Sleep training a toddler after co-sleeping for a long time is possible, but the transition takes some effort from couples. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under one year old should not co-sleep under any circumstances. It increases the risk of sudden infant death (SID).
There are many benefits to sleeping training your child. When most parents sleep train their child, they also try to transition the child to another room. These two big milestones can be done together, and it would save you so much effort and time. If you would like to know why, how, and when to sleep-train your toddler, keep reading.
In this post, I will discuss the following.
Why should you sleep train your toddler after co-sleeping?
When should you transition from co-sleeping and sleep train your toddler?
How to sleep train a toddler after co-sleeping?
How to handle your toddler’s night wakings?
I am not a doctor. This post is for educational purposes only; you should not take it as medical advice. Also, this post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you buy something at no additional cost to you.
Why should I sleep train my toddler after co-sleeping?
Sleep training your toddler after cosleeping can help them develop the beneficial habit of falling asleep independently. It can also reduce stress for the whole family, allowing parents to get a more restful night’s sleep in their own bed. Additionally, it may help toddlers better regulate their nighttime sleep schedule, leading to improved overall health and well-being. Below are the two main benefits of sleep training your little one.
- The toddler would learn to self-soothe themselves to sleep which is an important life skill according to the National Library of Medicine (NIH). Children tend to wake up a lot during the night. They may rely on feedings or comfort to fall back asleep. Sleep training them would eliminate the need for sleep props to put them back to sleep.
- You and your toddler would get high-quality sleep. You will notice the difference in their sleep. Children tend to be fussier when they sleep together with someone else because they rely on so many things. When your child gets used to self-soothing themselves, they will be much less fussy and cranky.
When should I transition from co-sleeping, and sleep train my toddler?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents consider stopping the practice of co-sleeping before their child is 12 months old, and it shouldn’t even be practiced before that age. This is because after this age, it can become more difficult for parents to wean their child off the habit, and they may also have a harder time adjusting to a new sleep routine.
You should start sleep training a toddler after co-sleeping when you feel the time is right. You can start sleep training your toddler when your baby is around 4 months old. However, you should not sleep train your child when the following applies.
- Your toddler is sick.
- There is a major change at home including divorce, a move, new family members, and so on. Major life events can have a huge negative impact on children according to the National Library of Medicine.
- Your toddler is teething. Teething causes pain and discomfort, which would make sleep training much more difficult if not impossible.
- When you are not home for a long period of time, you cannot sleep train. It is recommended to stay at home for two weeks to help make the transition easier.
- Your child is overtired for any particular reason. You cannot do anything with a fussy baby.
- Nap times cannot be met. You must be able to follow a strict sleep routine. As time passes, the routine can become more flexible.
There will never be a perfect time for sleep-training a toddler after co-sleeping. So, choose the most realistic time for doing it. The transition is worth it.
How to sleep train a toddler after co-sleeping?
The key to transitioning your toddler out of co-sleeping and sleep training effectively is to establish a consistent, gentle sleep routine, while also providing reassurance and support. Be prepared for the process to take a few weeks as you help your toddler adjust to the new sleeping environment. Take care to be consistent with your sleep routine, provide comfort when needed and create a calming bedtime atmosphere. When implementing sleep training measures such as fading or setting limits and expectations, it’s best to be calm yet firm in order for your child to understand the new expectations.
Make sure the crib or toddler bed is safe for sleeping. Many parents want to sleep train a toddler, but they do not know how. You must follow three steps to sleep training a toddler including preparing a toddler for the transition, following a sleep training method, and staying consistent through the transition.
1- Prepare a toddler for the transition.
The key to successful sleep training is to prepare your toddler for what’s to come. Talk to them about the change in routine and how it is important that they learn how to sleep independently. Explain why they need good quality sleep, and let them know that this change won’t be forever – but only until they can become self-reliant sleepers. Make sure that your toddler knows that you are there if they need you, but reinforce the idea of a new sleeping arrangement over the course of several days so that the transition isn’t too painful or overwhelming for them.
2- Choose a good sleep training method.
To help your toddler sleep more independently and peacefully, it’s important to choose a good sleep training method and stick to it. First, pick a bedtime that works best for you and your family. Try to keep the bedtime within the same hour each night so that your child’s body can start winding down before going to bed in order to get good quality sleep. Additionally, create a relaxing nighttime routine prior to bed such as a soothing bath, reading stories, or having simple conversations about the events of the day. Make sure that you stay consistent on an evening-to-evening basis and your toddler will soon learn when it is time for sleep.
3- Stay consistent through the transition.
During the transition from co-sleeping to independent sleep, it is important to stay consistent in your sleep training methods. Establish a regular routine and try to avoid unplanned naps if possible. Let your child know what they can expect each night – you may want to set a timer or use other visual cues to further help with understanding the expectation of sleep. Consistency and predictability are essential elements of successful sleep training! When staying consistent, keep the following in mind.
- Incentives are important.
Sleep training a toddler can be difficult if they have gotten used to co-sleeping. To make the transition easier, experts recommend using incentives such as rewarding good sleep habits with rewards. Creating a consistent and predictable atmosphere around sleep time can help develop healthy sleeping habits that will carry through throughout life. According to ResearchGate, having bad sleep habits can affect children as they grow up physically and academically. Some more incentives include getting ice cream the next day and spending quality time with mom and dad.
- Set boundaries.
It’s important to start with clear boundaries, set expectations for when and how long your child should be asleep, create consistent bedtime routines, give your child the opportunity to practice independence in the bedroom, and most importantly stay patient and supportive during the transition.
You need to pick your battles and choose what situations to ignore. Set boundaries, make sure your child follows those rules, and if they break them slightly, ignore them. Power struggles are the worst. Do not get yourself in a power struggle with your toddler.
- Be responsive.
You will face toddler bedtime battles, and you must understand that toddlers have needs. You should stay consistent but be responsive to their needs and emotions. When sleep training a toddler after co-sleeping, it’s important to be sensitive and responsive to your child’s emotions. Talk with your toddler about what’s happening and make sure to spend time cuddling and offering reassurance that you’re always available if they need you.
Make sure the changes are gradual so it doesn’t become overwhelming, and be willing to adjust or take breaks if needed. If they are scared, put a nightlight in the room. If they miss you, put a picture of yourself in the room. Play some music to help calm them.
How to handle my toddler’s night wakings?
Final Thoughts on Sleep Training a Toddler After Co-Sleeping
Sleep training is a challenging task for any parent, but it can be especially difficult when transitioning from co-sleeping. It is never too late to sleep train your child even if they are 2 years old or 4 years old. Establishing good sleep habits can help your two or four-year-old adjust to sleeping in their own bed after co-sleeping. If you are looking to help your child learn how to sleep better, hopefully, our comprehensive guide can ease the transition.