Co-sleeping is a wonderful, wonderful thing.  It’s a decision I never really anticipated making, but now that I’ve experienced it with my oldest, I hope I get to experience with every other child I end up having.  But as with all great things, at some point you realize it’s time for a transition.  And in this case, that transition means a move from co-sleeping to a toddler bed.  Whether it’s overcrowding, time to welcome a new baby, or just the right time for your toddler, you will reach a point where your co-sleeping toddler needs to move out! 

Related Post: 12 Ways to Make Co-Sleeping Safer

So how do you do that?  Or, as so many like to point out, are you destined to sleep with your child until they leave for college?  Hardly.  

My husband and I co-slept with our son until he was 2 and then began the transitioning process.  And believe it or not, it was way easier than we thought!  Just like with breastfeeding, the co-sleeping transition seemed to be 1,000 times easier for my toddler than for me…which was a relief because I ended up being the only one that needed to cry-it-out. 🙂

Obviously every child (and parent) is different, so some tips may work better than others, but this is what worked for us.  And as I said, we were able to pull it off without any crying-it-out (at least from the toddler).

Transitioning a co-sleeping toddler to their own bed can seem like an impossible task, but it's easier than you think and it WILL happen. Here are some tips to help with the co-sleeping transition!

 

Think About Weaning

I’m a huge fan of breastfeeding, so I’m not suggesting that you stop breastfeeding before you’re ready (I breastfed my son for about 22 months).  But I will tell you that life will be a whole lot harder for both of you if you attempt to transition a co-sleeper while also breastfeeding them. So it might be better to wait to transition until you are ready to wean.  This will make it much easier for your toddler to sleep through the night and is the first big step towards them falling asleep without having to be physically attached to you.

Related post: 10 Things I Didn’t Know About Weaning a Toddler

 

Get Them Used to Sleeping Alone in Your Room

Before you get them in their own bedroom (or even in their own bed), there are a few different steps that you can take to prepare them for the transition.  The first is to get them used to sleeping alone in your room (or wherever they’re used to sleeping).  So after you’ve got them to sleep, leave the room!  Let them experience waking up alone.  Don’t stay with them for nap times. Do everything you can to let them build some independence in the environment they’re used to before exposing them to something totally new.

 

Get Them Used to Falling Asleep without Cuddling

Once they can sleep alone in your room, start to physically distance yourself a bit.  I still stayed next to my son, but I stopped cuddling.  At first I just got him used to me having my back turned and then I would only sit in bed.  Eventually we moved to holding hands and before long, he could just roll over on his own and fall asleep.

 

Make It Exciting

Now for the fun (and terrifying) part!  Getting them into their own room.  My biggest advice here is to make it really, really exciting…irresistible even. I’m sure if you’re really creative, you can easily do this without spending a penny, but for us it helped to indulge a bit.  We timed his transition around his second birthday, so we used that opportunity to add a few new items to his room:

  • A themed toddler bed.  My son was obsessed with Mickey Mouse and we found a pretty cheap toddler bed online that incorporated a crib mattress that we already had.  We got some fun Mickey Mouse sheets to go with it and bam!! It was a huge success!  He was soooo excited to sleep in his very own big boy bed.
  • A star machine.  My son got a star machine as a gift and it was a huge hit!  It only works in the dark (perfect) and we only kept it in his room, which made his bedroom that much more exciting.  This became one of his favorite bedtime routines.  He would literally jump right into bed knowing the star machine was coming.
  • New stuffed animals.  We didn’t actually need to buy new stuffed animals, but we reintroduced them as if they were new.  One thing that happens with most co-sleepers is they never really get attached to their stuffed animals – because they’re attached to you!  So we started putting his favorite stuffed animals in bed with him and voila! It was another exciting element to sleeping in the new big boy bed.  

 

Start with Nap Times

Every transition I’ve ever had to do has always been easiest when I started with nap times.  Transitioning a co-sleeping toddler is no exception. They’re so much more tired that they fall asleep way easier (and quicker) and I was always less likely to be tired on my own. I started with nap times and before long, he was comfortable in his new bedroom, which made nighttime transitions much easier.  

 

Incorporate Fun New Things to the Routine

Another thing that often happens with co-sleeping families is that you have far less steps in the bedtime routine than non co-sleepers tend to have.  You just don’t need it.  They’re fine just sleeping next to you.  So now it’s time to make sleeping in their own room seem totally fun and exciting.  As I said, one of our new routines was using the star machine and looking at all the stars on the ceiling.  We also added reading books, singing songs, and a little cuddling (I know I told you to stop that!! More on that below…).  Anything you think will work, give it a try!

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

This is more of a warning than a tip. Be prepared to have bad days, regress a bit, or reintroduce things you thought you were done with.  What’s most important is that you’re making progress in the right direction.  We were in a great routine of my son sleeping alone in our room, but when we moved him to his own room it shook things up quite a bit.  He was excited, but it was still a lot.  So we brought the cuddling back and spent a little more time together.  But once he was comfortable again, we slowly pulled that back again.  This isn’t a race, so plan on giving your toddler some time to adjust.  Often one step back enables you to take two steps forward!  Transitioning from co-sleeping is a big deal for them, so it’s unlikely to happen overnight. 

