How To Stop Co-Sleeping with a 4 Year Old
Co-sleeping is a wonderful, bonding experience for you and your little one.
Its snuggly, comforting and practical (especially if you nurse). Your baby is tiny, fitting right into the curve of your body, and oh-so-sweet to wake up next to.
But co-sleeping with a 4 year old? Not so fun.
They kick, roll, headbutt, and generally overtake the bed. That sweet little baby grew into a huge bed hog. And its time for them to go!
Do you have a co-sleeper that you want to get into their own bed?
This can be such a daunting task to contemplate! Especially when that 4 year old has slept in your bed from birth!
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Read on to find out how to STOP co-sleeping.
I have three children, aged 5, 3 and 1. All of my children were or are co-sleepers. From shortly after birth, I always have co-slept with my children until the next baby came along. As an infant, I have them in an Arms Reach Mini CoSleeper until they can move their heads on their own to ensure safety. Once they reach this milestone and I feel confident that they will be able to move their heads away from a stray blanket if needed, I begin co-sleeping with them in my bed. Once I have my next child, the older one gets shuffled into daddy’s bed (which is actually just the spare room that daddy got booted to because him, me, big sibling and baby couldn’t all fit in one bed).
My oldest co-slept for 5 years!!
My second, for 3 years. I thought there would be no way that I would get them out of our beds and into their own unless they made the decision that they wanted to sleep on their own. Most research says that this occurs naturally around age 7. I wasn’t willing to wait that long, and neither was my husband.
So, we set out to do the impossible.
It can be really hard to transition a 4 year old co-sleeper to their own bed. But it can totally be done!
For one more bit of encouragement, my five year old, who had five years of co-sleeping, is a tough kid. We battle over everything and have his whole life. Every nap, every bath, every transition, every EVERYTHING! So if this worked on him, I believe it can work on your little co-sleeper too!
Here is how we got our two oldest co-sleepers into their own bed in three easy steps!
Step One: Incentivize!
Your precious little (or not so little) 4 year old co-sleeper has been sleeping with you since birth! They LOVE being close to you, smelling you, and waking up to you (at ALL hours of night). So you need to come up with something better than all of that for them as a reward.
Better doesn’t mean expensive though. When we started, we began by giving our children a prize for just one night of sleeping on their own. The prize was that they could go to the dollar store and pick out whatever they wanted. To us, that’s nothing. But to them… to be able to go to a whole store and pick anything?!? Amazing.
After my children had a night of sleeping on their own and getting to pick their own dollar store prize, I started using a sticker chart system. I told them that they needed three stars to go to the dollar store. I have a chalkboard in my kitchen where I put my child’s name and three boxes for stars. Since they were fresh off their one night victory, they were eager to get their stars.
And it worked again. They slept in their beds for three nights. And then five. And then we stopped using stars and I would just randomly take them to the dollar store after a week (two weeks?) of sleeping on their own.
And before we knew it, they weren’t co-sleepers anymore!
Now, lets talk for a minute about rewards. The thing here is you actually are making them choose to sleep on their own (like I mentioned earlier they typically do around age 7). Your little co-sleeper has to decide that they’d rather have their prize than sleep in your bed. So pick something that you know they want! Or better yet, let them choose their own reward.
Now, while incentivizing is the most important step, its not the only one.
Step Two: Create a Routine.
Every night when you put them to sleep, follow a routine.
For us, it was: brush teeth, go to the bathroom, sit in bed with dad, read a story, pray, and turn off the lights. Doing the same thing every night helps them know what to expect, helps them feel comfortable, and conditions their body to start to feel sleepy as you go through the steps.
Step Three: Fade Out.
Are you wondering if, after 5 years of co-sleeping, we just turned out the lights, walked out, and our little battle-ax of a son closed his sweet eyes and went to sleep?
Yeah… that didn’t happen. Maybe some kids could just be excited enough about their rewards that they could do that, but not my guy.
At first, my husband laid in bed with the kids until they were asleep. After a few nights, then he began leaving when they were almost asleep. Then after a few more nights of that, he left after just a minute of sitting with them. And now, he really does just turn out the lights and walk out!
For us, this is AMAZING.
I didn’t think we’d ever get there. And he was able to get both my oldest children to stop co-sleeping at the same time using this method.
So that’s how to stop co-sleeping.
It really was that easy. And we were jaw-on-the-floor shocked. I put it off for so long because I thought it would be awful. But it was actually really fun for the kids. They feel a sense of pride because they’re so grown up (and get LOTS of praise for sleeping in their own beds), and we sleep so much better now.
My last little one still breastfeeds at night, so she gets to co-sleep a bit longer. After all, she’s only 1, so still very sweet and snuggly, and not so huge and hard to fit around. Stay tuned though, because I’ll be sure to follow up and let you know how she does when we transition her to her own bed.
Let me know how the transition from co-sleeping to sleeping in their own bed goes for your littles!
Also, check out how to get your toddler to sleep in their own beds– ALL NIGHT!
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