When it comes to sleeping arrangement for an infant or a toddler, there are generally two camps: those who prefer to have their baby sleep in the crib or a cradle and those who opt to have a superkingsize mattress for a family bed. Both sides have good reasons for deciding one way or another– convenience, safety, closer bonding, etc. And yet, there comes a time when every parent gets to ask: when does a baby sleep in a youth bed?
Parenting authorities and publications may have various opinions on this, but the bottomline is that each family is different. For instance, some may decide to move the baby to his or her own bed right after weaning from breastfeeding. Others may wait until the child has become agile enough to be able to get in and out of bed on his own. Still others may decide to just preserve the status quo until the child simply grows too big to sleep with the parents, or when another sibling is in the way.
Note that there are certain cultures in which co-sleeping is the norm rather than the exception.
There are various means to success when training your child to sleep on his or her own bed. Much like other milestones such as toilet training, walking or talking, children reach the right level of readiness at different times. Be prepared to be very patient and understanding during the process; some firmness is of course essential, but never be punitive or belittling.
We compiled some tips from veteran parents who have (give or take a learning experience or two) successfully navigated the pitfalls of sleep training:
- Prepare your child for the eventuality of sleeping alone on his or her own bed way ahead of time. If time allows, do this months in advance, so that your child understands that it is a necessary and inevitable process rather than something you just arbitrarily decided. You can even make it an exciting event by picking out a new bed and then saving up for it together – carefully timing it so that you just happen to have enough when you think he or she is ready to start sleeping solo.
- If you are not getting a new bed, you can do the same process with the bed linens, the pillows, or a cool night light, really just about anything that makes it more of an accomplishment. That way, your child will see the event as a challenge rather than something to be dreaded.
- Once your child has started to sleep in his or her own bed, discourage regression. For instance, if your child is sick and needs extra cuddling and attention during the night, sleep in your child’s bed rather than letting him or her back in your marital bed. Doing the latter will just make it harder and more confusing. This is one good reason to opt for a full-size double mattress and bed frame if your child’s bedroom can accommodate it, rather than an easily-outgrown cot.