 

Follow Their Queues

The reality is that your toddler is most likely more ready for this transition than you are…so follow their lead when you can!  When I brought the cuddling back, I was constantly trying to pull away to get back to our non-cuddling routine.  But he would just cling tighter and tighter to me.  Finally one day I was so tired I just said “Fine, we’ll cuddle as long as you want.”  Guess what happened.  30 seconds after I would have attempted to pull away, he pulled away on his own.  Giving him a little control over the situation was all I needed.  One day a few weeks ago, he looked at me during nap time and waved goodbye.  He wanted me to leave!  So I left the room and 5 minutes later he had fallen asleep on his own.  My little co-sleeper was transitioning himself!

 

Let Them Back in Your Room, But Not Your Bed

During our co-sleeping transition we had many nights that were just too tough to push through.  Either my toddler wasn’t feeling good or I was just too tired to soothe him back to sleep in the middle of the night.  I was too afraid to bring him right back to our bed, but I just couldn’t handle sleeping on the floor anymore.  So we came up with a great compromise.  We would let him come back to our room, but he wasn’t allowed in our bed.  We got an amazing toddler air mattress that we put next to our bed and he could sleep on that if he had to.  It was close enough that we could hold hands, but my husband and I still had our bed to ourselves.  I told my son before we went upstairs that he could only go to our room if he slept in the air mattress and that was good enough for him!

 

Be Patient

For the most part, co-sleeping parents are naturally patient people (at least with their kids!).  We’ve let our kids take their time, avoided crying-it-out, and made unbelievable sacrifices to our own schedule to make sure our little guys are comfortable.  So this transition is no different.  Give it time and it will be well worth it!  We made a few different efforts along the way to get our son into a crib and they never worked.  He just wasn’t ready.  If your toddler is scared or freaking out, then try to give them more time!  It won’t be long before they truly are ready.  When all was said and done, it took less than a week to get my son consistently falling asleep in his bed, but about 6 months before he was sleeping through the night alone in his room.  This may seem long to a lot of people, but we managed to avoid crying-it-out and no one was pushed farther than they could go.  It worked for us!

 

Good luck with your own co-sleeping transition!  Let me know if you have any other tips for how to transition a co-sleeping toddler into their own bed!

 

Transitioning a co-sleeping toddler to their own bed can seem like an impossible task, but it's easier than you think and it WILL happen. Here are some tips to help with the co-sleeping transition!

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17 comments on “10 Tips for Transitioning a Co-Sleeping Toddler to Their Own Bed”

  1. This sounds perfect!!! I’m not one for CIO, and my patience is pretty high. I agree with time is EVERYTHING! I’m going to miss cuddling this little guy, but I want to bring him a little companion (brother or sister) soon too!

  2. Wonderful post. Thank so much for 10 Tips for Transitioning a Co-Sleeping Toddler to Their Own Bed. This is an interesting way for our children to become more independent. Our baby was 20 months old and I thought it was time to sleep alone. I will follow your instructions. Thanks again for sharing useful

  3. ••I’m in desperate need of some advice and tips when it comes to transitioning my youngest son (I have five boys ages 10, 8, 7, 6, and 13 months) to his own bed. We have been co-sleeping since day one, and I have very proudly exclusively breastfed him just as long. He still nurses about 4-5 times a day and does nurse himself to sleep. He’s waking up 4-5 times a night as well, but sometimes he doesn’t need to nurse to fall back asleep. I do not want to quit nursing, but co-sleeping is starting to impact my relationship with my husband. **I have a strong attachment to nursing and “W” due to having my tubes tied after I had him, and dealing with PPD.”**
    •••I’m trying to find the best way to transition him from my bed to a play-pen that would be next to my bed. I’m not sure how to go about that when he depends on nursing 99% of the time to fall asleep. Another worry of mine is that anytime I get out of the bed and he’s asleep, he wakes up almost instantly. If he doesn’t feel someone next to him (it could be me, my husband, one of his brothers, or even our dog) he wakes up screaming the worst high pitch scream like someone is physically hurting him.
    •••He’s not only clingy like that when it comes to sleeping, if any of us leave his sight he screams and his little hands start shaking like crazy. I’m a SAHM and I’m unable to do housework unless I successfully sneak out of bed during nap time.
    •••I could use any advice that you have to help me give him more confidence and make him realize that we always come back… just because we leave his sight or aren’t laying next to him, we are always here.
    **He’s never experienced any trauma, he was full term, and he is in great health… minus a couple ear infections that happened over winter.

