While some parents are okay with co-sleeping with their toddlers, a toddler who sleeps on their own bed gains plenty of benefits. From better health, increased discipline, to learning independence, sleeping alone does plenty of good things than harm to your little one.
However, the transition process can be challenging and requires your patient. You might see a phase where your kid will get up and call you just a few minutes after you kiss her a good night, or even up to crawling to your bed every night. But at the end of the day, a smooth transition is highly possible, as everyone of us will eventually learn to sleep on our own.
There are plenty of things you can do to smoothen your little one’s transition to sleep in their own bed, but first let’s talk about the benefits.
What are the benefits of toddlers sleeping in their own bedroom?
Among the most important benefits of sleeping alone for a toddler are improved emotional maturity and learning the ability to enjoy oneself.
Eugene Beresin M.D., M.A, the author of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Media, explained it so well:
“The concept of enjoying oneself when alone—the ability to relax, to reflect, to enjoy solitude, and do things on our own—is not, according to Winnicott, something that just happens. It’s a skill we learn and develop through our lives. The capacity to be alone, he says, it’s one of the most important signs of emotional maturity. This includes putting oneself to sleep, and it begins in the early years of life.”
While there’s nothing wrong for toddlers to co-sleep with parents, teaching them sleep independence in their early life will only do good for your little one, and emotional maturity is one of them.
So, here are some strategies that you can follow:
Create a comfortable sleeping environment
A comfortable sleeping environment can include a comfortable mattress and a soft bedding, a room with a pleasant temperature, and more importantly, a decor that can entice their imagination. You can buy a toddler bed with a design of their favourite character or theme, and decorate the room with something that they like. Even better, ask your child to go with you to choose their own favourite bed.
The room should also create a relaxing feeling, and ease away what your little one’s fear. For example, if she’s afraid of the dark, you can set up a warming night light so that she’s not sleeping in complete darkness.
The key for a smooth transition for a toddler to sleep in their own bed is a gradual change, just like any other habit. You shouldn’t force an instant change in a toddler life. Instead, you can let them take a nap in her new bed or her own bedroom or, sleep in your little one’s room for a few days until she feels comfortable. Then, you can gradually move away to your own bedroom.
Emilie Caro, a certified paediatric sleep consultant, is a fan of using this method, and recommended that “the key is to make your presence as boring as possible so as to not encourage further attention-seeking behaviour.”
Establish a sleep routine
Before moving to her own bedroom, you can start building a sleep routine that your child and you will do together every time she’s going to sleep. Keep in mind that routine is a routine, so it should always be the same consistent activities every night, so that your child associates it as something she’ll definitely do before sleeping.
According to the NHS, this predictable bedtime routine can create a calming effect as she will and your child will associate it as something she’ll definitely do before sleeping. This can be in the form of book reading, singing lullabies, or a simple kiss and goodbye.
It’s always essential for parents to keep in mind that building sleep independence is a slow process, not an instant. Therefore, if your child is experiencing any sleep problem after she moves to her own bed, try to identify the cause of their concern. It could be fear of the unknown (imaginary monster, for example), anxiety of sleeping without parents, or anything that your child might be afraid of. Addressing these concerns early is a must.
Some would recommend you to create a ‘sleep rule’ and give your child a punishment if a toddler can’t stay in her own bed during a sleep time. However, enforcing a punishment will only do more harm than good to your little one’s development. The effect can be psychological, and they may feel fearful and insecure.
Instead of punishment, provide a supportive and understanding environment for your child instead. If your child wakes up during the night, offer comfort and reassurance, and help them get back to sleep in their own bed. If she’s really afraid, you can accompany them a little while until she gets asleep before going back to your own bedroom.
In addition to addressing their fears and anxiety, finding a ‘comfort item’ into a toddler can help them feel safe. They will associate this comfort item as something that will always accompany them to sleep; it could be a blankie, toy, book, or anything she has an emotional connection with.
Allow your child to have a few comfort items, such as a favourite toy or blanket, in their bed. This will help them feel more secure.
A comfort item will give them a sense of control and ownership, as well as a feeling of confidence and secure in their bed, which in the end will improve their sleep quality.
Transitioning to a new bed can take time, and it’s important to be patient with your child. Take it one step at a time. We understand that it can be emotionally tiring as parents, but it’s important to always remind yourself to be patient and take one step at a time. Because as we said, everyone of us will eventually learn to sleep on our own, and this is just a transition.