Right after birth, infants perceive their moms as an extension of themselves. However, gradually as they grow, kids need to learn to sleep independently. This allows them to understand their needs better, and having their own space ensures higher quality and healthier rest.
Some children may be ready to sleep in a separate room and crib even from their first year, but in most cases, toddlers are prepared to transition to their own bed around the age of two. This is when the baby's nervous system is ready to adapt to a new sleep routine, so the shift from a crib or co-sleeping to a separate bed usually presents fewer challenges.
Why can children find it difficult to fall asleep separately from their parents?
Kids can find falling asleep separately from their parents challenging for various reasons. Firstly, the unwillingness to sleep on their own and feelings of discomfort stem from the new and unfamiliar environment. Initially, children might feel less secure and safe than before. However, this stage should be patiently overcome to help the child adapt and get accustomed because co-sleeping with parents is only suitable initially. Later on, it can be more detrimental than beneficial.
Why do pediatricians recommend teaching a child to sleep in a separate bed?
- It improves the quality and depth of sleep. Sleeping in a separate bed is more peaceful and deep. It allows the central nervous system (CNS) to recover well during rest, making it easier for the child to manage their emotions and be less irritable throughout the day.
- Separate sleep enhances self-control skills. Although initially, the baby might not feel the bed boundaries and hasn't fully mastered their body's spatial awareness, these qualities gradually develop when infants sleep separately.
- It's more comfortable. The child can choose comfortable sleeping positions without disturbing anyone else. Additionally, children learn to listen to their body's signals and adapt better to the rhythm of activity and rest. As a result, both infants and parents experience comfort.
Therefore, independent sleep helps the child develop faster, rest better, have more energy during the day, and maintain a significantly better psycho-emotional state than peers who haven't yet transitioned to independent sleep.
How to teach a baby to sleep independently? Practical recommendations
Meanwhile, explaining the importance of separate sleep to a baby isn't a significant or convincing argument; parents may need to resort to other tricks. To facilitate the transition from a crib to an adult bed, you may need to take the following steps:
- Establish a clear sleep schedule according to the baby's needs and characteristics.
- Introducing family-friendly rituals. This could involve reading books together before bedtime, singing lullabies, peaceful games, or listening to calming music.
- Dim lighting. Use nightlights and keep a gentle light in the baby's room to make it less intimidating for them to be alone.
- Choose the new bed together. Let your little one choose one from a few options. The same can apply to selecting children's bedding. Discuss upcoming changes so they aren't unexpected or sudden.
A gradual transition can be attempted if all else fails and the child still wants to sleep with the parents. In this approach, the child only sleeps in a separate bed during daytime naps. Once the habit of sleeping in their own bed during the day is formed and solidified, propose that they sleep there at night as well. Initially, you can read, sing, or listen to music until the child falls asleep ultimately. You can even lie down together and embrace the child to make falling asleep easier and more peaceful. Once the child becomes accustomed to this stage, you can gradually stop staying in the room until they are fully asleep, allowing them to fall asleep on their own.
In any case, always pay attention to your child's unique characteristics and needs, as all babies have different temperaments, personalities, and developmental peculiarities. Therefore, children adapt to separate sleep in various ways, so don't adhere rigidly to standards or norms. The only standard you should consider is your child's comfort, tranquility, and health.
How to create a comfortable and cozy sleep space? Useful tips from the Busywood team
A well-organized space contributes to forming positive sleep associations and helps the child fall asleep independently. And the best news is that creating an appropriate space is relatively easy.
Montessori Bed for Safe and Healthy Sleep
Start with choosing a comfortable bed. Many different models are available, but over a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori provided recommendations for organizing a child's space, particularly the bed. She criticized the traditional tall crib with high bars because a child couldn't get out of it without parental help, making it an unsafe option. Using textile bumpers also prevents the child from seeing their room, and they can't observe what's happening around them.
Instead, Montessori suggested a safe floor bed. Its height and design perfectly suit the needs of a small child: feeling secure, resting, getting out of bed when they want, and freely exploring their surroundings.
Textiles Chosen According to the Child's Interests
If the child likes highways, open space, or fairytales, choose bedding with corresponding designs. This helps create positive associations with the sleeping area and significantly eases the transition to an adult bed. Additionally, you can attach a convenient organizer for various kids’ items near the headboard. In these pockets, they can store both useful items and the child's treasures, which also contribute to a cozy and pleasant atmosphere.
Consider an Adjustable Lighting System
Choose blackout curtains or blinds to prevent streetlights from entering the room at night. Instead, add a lamp with soft and dim lighting to the interior. This will create a harmonious and cozy atmosphere and help the child feel maximally safe.
How to Respond to Tears and Protests When Teaching a Child to Sleep Separately
Be prepared in advance for the possibility that the child may not like the idea of sleeping separately. Be patient, take gradual steps, don't rush, and don't try to force the child to transition to a separate bed. Instead, wrap this transition in an aura of mystery, enchantment, and pleasant associations. After all, all parents are a bit like magicians. So, in your case, this magic will undoubtedly happen. Maybe not with a wave of a magic wand, but you and your child will definitely succeed!
Why do children find it difficult to fall asleep independently?
One of the most common reasons is feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. Children may struggle to get used to and adapt to a new space until they are convinced that it's safe.
How long can the process of getting used to independent sleep take, and what can be expected during this period?
There's no universal timeframe for a child to adjust to sleeping in their own bed. For some, it happens immediately, while others may take weeks to months. If a child wishes to return to co-sleeping with parents, they might cry, feel anxious, refuse to sleep separately, and even get upset about it. It's a challenging phase for all parents, but be prepared; this stage will pass – all children eventually adapt at their own pace.
What bedtime rituals can help a child calm down and prepare for sleep?
Shared bedtime stories, gentle motions like head strokes, soothing music, a bath, or a discussion about the day can be helpful. These rituals must be enjoyable and relaxing for the child.
Are there any specific tips for children of different age groups regarding independent sleep?
Establishing a regular schedule, using calming rituals, and ensuring a comfortable sleep environment are essential for younger children. Preschoolers can be given choices between different activities before bedtime, like playing together or reading, listening to music, or chatting about something interesting. By allowing preschoolers to choose between options, you provide them with a sense of control, helping them feel calmer and fall asleep easier.
Are there any important rules or advice that parents should follow during the process of helping their child get used to sleeping independently?
It's essential to remember that every child is unique; therefore, there are no universal rules. The process of adapting to independent sleep can be gradual. Patience and calmness are crucial, being ready to support the child at any moment. Developing your own rituals and a comfortable sleep routine is advisable. This not only creates a pleasant but also a predictable, familiar atmosphere every evening, which will reassure the child and aid their adjustment to the new bed.