needed to sleep in her own bed. The first night she cried for 15 min. and then went back to sleep. The second night was 5 min. After that she pretty much settled herself unless she was sick, cold, or otherwise genuinely needed our intervention. We were kicking ourselves at this point -- all we had to do was TELL HER to sleep through the night and she did?! We didn't really even think she understood that much language yet. Duration: ~1 month.

Phase 3: Transition to new house with baby's own room. Some backsliding and co-sleeping while all the changes made the kid a bit more anxious generally. We spent lots of time playing in her new room during the day.
Phase 3a: regained crib-sleeping in our room. She'd have to be rocked to sleep in a chair but then directly put in the crib. 1 week or so.

Phase 4: Rocking/singing took place in baby's own room, but transfered to crib in our room once she was asleep. Half a week.

Phase 5: Move the crib into her room for naps.

Phase 6: Crib stays in her room. She is still rocked/sung to sleep, but once she's down she stays down for ~8 hours.

Obviously, every kid is different. It was sometimes an agonizingly slow process but so, so worth it. Good luck to you!
posted by dr. boludo at 9:14 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hah! Our eldest coslept with us until he was 7 years old! The only thing that got him out was that he had to make room for his younger brother... But he's perfectly happy in his own bed now.

Looking back, the best thing to do would be to, as others have suggested in this thread, place a bed or mattress next to your mattress for a while. My in laws in Japan all sleep together in the same room like this.

I think your child is going to want to be able to touch you throughout the night, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:27 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am concerned that your baby could fall into a gap between the baby's mattress and your mattress or the wall. I know a crib might seem like a huge change for you, but it might be a safer place for your little one. I say this as a co-sleeping advocate.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:57 PM on October 16, 2011

We're also working on this! We have an eight month old. We got a small mattress from Ikea (their toddler beds come with "extendable" mattresses, basically a three-piece mattress -- the biggest piece is great) and put it on the floor of our bedroom. He doesn't sleep there at night, but he does nap there sometimes.

What works for us sometimes: He can be worn to sleep, with bouncing, and then we'll swiftly take him off and put him on his bed. If his dad's doing it, he pats his butt until he falls asleep. If I'm doing it, I nurse him down. When he's out COLD, I'll gently roll away. He doesn't nap as long as he would if we were with him, or if we were wearing him, but he does nap. It works better during his more predictable, serious naps -- e.g., he always takes a nap about an hour after waking up, and that's a great time to get him to nap alone.

At bedtime, when he first goes to sleep, I've been putting him farther away from me -- he slept in my arms, basically, for the first four months of his life, and touching me after that. So when we go to bed for the night, I put him about six inches away from me, and then if he wakes up in the middle of the night, I'll bring him closer. (We also have a full-sized bed and a queen-sized bed right up next to each other, so we have plenty of room to do this in.)

I have no idea how this will work for us in the long run, and I have no idea how he'll transition to *falling* asleep by himself, but these are ideas!
posted by linettasky at 10:07 PM on October 16, 2011

but I'm hoping to not have to not respond to a crying baby again.

Point taken. Going through CIO isn't for every parent.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:11 PM on October 16, 2011

We'd let our son fall asleep with us and once he was out cold, I'd tote him into his own room and put him in his own bed. He rarely stirred at all after about year 1. At year two or so, we got him his own big boy bed, and one of us would lay down with him in his room until he passed out. By about age 3, we were able to read him a book, cuddle a bit, then say goodnight.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:58 PM on October 16, 2011

my aunt and uncle had their (then) youngest in until he was just under three, I think. What eventually worked was bribery- there was an amazing dinosaur toy in the store and she promised to get it for him if he slept in his own bed for two weeks- marked off by a star chart. "It's the most expensive toy I've ever bought, but it was so worth it!" They don't do bribery based parenting, but with this situation they were getting desperate.
posted by titanium_geek at 11:02 PM on October 16, 2011

I thought we've been co-sleeping for the past 6 months, but via this thread, our son has been next to us us in an Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper. So I guess not!

That said...

My girlfriend had a sleep ritual that she would go through with her son, and I've adapted and adopted that from the beginning. My understanding is that sleep rituals are important for signaling, y'know, time for sleep.

- She has a nite light in her son's room. We have two of these instead. I hated to be in the dark as a child, and the ambient light from these is just right for my tastes. Works so far for our boy. It's just a warm glow, and totally doesn't negate the dark=sleep message. Makes it all cozy and not scary. Just one lamp does the trick in our living room. We have two in the bedroom so my husband's side of the room - eh - I like symmetry. One lamp is enough. I have design issues. Two lamps are not overwhelming, it's still pretty dark!

