If you are reading this, chances are you have a toddler who loves sleeping in your bed!
Maybe you are like me and while you appreciate the snuggles and have a deep sense of gratitude for this season, you recognize that it may be time for a change.
So today I’m sharing what worked for us with our oldest child to gently transition her to her own bed and room!
While I do believe all children and families are unique and there is no one size fits all when if comes to baby sleep advice, I also recognize it can be helpful to hear from other fellow mamas and learn from each other.
So this post is really a lot of our personal journey and experience of what worked for us as well as our most helpful tips. And if you are really looking for an in depth guide on gentle sleep, I highly recommend The Gentle Sleep Book by Sarah Ockwell. It pretty much changed my life and I wouldn’t have such an open mindset about a big family and lots of babies without her reassurance of the modern myth of “sleeping through the night.”
(Disclaimer: I’m not and will never claim to be a baby sleep expert. Just a mama who believes in taking things slow if that is what works best for the family! Also, this post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure if you’d like more information.)
Signals a Toddler Might Be Ready to Move to Their Own Bed
We started looking for some signals that baby girl might be ready for the big move when I became pregnant with our second child.
We knew four in our queen bed just wasn’t going to work for us! (Though Lord knows since then we’ve certainly all squeezed in on occasion and made it work.)
Here are some milestones that I ultimately believe really made the transition work:
- She was weaned. (For us this took place naturally at 17 months)
- She was successfully taking naps in her own “big girl” bed during the day.
- She was sleeping fairly independently in her own space in the middle of our bed with us during the night.
These things are all big milestones in and of themselves and can take plenty of time to happen. I’d encourage you not to worry too much about the timeline. I’ve learned after two babies to take a step back and not stress quite as much! They truly do grow up so fast.
With that said, here’s what the whole process looked like for us:
Phase I: Crib Mattress on the Floor
We started laying baby girl down for her naps on a crib mattress on the floor in our room when she was around 11 months old. She had always hated being in a crib or pack-n-play with a passionate hatred and to my delight, she was much more content with this arrangement.
The only downside to this transition was that I had to keep a video monitor on and keep track of when she woke up, but this wasn’t too difficult and it was worth it to me since she was so much happier.
(We did baby-proofing in the room as well but I still chose to keep a monitor on for safety.)
Once she was familiar with this arrangement we also started putting her down for bed at night on her floor bed. Naturally she would wake up and want to nurse or snuggle after a while and I would either pull her into bed with me at that point (or actually go to bed if I was still up enjoying some kid-free quiet time haha. Let’s be honest!)
Phase II: Moving Into a Toddler Bed
The next step for us was moving her crib mattress on the floor by me into a toddler bed by the foot of our bed when she was around 16 months old.
We did actually try putting the toddler bed in her room but it became immediately clear that it felt like too much too fast to me. She was still in the process of weaning at this point and it was already a lot of change. So we just put the toddler bed up in our room to begin with, and it was great.
I’d also like to mention that there was really nothing wrong with the floor bed. But we were gifted this cute toddler bed and baby girl loved it so it was a great next step toward independence!
For the next few months we worked on getting her more and more comfortable in her toddler bed. At this point she was about 17 months old and just finished weaning so it allowed us to do this without having to get up for middle of the night nursing sessions.
She did learn that she could still crawl into bed with us and sometimes we were too tired to tuck her back in (and I was just plain savoring the snuggles with her as my belly grew and I knew she wouldn’t be my “baby” for much longer.)
And slowly but surely, she began sleeping through the night in her own bed. At first a night here or there, then half of the time, then the majority of the time.
By the time she was 21 months if she woke up and I calmly said “it’s okay, go back to sleep” she would hear me and usually settle herself back down.
And, of course, we ALWAYS started the day with snuggles in the morning. (The best!)
Final Phase: Moving Her Into Her Own Room
The next step for us was moving her into her own room. For us, this was the hardest part and even though it was challenging it didn’t ultimately take very long for her to start loving her own room and sleep soundlessly through the night once she got comfortable.
Some things that helped:
We moved a few months before our second baby was born and this was a natural time for us to make a special point of her “getting her own bedroom.” While it was essentially nothing more than a playroom for the first few months, we made it feel special and exciting by setting her room up with a fun reading corner, toys, and a special place for her clothes. Then we made sure to have lots of special time playing together in her new room everyday!
I really think this helped make it easier when we moved her toddler bed over to her room as she was already excited about her bedroom.
We ultimately ended up waiting to move her until our baby was born because…life. And my hubs and I both agree we it probably would have been better to try moving her a month beforehand.
Regardless, when baby sis came home from the hospital we moved her to her own big girl room. What worked for us was for Daddy to be her official “bedtime person” and tuck her in every night consistently.
When I tried to do it she was more emotional and would cry for me not to leave and it just made it super difficult. So I made sure to have special snuggles at other times in the day and just let Dad own bedtime, which worked best as I was taking care of the baby at night anyway.
My hubby could probably tell you in more detail about the next few months than I can. But essentially he had to sit with her until she fell asleep at bedtime for quite a few months. (And I am eternally grateful for his patience!)
The first month or so in her new room she also woke up one to two times at night. He would quietly go tuck her back in her bed and she’d go back to sleep. Eventually, she stopped waking up at night.
Then when I believe when she was 27 months old they developed their own short and sweet bedtime routine called “kiss, pray, pat-pat.” They do exactly that; kiss, pray together, and he gives her a pat on the back and then he turns off the light and leaves. And…………she FALLS ASLEEP (gasp!)
It’s a miracle!!!
Laptops and Naptimes has a good post here talking specifically about how to make the jump from sitting next to your kiddo until they fall asleep to teaching them to fall asleep on their own using PEDS.
They recommend following the acronym PEDS – Prepare, Explain, Distract, and Support to help them learn how to do this.
It will be up to you to determine when your toddler is old enough to try this strategy but it is definitely helpful when they can talk a little bit and understand what you are saying.
For us, this was around 27 months and my husband did a great job of casually using PEDS and their “kiss, pray, pat-pat” routine to get her to adjust.
It took about a week of her trying to get back up after being tucked in and putting her back down consistently for her to learn to fall asleep without him sitting there. But since then, at not quite two and a half, she’s been falling asleep on her own in her own room and sleeping through the night for 12 hours!
If I had a nickel for every time I swore in the first two years of her life that this day would never come I’d be rich. And yet here we are. She is rocking nighttime in her toddler bed and we are left wondering why we ever stressed so much about it.
Isn’t that the way life goes with our little ones? Every new milestone with our first baby is such a mystery, pain point, learning lesson, and celebration all rolled into one!
With our second baby who knows exactly what the process will look like? Mine already happily takes all her naps in the pack-n-play (on the Milliard memory foam pack n’ play topper) so maybe she’ll become a crib baby after all!
But I won’t be stressing about it too much. 😉
We’ve learned that sleep training in our house without using a “cry-it-out” method is, indeed, totally possible! The currency rate is patience and time.
Sleep is developmental. Just as it takes time for babies to learn to crawl and walk and talk, it takes time for babies to learn to “sleep through the night.”-Gabby Whitaker
I think this is so true and really helps take some of the pressure off of parents when it comes to baby sleep!
Well, I hope you’ve gained some ideas and tips for gently transitioning your co-sleeping toddler to their own bed. It really IS possible!
While you’re here, check out our other toddler sleep must-haves:
- Toddler Bed with a COMFORTABLE toddler mattress
- White Noise Machine (our favorite)
- Big Kid Bed board book by Leslie Patricelli
- For Travel: Intex Kids Travel Bed
Wishing you great success and the gift of patience.