    • awwww 🙁 I totally feel for you. First, I should say that 13 months is a really tough age, so this could all be a little harder at the moment because of that (my son was sooooo clingy at that age). The other thing you could try is using a specialized air mattress for toddlers (there’s a link to the one that I use in the article, but there are others as well) instead of a play pen to start. The reason that might be easier is that you can 1. actually lay on it next to him to nurse and help him fall asleep (and then just pop back up onto your bed), and 2. hold his hand if he needs you. It took my son a while to be satisfied with simply hand holding (as opposed to cuddling) but we kept working on it and it finally stuck. Before you even transition him out of your bed, you could try to get him used to less cuddling and more hand holding instead. I know this is hard in the middle of the night when you’re cuddling just b/c of space, so maybe try it when you’re putting him to bed or if he wakes up before you’re ready to go to bed for the night. You can also use the same tricks I used to get my son into his own room to get into a toddler bed or play pen next to you (stuffed animals, star night light, etc). Good luck! This WON’T last forever!

  4. I loved your post! I’m getting ready to move our 16 month old girl to her own room… but the one thing that keeps coming to mind is the whole breast feeding issue. So, she doesn’t breastfeed during the night anymore, but it is the one thing she needs to fall asleep and the first thing she does in the morning while we are still waking up. I don’t want to stop the breast feeding just yet because soon she’ll go to school and I want her immune system to be strong for when she will finally be around a lot of other kids. There are too many big steps that we need to take but they all seem to be co-related and I just don’t know what to do first! I appreciate any advice! Thanks

    • The breastfeeding makes it so hard! I wouldn’t stop before you’re ready, but what about bringing her back to bed with you in the morning when she wakes? Then she can breastfeed while you slowly wake up and you can get some cuddle time. It definitely doesn’t need to be all or nothing, you just don’t want to drive yourself nuts!

  5. Thanks for these tips! We tried to transition several times, even when Baby #2 arrived! But we all ended up sharing our king size bed anyways. Now the bed doesn’t feel so big! My husband and I love co-sleeping, but now that our oldest is 3 and becoming more independent, I’m ready to try transitioning one more time! Wish us luck!

  6. I have one question, what do you do when your LO wakes up in the middle of the night and starts crying… it breaks my heart to just let him cry in there all by himself. 😔Thank you for your post, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

    • I go into his room and sit with him until he falls asleep again. If I get there quickly, its often only a few minutes. I won’t lie, this was a big pain in the butt, BUT they will get better and better at sleeping through the night. It just takes time!

  7. Great post. Baby is 23 months, and we were co sleeping, for the past few months he’s been sleeping in his own bed but he only falls asleep if we cuddle with him (in his toddler bed). If I try just sitting next to him while holding his hand or rubbing his back, he gets hurt feeling and begs me to cuddle, says please, asks why, etc. How can I explain to him why he needs to sleep alone?

    • This was a really hard transition for us too. You can try explaining but if they’re not old enough to really reason with then an explanation might not do the trick. What I ended up doing was very gradually shifting away from cuddling. The first and biggest step for me was laying with my back to him instead of face-to-face. Doing that still gave him the feeling of me being there, but it was definitely a step away from cuddling. From there, I literally shifted down the bed, lol. I went from having my head on his pillow (but with my back to him) down to his stomach so that I was basically half off the bed. Eventually I was then able to just have my arm heavily laying on him and then from there we held hands. And NOW he doesn’t even need hands. If you don’t want to go that route, then you may want to try distraction methods to keep him happy and the process fun – reading books, singing songs, star lamps, etc. Don’t worry though, I promise this will happen eventually!! Good luck 🙂

  8. Manuela @mrhatler

    my son is 6, yes I know and we tried several times to put him in his own room with no luck. After reading you Blog post I will attempt it again because I really want my bed back 🙁 I had all my kids in my bed but he is the most stubborn one, if we leave him alone in our room he will wake up within one our screaming like he has just been stabbed. I don’t understand.

  9. Thank you so much for writing this post! My daughter is 19 Months and had been cosleeping until last Month, I just started with the toddler bed next to my bed and I am hoping to transition her to her bedroom before she turns 2. Cosleeping with her was the best decision we ever made I loved every second of it, I feel it created a bigger bond. Thank you again for the post and I will be trying your advice soon.

  10. Without knowing it I tried all of this like over 3 years ago (my daughter is now 5 & unfortunately still sleeps with me) but they did not work. Any suggestions how I can get a kindergartner to sleep in her bed in her own room all night? Might be worth my while I suppose to try a single size air mattress, huh? She says the reason she can’t sleep in her bed is I’m not there with her. I usually stay till asleep but two hours later (I’m guessing) she’s in my bed. Sigh. I just want my bed to myself finally! Will she grow out of this? If so, when could that be? Help!

    • I would definitely give the air mattress a try! I know it seems like you’re just avoiding the problem, but it works so well for us when he wants to be in our room. It’s a great way to transition her too! My son is still a bit young for this, but I’ve read a lot of success stories with 4 and 5 year olds that have used reward systems. A sticker for every night she stays in her room and a prize for every 10 stickers (or whatever else you can come up with!). I really think the key is just to get them to try it out and then they will just start to like it. She WON’T be in your room forever though 🙂 so before you know it you’ll probably be missing these days!

  11. I love this post! We started cosleeping as a survival mechanism in those first few weeks. My daughter is 17 months and still in our bed, and we all, surprisingly, love it. Eventually we will be ready for her to transition to her own bed, so I’m saving these tips for then. Thanks so much!

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