- She puts on music on the iPod, I downloaded an app with surf noise because I LOVE falling asleep on the beach. This also goes along with "what it sounded like in the womb"... it works for my son. It's part of the ritual. Regular lights off, he's in his bed, bottle, surf noise... Done.

- I plan to keep up the very soft salt lamp light, the surf app, and add reading a book when he gets older. In his own room. It's a nice way to fall off to sleep.

Right from the begininng I forbid myself or my husband from physically rocking our son to sleep. Touches, rubs, soft singing - YES. Pick him up off the mattress? Hells to the No unless our son was in actual distress. I just never wanted to give our boy the impression that crying at night in bed = getting out of bed.

We had some backsliding when the husband would rock him to bed (they're so flippin' cute, so hard not to!) but the days of poor falling asleep for days after that would ensue convinced my husband to cut that shit out. My husband enjoyed a bonding moment with our son that had detrimental repercussions for our infant for days afterwards. Dad learned:)


It's not too late to adopt any sleep ritual that makes sense to you guys and just stick with it. Something cozy and all-encompassing that totally supports your child. Once the ritual is in place, I don't think it matters if you keep the main elements, yet change the setting (your room to his own room.) I first saw my friend going through her ritual with her son when he was 3 years old, and my understanding was she had been doing that from the beginning. I did same. So far so good.

Works like a dream.

posted by jbenben at 11:22 PM on October 16, 2011

I think you are overthinking things. The method that worked for me was just to make his room very friendly - big cartoon stickers on the wall, fluffy toys, etc. Then tell him in teh morning that he'll be sleeping in his own room - make it positive and a big event like a birthday.

Then put him to bed and make it a routine. He'll protest but sit quietly outside and every five minutes go in, *do not cuddle*, and say everything's OK, go to sleep. Probably best dad does this as a fully crying baby is really heartbreaking. Still the first night is a horror of crying and tears. After that it's normalised and no problem going down.

It helped that both of our rugrats had a soft toy to cuddle - the Ikea dogs are great (and washable if they suck them).

Do it this way and you'll have at most a few days of little sleep as they settle in. Remember the key is not to cuddle just to make them feel it's OK they haven't been abandoned.

The above methods all sound so time consuming and difficult. Kids are much more adaptable than you think. They just need reassurance this new may of doing things is OK.
posted by Vroom_Vroom_Vroom at 1:47 AM on October 17, 2011

We didn't do anything close to CIO and we were bed sharing until eighteen months. We started with naps in the cot/bed, then transferring after she fell asleep, then putting her into the cot mostly asleep and along like that. It took months, it wasn't entirely straightforward (a particularly bad patch after our move and while I was pretty stressed with work) but we are at a point where we put her down in her cot when she's tired (she usually asks to go to bed) and she goes to sleep with minimal fuss. Barely any routine for naps, bedtime includes teeth, wash and stories, but that's it. We are still nursing so that is occasionally in the routine, but it's mostly "good night" with a kiss and a pat and done. She (so far) has not caused a ruckus or carried on about it unless she's sick. We will do the same when we transition to her to a separate room.

In short, we took it very slow and never pushed it. We didn't have a timeline, never made it a power struggle. It was as much about her sleep as ours. We did a lot of play as well, putting her toys to bed and things like that. It wouldn't work under one (and it'd be iffy even then) but it was good with our daughter.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:22 AM on October 17, 2011

My sister had success with the "staying in the room while her son fell asleep" method. (I'm sure it's got a name, I just don't know it!) She started out in a chair right next to his crib. She could pat his back if he got fussy and shush him as needed (no picking him up though.) After a few nights she sat in the chair and just shushed him with no touching. After a couple of nights she moved the chair a foot away from his crib. The next night it was two feet away, the night after that it was three feet.

Eventually she got to the doorway, at this point her son freaked out a little and she moved into the room again. She gave two nights back in the room and then she moved to the doorway. She did three nights in the doorway and then moved into the hallway. The next night she was outside his door where he couldn't see her. He freaked out at first, but she kept doing the same shushing noises and when he realized she was still there he settled down. It took a full week of sitting in the hallway before he settled down on his own.

My sister used this time to catch up on reading, she didn't just sit there and stare at her boy. Basically she ignored him unless he was really getting worked up. Minor jabbering and fussing were ignored after the first few nights.

