Parental Advisory 13
How do we get our 11-month-old out of our bed? by Rebecca Odes & Ceridwen Morris
March 7, 2007
My 11-month-old has always co-slept. Now, though, we are really worried about the first part of the evening (her 7:00 p.m. bedtime until my 10:00 p.m. bedtime), when she’s alone in our bed. It’s a king-sized bed and we have rails on all sides and use big pillows as barriers, but still – now that she’s crawling, we’re concerned she could fall off. We have tried to move her into a crib for those first several hours (figuring she could move into our bed at her first nighttime feeding), but alas, she detests the crib. I think she thinks it’s full of acid! Anyway, do you have any advice on getting her to warm up to the crib? (We’re not comfortable with leaving her to cry it out.) – Thanks, Fear of Falling
Dear Fear of Falling,
Getting an older baby used to sleeping alone after a lifetime of cozy co-sleeping is a pretty huge change and can take time and some serious struggle. Though there are always those foreboding tales of children who “never get out of the bed,” most kids do get with the idea of solo sleep after a while. In any case, the newly mobile phase is often an anxious one for co-sleepers, whether or not they’re into sharing their beds for the long term.
If you want to try to hurry up the process, here are some ideas. All of them will probably take some getting used to on your baby’s part.
Have your baby hang out in the crib while she’s awake and you’re around. That way, she can develop positive associations with the space and will at least not recoil in horror when you put her in there.
Try putting the baby down for naps in the crib so she gets used to it. Then segue to nighttime.
Put her in the crib at night, but stay in there, giving lots of reassurance and encouragement: songs, back rubbing, maybe leave a low light on at first. Then stick it out until she falls asleep. Keep in mind that this may completely suck at first – fussing, crying, screaming bloody murder. But make this a part of a very predicable routine and she may eventually warm to it (though it will probably take a while). Over time, and once she actually falls asleep in the crib, you can start to gradually shorten the time you spend with her.
Let her fall asleep in your bed, then move her into her crib once she’s out enough to sleep through the transfer. This won’t necessarily get her more comfortable with the crib idea (at least, not in the short term) but it may give you a little relief each night. She also might wake pretty quickly until she gets used to the situation, and she probably won’t be happy when she does.
You could move the crib into your room and then move it out once she’s used to it.
Some parents find the crib situation never really resolves itself, but that their kids are more than eager to move into a “big kid bed,” and it’s not unheard of for that to happen at just over a year. Another option is to put a separate mattress on the floor in your room, and get the baby to sleep there. Then you can transition this mattress into another room later if you want.
If you stick with your bed, there are ways to make the environment safe: Make sure there’s nowhere she could get caught between the mattress and the safety rail. Pillows are often discouraged because of suffocation risk, though less so with older babies. You can also consider lowering your bed (remove the boxspring or take the bed off the frame) to make any potential falls less hazardous. If you childproof the room, there will be less to worry about if she does get out of bed for an evening romp.
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