Transitioning your toddler into his own bed doesn't have to be traumatic.

How to Stop Co-Sleeping With a Toddler

by Kathy Gleason

When people talk about co-sleeping, they are talking about sharing a bed with your child rather than having her in her own bed. Some parents choose to keep their baby in their bed from infancy and some fall into it later on. Advocates of co-sleeping believe that it promotes family bonding and togetherness, as well as makes it easier to nurse babies during the night. Opponents feel that there are safety issues, such as the possibility of rolling over onto a child or accidentally knocking her out of bed during the night.

Whether you originally started out co-sleeping on purpose, believing it to be best for your child, or you fell into it accidentally after one too many nightmare nights in a row, you now have a toddler camped out in your bed every night. If you're expecting a new baby, or would just like to have a little more of the bed to yourself now, it's time to transition your toddler from your bed into her own.

Talk to your toddler about the change several days before it happens. Explain that you love him very much but that he is a big boy now and it's time for him to have his own space. Reassure him that he's faced new things before and did great, such as going to daycare, potty training or helping care for a pet. If he's not already attached to a special toy, blanket or stuffed animal, encourage him to see one of them as special, and assure him that his toy or blanket will be going to his new bed with him.

Let your toddler choose her own bedding for her new big girl bed, if possible. Feeling like she has some choice in objects for her room and bed can make this transition easier. Grit your teeth and purchase the gaudy, bright multi-colored sparkly comforter that her heart desires. Remember, this will buy you a bit of peace in the long run.

Lay down next to him for a little while if your child is nervous in his bed the first night. The next night, lay down for a shorter time. After that, transition to sitting in a chair next to your child's bed for a bit. Then, move the chair farther and farther away each night until you're sitting in the doorway. If your toddler is nervous and comes to your room in the middle of the night, comfort and reassure him, and then put him back in his own bed.

Bring your toddler back to bed if she comes into your room, establishing a consistent routine. Even if you're tired and don't feel like getting up--again--don't let your toddler back into your bed, as that will just start the process over and the transition is hard enough without backtracking. Be kind, but firm. She has her own bed now, and that's where she sleeps.

Avoid scheduling naps for late in the day, as this might interfere with sleep at night. However, it's also important to make sure that he does get a nap, as being overtired can lead to a cranky toddler--and even problems sleeping that night. Ensure that you're setting your child up with good sleep habits for the future. He should go to bed and get up at the same time each day, and his room should be cool, dark and quiet to sleep, with the exception of a small night light, if he needs it. Don't let toddlers have too much to eat or drink right before bed, and make sure whatever liquids he does have do not contain caffeine. Put your toddler down to sleep when he's tired, but still awake.


  • Develop a bedtime routine so that your child knows she's still loved and will get lots of attention, even though she won't be sleeping in your bed. For example, brushing her teeth before bed, having a bath and a story, sleeping with a special stuffed animal: all of these things can give her something to count on each night.


  • Do not allow your child to sleep with a TV on in his room. You may think that the background noise will make him feel comforted, but TV makes it harder to get a restful night's sleep.

About the Author

Kathy Gleason is a freelance writer living in rural northern New Jersey who has been writing professionally since 2010. She is a graduate of The Institute for Therapeutic Massage in Pompton Lakes, N.J. Before leaving her massage therapy career to start a family, Gleason specialized in Swedish style, pregnancy and sports massage.

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