When my daughter was born, I didn’t plan to co-sleep with her. I knew that the safest sleep space for babies is the crib so hers was set up in our bedroom. The problem was that she vomited every time I laid her flat, so the next thing I knew I was bed sharing with my baby and Daddy got relocated to the couch.
When the four month sleep regression hit, she was up every hour and breastfeeding was the only thing that settled her. Then she started rolling, and I couldn’t sleep out of worrying she’d roll off the bed. At that point I needed to know how to stop co-sleeping and transition my baby to a crib.
There are safety risks when bed sharing with your baby. Plus, co-sleeping with a baby that can roll, crawl or scoot off the bed presents an even bigger challenge. Babies sleep best when their sleep space has boundaries. And parents sleep well from the peace of mind they get knowing their baby is safe.
If you’re ready to stop co-sleeping and transition your baby to a crib, you’re in the right place. This article explains the necessary steps to take for babies transitioning to cribs and toddlers transitioning to toddler beds.
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How To Stop Co-Sleeping & Transition Your Baby to a Crib
If your baby cannot climb out of the crib, the crib is the best place for them to sleep.
The Gradual Approach
Here’s the approach I took with my 7 month old. First, I got her used to sleeping without needing to touch me all night. Then I moved her to the crib. After that, she was sleep trained in her own bedroom. As a baby sleep consultant, I help parents transition from co-sleeping to the crib everyday in my sleep training program here.
This approach works well for parents who are nervous (or sad) about stopping co-sleeping. It’s also good for babies who have rejected the crib previously.
Step One: Sleep 1-2 feet away from baby in your bed.
Help your baby fall asleep as you normally do. Then, slowly scoot away and sleep at the other end of your bed. This gentle move puts some distance between you and your little one, which gets them (unconsciously) used to not sleeping right next to you. If your baby wakes up, help them back to sleep and scoot away again. Repeat this all night for 2-3 nights.
Step Two: Put baby’s crib next to your bed
Your goal is to get your baby used to sleeping in a new space, without them realizing it. 😉 Help your baby fall asleep as you normally do (feeding, rocking or lying down together are fine.) Once baby is asleep, carefully move them to the crib. You’re placing your baby in the crib already asleep. Each time your baby wakes at night, help them back to sleep. Then gently place them in the crib again.
If your baby wakes up after two hours and fights going back into the crib, that’s ok. You managed to get two hours of crib time! Tomorrow night, you can aim for three hours and increase each night over the next week until your baby is spending at least half the night in the crib. That’s a big win! Many babies sleep better with a bit of distance from their parents. And parents definitely sleep better when they can’t hear each rustle or peep out of their little one all night. See if pushing the crib away from your bed toward a corner of the room helps everyone sleep better.
Some babies easily transition from co-sleeping and start spending at least half the night in the crib. While other babies might wake each time they’re placed in the crib. Give it 1-2 nights to see how your baby adapts. If you’re ready for your baby to sleep in their own bedroom, that works too! You may be shuffling back and forth between bedrooms for a few nights, but short-term effort leads to long-term gains.
This step gets babies used to sleeping in the crib before beginning sleep training. It also gives parents confidence that their baby can learn new, independent sleep habits.
Step Three: Begin sleep training!
Teaching your baby to sleep independently in the crib is the sure way to get them happily sleeping there all night. If you don’t encourage independent sleep, your baby will probably migrate back to your bed very soon.
The most important step of sleep training is teaching your baby to fall asleep independently. This means putting your baby in the crib awake and encouraging them to fall asleep on their own. The way your baby falls asleep at bedtime is the same way they need to fall back to sleep each time they wake at night. Once your baby can settle to sleep on their own (and resettle during the night) they’ll start sleeping long stretches. Here’s my guide on self-soothing.
You can sleep train while room sharing with your baby or set them up in their own bedroom. Either way works, as long as you stay consistent with your sleep training plan. If your baby still eats at night, ask your doctor if they’re ready for night weaning. I recommend reducing or eliminating night feeds when you begin sleep training. Here’s my guide on weaning night feeds.
This video explains how to stop co-sleeping with your baby
The Quick approach
This is the “cold turkey” approach to stopping co-sleeping and transitioning to the crib. You will sleep train and transition your baby to the crib at the same time. With this approach, on night one you begin sleep training with your baby in the crib. Your bed is now “off the menu.”
On night one, place your baby in the crib after your relaxing bedroom routine and use a sleep training method to teach them to fall asleep there. You’ll use the same sleep training method for all night wakings, and keep your baby in the crib all night. Reducing or weaning off night feeds happens simultaneously with sleep training.