My nephew was about a year and a half when she did this, FYI.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:38 AM on October 17, 2011

Our 11 month old spends about 99% of his time in his crib now (sometimes I bring him to our bed when it's before 6 and he is Up For The Day, in a futile attempt to get him to snuggle for 10 more minutes.) He went into his own room at about 10 months.

Our transition went something like this. It looks really gradual but it's just because we were playing it by ear. If we had been trying to push it I think each phase could have been a week long.

1) Crib with one open side pushed up next to the bed, starting around 7.5 months. The crib was against a wall with the bed pushed firmly against it, so there wasn't a gap between the two. In your case I would've put a crib or twin bed mattress next to the bed, and pushed it against the wall to minimize any gaps. He *might* try to get into bed with you, but if he's getting athletic with the sleeping like T was at that age, he might enjoy having a place to stretch out, too. We liked having the option to snuggle.

2) Around 8.5 months we put up the crib railing, with the crib still up against the bed, because he was crawling over us to get off the bed. In your setup you might want to just have a crib next to the bed. Even if he's higher up, he'll still be able to see, hear, and smell you, and you can still put a hand into the crib to comfort him without getting up.

3) Around 10.5 months we moved the crib into his room. Right before this we spent a lot more time in his room, playing with animals and reading books and things, so he knew it was a nice place and not just the diaper-changing location. :) We brought him back to bed with us a few times, but we found that he had a clear transition in sleep habits around this time, where our presence went from a sleep aid to a sleep hindrance. Staying in the room while he's awake keeps him awake, so we don't pat him to sleep or any of that, just tuck him in after a good nurse and go into our room. On good nights, he'll roll around and talk a little before dropping off. On less good nights, he seems to feel pretty secure in the knowledge that we'll come in to comfort him when he needs comfort. Your kid may vary.

Putting him in his own room helped us be more strict about sleep plans, too. The slight extra wakefulness I had from getting up and padding into the next room made it easier to not immediately nurse him completely to sleep. And while we don't aim to do CIO, sometimes he'll wake up enough to say "wah. Wah. wah." and then go back to sleep in the ~45 seconds it takes me to wake up fully and go to him, which is nice.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:38 AM on October 17, 2011

Let him wake up alone in his crib, if possible - look, I'm in a new place, and it's okay. Try to encourage him to go to sleep alone, even if it's in the parental bed. He needs to experience successful events of I'm alone, it's okay, and, I'm alone, it's kind of interesting. Lots of useful tips above.
posted by theora55 at 7:43 AM on October 17, 2011

My kid wasn't really a co-sleeper as a baby -- actually he was pretty much a no-sleeper, whether he was in his crib in our room, in his crib in his room, or in our bed, where he would just spend all night trying to push both of us out because we were IN HIS SPACE and then crying because we were TOO FAR AWAY. (Sensory issues! If only I'd known about sensory processing disorder and weighted blankets back then. Instead I just thought I was a total parenting failure who couldn't do co-sleeping OR Ferber right. Good times.)

Anyway, the reason I've popped in is that my son was a baby who liked to nurse to sleep (for the two hours he would sleep before waking up again). And the way I broke him of this habit at around the age of one was to start having his dad put him to bed whenever possible. We were still nursing occasionally at the time -- I just moved nursing a bit earlier so that he wouldn't be doing it last thing before bed.

To this day he still goes to bed better and gets to sleep faster -- at age seven -- if his dad puts him to bed with a story and a hug. If I'm there the kid has a primal urge to snuggle and has a really hard time letting me leave the room and then is sad when I leave. He loves his dad just as much but is not nearly as physically clingy toward him.

YMMV, but I say if your kid associates sleep with physical closeness to the marvelous milk machine then you might consider teaching him to accept dad as an equally comforting bedtime substitute, which might be a good step toward teaching your baby to find other ways self-soothe in his own bed.
posted by BlueJae at 7:48 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers everyone! I think we're going to start with a mattress for him next to our mattress. Chaussette and the Pussy Cats: I don't think falling into the cracks is a concern with a baby this old, well-coordinated, and big. We actually just this week moved from two mattresses pushed together (queen/twin) to a king mattress (that I found via this thread, it's the one mareli and nicwolff have and we are ALL sleeping so much better, highly recommended) so he was in a bed with a crack in it for several months (from age 6 months to 10 months) without issue. Plus, because we just got a new mattress, we have extra mattresses to use for this project, hooray!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:41 AM on October 17, 2011

Also: I marked the answers I found the most helpful, but I must say that everyone in this thread has been helpful (which is more than I expected in a thread about baby sleep!) -- thank you all! And, pekala makes a good point about CIO. I'm not willing to try it again at this time because I know my baby's not ready for it, but it might be something I'd consider trying again in the future (but hopefully won't need to!).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:56 AM on October 17, 2011

We used twofewshoes' method of co-sleeping in his room.
+ Sleep routine, bath, book, bottle
+ I laid him in the crib, then I stretched out on a futon on the floor in his room. He was reassured that I was with him, could hear me breathing, Lots of times, I fell asleep in his room and then got up and went to our bed later.
+ After a while, I moved to a cushion outside his room.

