I can tell you exactly how I ended up still co-sleeping with my now 4-year-old daughter. It is a fact that some kids are born good sleepers, and others, not so much. As far as I can go back, I don’t remember my daughter ever sleeping all night…except when in my bed.
So after years of broken sleep, I decided co-sleeping was our best option. Co-sleeping can be really beautiful, a bonding experience like no other until your toddler turns into a 4-year-old child who kicks, tosses, and turns absolutely ALL NIGHT.
The level of exhaustion after nights spent co-sleeping with a 4-year-old will leave you depressed some days and totally unproductive. We have been moving a lot lately, and the only way to tame my daughter’s anxiety was to keep on co-sleeping (at my own productivity’s expense).
As much as co-sleeping was a nice experience and will leave happy memories forever, it is better for everyone’s sake to transition your 4-year-old to their own bed.
It was shown that 70% of parents worldwide start co-sleeping with their baby because they like the experience or because it is more convenient. The benefits are many, the most important one being the bonding experience and less back-and-forth between bedrooms during the night. But as your child grows, you feel it is time everyone gets a good night’s sleep in their own bed. When parents feel their sleep quality is decreasing as their toddler starts kicking them in his sleep, it is time to make the transition. Even when you are at a point where you think it is practically impossible, it turns out there are many ways to stop co-sleeping with a 4-year-old. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s actually pretty straightforward. From positive reinforcement to a consistent bedtime routine, a gradual transition can be made in just a few days. This article will tell you everything you need to know about co-sleeping and how to transition a 4-year-old to his own bed.
What are the benefits of co-sleeping?
Before we dive into how to transition from a co-sleeping family to one in which its members happily sleep in their own beds, I felt it was important to highlight the benefits of co-sleeping. After all, there is a reason why your babies love it so much, and I must say, I think it brings a lot of happiness to parents as well. So, what are the benefits of co-sleeping?
- Co-sleeping contributes to a nice bonding experience between parents and children, as it promotes attachment and closeness.
- Some parents find it convenient. They see that they get better sleep when their babies are in bed with them as they don’t have to go back and forth during nighttime wake-ups. A small child will be soothed by his parents’ presence in the bed and go back to sleep immediately, thus allowing everyone to have a better night.
- During this pandemic, kids have been anxious, with a disruption in their lives, no specific day-routine, and overhearing anxious talk. It can help them to co-sleep as it is known to decrease their anxiety.
- It decreases bedtime stress. If your little one is like my daughter, bedtime is a nightmare. It takes over an hour to convince her to go to bed and to finally fall asleep. Co-sleeping decreases bedtime stress as it significantly cuts down the effort a parent has to make to take their kids to bed. As I always say, I pick my battles, and that is one I prefer not to have.
Having said all that, there comes a point where everyone feels it is time for a 4-year-old to sleep in his own bed.
Why is a 4-year-old better off sleeping in his own bed?
As much as co-sleeping provides parents and kids with many benefits, a 4-year-old in your bed can lead to broken sleep and accumulated fatigue over time. I personally love it and have nothing against co-sleeping, but I’ve been getting kicked a lot lately and would appreciate a good night’s sleep to be able to tackle my long to-do list the next day. So, what are the drawbacks of co-sleeping?
- While your 4-year-old will be sleeping like an angel next to you, you will be getting very poor quality sleep as you get kicked in the ribs and suddenly find your child literally sleeping on your head.
- This will, of course, have negative mental consequences as you find yourself tired and irritated the next day. Not to mention the lack of productivity at work or at home, which will lead to frustrations and poor mood management.
- If your 4-year-old has been co-sleeping for a while, chances are your relationship with your partner will be impacted. The lack of kid-free time takes its toll on adult relationships without them realizing it. Make sure to be mindful of that. If you are a single parent, it is also important for you to have time without kids as it can help you recharge and allow you to have a bit of personal space after a whole day caring for your children and working (if you do).
- Apart from the impact co-sleeping can have on parents, it is also important for a 4-year-old to sleep in his own bed as he can learn to become independent. He will learn to comfort himself to sleep if they feel anxious, which is key to having healthy emotional development.
- If your family has a baby on the way and there is not enough space in the family bed, or if you feel you won’t be able to manage a newborn and a co-sleeping 4-year-old at the same time, make the transition before the baby arrives.
What are ways to stop co-sleeping with a 4-year-old?
I have been dreading the transition for weeks for many reasons. But it turns out it doesn’t have to be painful, and it can actually be done in just a few days. So without further ado, here are ways to stop co-sleeping with your 4-year-old:
- Start by communicating it. Get their “big kid” bed or room ready, get excited about it, and slowly prepare them for the transition. Communication is key, as a 4-year-old is more sensitive to these kinds of changes, especially if they’ve been used to it for a long time. It is also best to avoid associating the change with another life change, like the arrival of a sibling.
- Use positive reinforcement. Giving them something to look forward to or letting them choose their reward when they sleep in their own bed will create a positive association to it all, and they will eventually stop asking to be rewarded for it.
- Create and keep a consistent bedtime routine. Most routines follow these steps: brushing their teeth, getting in bed, reading stories or talking about their day, then turning off the lights and going to sleep. Lots of cuddles are also recommended!
- You can start by laying in bed with them for a few nights and walking away once they are asleep. Decrease the time every day, and you’ll suddenly find them asleep in no time.
- It is important to have their beds looking cozy. You can ask your child to choose the duvet covers and even have his stuffed animals in there with him.
- Your role as a parent is huge. If you are ready for it (and it is important you feel you really are!), commit to it and just persist until it is solved! If it makes you both feel better, just let your little one know they can come to your bed anytime during the night. You can also start gradually by sharing the room first but having different beds. Eventually, they will feel the need to stay in their beds.
Get to know the real reasons and fears behind your child not wanting to sleep in his own bed. A nice way to know what they are feeling is to play with them using characters and make them talk.
By acting through the game, you will know your child’s deep feelings. You will know whether they are afraid of the dark or just feel they need to be close to you, making the transition easier to tackle.
What do I do if my child has a nightmare or gets sick? Do I bring him back to my bed?
It is usually better to stick to them staying in their beds and you sleeping in their room if this is required (say, if they are really sick). If they have nightmares, you can comfort them back to sleep in their beds and go back to yours after that.
However, some parents choose to let their kids come into their beds in the middle of the night, and that is okay as long as your sleep is not disrupted.
When is the ideal age to transition your child from your bed to his crib?
Between the ages of 6 to 8 months, your baby will have developed mental and cognitive maturity and will not perceive change as too stressful. That is why it would be the best time to transition them from your bed to their crib.
Co-sleeping, as though frowned upon in some cultures, is actually praised and encouraged in others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with co-sleeping unless it majorly disrupts parents’ sleep and doesn’t allow a child to properly develop independence.
There are many benefits to it, but drawbacks are also there. It is actually easy to transition a 4-year-old to his or her bed in just a few days without it being a difficult time. All you need is consistency, a proper routine, and lots of cuddles and praise.