As you might expect, because there’s no “warming up period” this method can lead to some resistance from your little one. But if you’ve tried the gradual approach and it didn’t work or you need to start getting some sleep right away, this method will get the quickest results. And yes mama, it’s safe and will not harm your baby. Many parents use the quick approach in my sleep training program, because they’re at the end of their rope and need to sleep asap. Parents of very active babies (rolling, crawling or walking) choose this approach when co-sleeping becomes a safety risk. As do parents who are ready to stop co-sleeping as soon as possible.
How To Stop Co-Sleeping With Your Toddler & Transition to a Toddler Bed
For toddlers who spend most of the night in parent’s bed, are 3+ years old, or can climb out of the crib.
This video explains how to stop co sleeping with your toddler
Step One: Plan it
It’s best if this is the only big transition happening for your little one. If a new sibling is coming soon or you plan to potty train, start daycare or go back to work- make sure to space these transitions apart by four weeks or more.
Step Two: Communicate
You need to hype this up, big time. Start talking about the “wonderful, amazing” news that your little guy or gal will soon be sleeping in their “big boy/girl bed” and what a big deal that is. Point out older cousins and friends who get to have their own bedrooms and how your toddler is joining the club. Ask their older cousin to call and congratulate them on getting their own bed. (You see where I’m going here, right?)
This should start 1-2 weeks before you plan to transition. Toddlers like to be kept “in the loop.” Springing a new habit (or routine) on them with little notice is bound to lead to tantrums at bedtime or 2 am, neither of which you want. Let them know what will happen, in advance.
An important distinction- you’re NOT asking for their permission. You are lovingly, yet firmly, letting them know upcoming changes to their routine and sleep space. And always reminding them that you’re nearby checking on them.
Step Three: Set the scene
Their bedroom needs to be transformed into a fun, happy space. You don’t need to spend lots of money to achieve this. Just lots of fun.
Make their room “a big deal” by spending happy time there playing, reading books and snuggling in their new bed. If possible, involve them in picking a bed, sheets or stuffed animals to sleep with. Affordable wall stickers can bring a lot of joy and acceptance to a new sleep space. Do this for at least one week before having your toddler sleep in their new bedroom. HYPE IT UP!
(If your toddler naps independently in your bed, you could begin this transition now by having them nap in their new bed.)
Step Four: Bedtime routine moves to their room
When transitioning out of co-sleeping and into a toddler bed, your bedtime routine should move to your toddler’s bedroom a few nights before they start sleeping there. When the routine is over, they can fall asleep in your bed (if that’s their normal habit.)
The idea here is to subtly introduce a new sleep space without getting huge protests. We’re taking baby steps to help your child adapt to a new sleep space and routine.
Step Five: Sleep with them
Camping out in your toddler’s bedroom for a few nights is a good way to ease the bed-sharing or room-sharing transition, for you both.
One small but important detail is to not share a bed with your toddler. You’re camping out on the floor, which is a separate sleep space. This gets your little one used to a new bed, new room and sleeping on their own. But your presence eases the adjustment for them.
If your toddler is very attached to you, wear their lovey in your shirt a few hours before bed each night.
Step Six: Wean yourself out of the room
Now it’s time to begin sleep training and wean yourself out of your child’s bedroom. This doesn’t have to be as official as it sounds. It’s simply coming up with a clear plan to help your toddler be comfortable falling asleep on their own and sleeping all night in their new bed.
This video walks you through an example sleep training method for toddlers
Step Seven: Stay consistent
The only way you’ll get anywhere with the co-sleeping to toddler bed transition is with consistency. Your bed is now “off the menu.” In fact, your bedroom is “off the menu” when it comes to sleep.
All of your child’s sleep now occurs in their bedroom. If your toddler ever has a rough night (due to sickness, sleep regression or another cause) YOU camp out in their bedroom. You want them to forget that your bed was ever an option. Intermittent reinforcement, or occasionally “giving in,” only confuses your child, leading them to continually fight their bed because it sometimes works. Not fair on them or you. So stay consistent!
Continue communicating with your child through each phase. Remind them what you expect of them, inform them of upcoming changes to their routine, and let them know how you will support them. And of course, always remind them how proud you are of them.
The transition from co-sleeping to a crib or toddler bed can certainly feel daunting when your baby refuses to sleep without you. But taking the time to make a sleep training plan and follow it through can successfully help you stop co-sleeping. When you’re in the thick of it and feeling overwhelmed, it helps to think of what you’d like your family’s sleep to look like next month or next year. The steps you take now to sleep train help the entire family sleep well long-term.