Sleep sacks [bag with arms] help prevent the determined and agile youngster from climbing over the crib railing. I know parents who kept their kids in sleepsacks from Day 1.
posted by ohshenandoah at 10:27 AM on October 17, 2011

I meant to mention, but forgot -- we discovered that an electric baby swing would put my daughter to sleep in about 5 minutes flat, and we used it to death. Milage may vary -- it didn't work on the boy, but it was quite handy when she was inconsolable on not sleepy. We'd swing her for a bit, then gently settle her down in her crib.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:49 AM on October 17, 2011

So I came back to update this thread in case anyone reads it in the future and wants to know how it worked out.

We tried the mattress-next-to-our-mattress and it did not work. Baby Rabbit would wake up and crawl over to me -- sometimes after I spent an hour trying to get him to sleep, he would wake up as I was sneaking away, so frustrating! A couple times he would stay asleep for an hour or two, but always the first time he woke up he was right back with me. So I gave up on that, and we continued cosleeping, but the nursing at night seemed to be getting more and more frequent, every time he woke up even the tiniest bit he wanted to nurse back to sleep, and it was becoming obvious that it was a sleep crutch and neither of us were sleeping very well.

I hit my breaking point this past week and picked up a copy of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight at the library. I don't think it was mentioned in this thread, I think I saw it on some other baby sleep thread, but it's basically the procedure TooFewShoes described upthread. Kind of like Ferber's CIO but you stay in the room, so the child is comforted by your presence.

So I put a pack n play next to our mattress on Friday night, put him in it at bedtime, and lay down on the mattress right next to him. He cried for about half an hour and then went to sleep. Yay! Except he woke up six times overnight, the first time was only half an hour after falling asleep and he cried for half an hour, the second time was an hour later and he cried / whimpered for 95 minutes (I cried during this one too, it was really hard, but at this point I was committed to at least try it for a week). The next wakeup was only about ten minutes, then the next three were less than five minutes each. I should note that I would shush or pat him every few minutes like the books recommend, but my husband felt that it was just making things worse so I eventually just ignored him and hoped that my presence was enough comfort. The last few wakeups he didn't so much cry as just scream at us, I'm pretty sure he was just angry.

The next day we were all really tired, but we had done it! A full night on his own! But it was hard. I put him in the pack n play for a nap that afternoon and lay down next to him and he protested for about 2 minutes then lay down and went to sleep. Wow!

That night (so this is night two) I put him in his pack n play, lay down, he cried for 30 seconds, then lay down, babbled and blew raspberries for a few minutes, and was asleep in 15 minutes. I'm sure he woke up a few times overnight, but only once did he cry, and it was for maybe 10 seconds. He slept for 12 hours.

At his nap yesterday, same thing, 30 seconds of crying, asleep in minutes.

Last night, he protested for maybe 10 seconds before he lay down and did his babbling/raspberry thing for a few minutes and was asleep in under 15 minutes.

I must say... I didn't really want to do CIO but he really seemed ready for it and got it right away. We are both sleeping better. And it was only one bad night! I think the next day, when he saw things were the same and we were OK, it really helped him feel reassured that the new sleeping arrangements were fine. He has been asking to nurse a lot during the day, so I think he is still processing it and needing extra reassurance, but I am so shocked at how quickly he learned to sleep on his own! And he is actually falling asleep faster than he ever did when he nursed to sleep.

It might sound weird, but I feel more like a real parent now. Sometimes we have to do things for our kids' own good even if they aren't happy about it. Learning new things can be uncomfortable sometimes. But I think we both learned something valuable this weekend.

And I must say, waking up on Christmas morning with a night of uninterrupted sleep in a comfortable position, instead of waking up every couple hours and contorting my arms to keep them out of the baby's way... was the best present I have ever received.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:33 AM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

Also, I just went back and marked pekala's answer as one of the best answers, since in the end, it was. :)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:43 AM on December 26, 2011

« Older What to gift a polo enthusiast?   |   These boots are meant for.... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.