Co-sleeping, sleep training and night-weaning with a toddler.

August 28, 2013

There's Coco, asleep in our bed. Over the past year or so, when sleep really became an issue, we have been through many phases. We did the sleep training. We tried to transition her into a crib and out of our bed. We threw it all out the window and let her stay up late. We night-weaned. We traveled and everything fell apart. We started over. It's a continual work-in-progress. 

This week, we are back to sleep training following The Sleepeasy Method. It's tough, maybe even harder than the first time. But, we need to get her on a good sleep routine before it's time to convert her crib into a toddler bed in six months! And, she is tired and needs more sleep. And, J and I need time together or to ourselves in the evenings in order to be happy, present and responsive parents. So sleep needs to happen and that means we have to make it happen. What a drag. 

I've gotten a lot of questions from friends and readers alike lately about sleep training, co-sleeping and night weaning, so I thought I'd write a little run-down of our experiences, what worked and what didn't.  I am by no means an expert on this! We are struggling right now with our lack of sleep routine and I'm doing plenty of asking myself. But, I truly believe that it helps when we all share with each other, so here's what we've learned.

Sleep Training
I swore I'd never sleep train. And then I did. We waited until Coco was 14 months because I couldn't stomach it before then. But something shifted after her first birthday and I could tell she was more aware of what was going on around her and understood. Recent research is showing that before one year of age, it's detrimental to children's well-being to sleep train them. Follow your gut! ;) 

Once we went ahead with sleep training, we did The Sleepeasy Solution, which is regarded as "the least cry" approach. It really worked for us! Two weeks of prep and three nights of training and it was so easy. The problem is, when you travel, or the seasons change and it's light out until 9pm, these things affect your child and mess up the routine. So then you have figure out how to re-establish it. That's what we're doing now following a summer of virtually no routine and tons of travel.

In my experience, there aren't a lot of good co-sleeping resources out there. Thankfully, The Sleepeasy Solution had a short section on co-sleepers, but for the most part you have to figure it out as you go. I really love having Coco in the bed with us and I couldn't possible sleep with her in another room at this point. But sometimes co-sleeping can be really uncomfortable and not result in much sleeping. ;) When we hit that wall, we got her a crib and set it up in the corner of our room. For months, she started the night in her crib and then came into our bed when she woke up during the night. Sometimes she'd sleep all the way until 5 or 6 in the morning. Other nights she was in with us at 11. That has been working fine for me, except when she wants to nurse more than once in a night. Then we had to night wean.

Night Weaning
Night weaning is the number one most important thing for mothers of nursing toddlers to do. You absolutely can continue to co-sleep, it just requires a little more dedication. Here are the steps. You'll need your partner on board, or have a close friend or family member (whom your baby is close with) come stay the night for a few nights if you're a single mom. 
  • Sleep in the guest room or on the couch for three nights while your partner stays in the family bed with the baby. (Enjoy the sleep!;)
  • Your partner will have to try all sorts of different things. My cousin's husband ended up lying on the floor with his arm reaching up to the baby on the bed in the end one night, but it worked! Tell him what I did: "Keep trying different things! And whatever you do, don't come get me." Creativity is key.
  • After three nights, or once your baby has stopped throwing a fit each time she wakes up, go back to the family bed.
  • Wear pajamas and a sleeping bra or sports bra to limit access.
  • When your baby wakes up and asks to nurse, say gently, "Not now, we'll nurse in the morning" and soothe her back to sleep. Or, have your partner soothe her back to sleep while you pretend to still be sleeping if she's really tenacious.
  • In the morning, smile and tell your baby it's time to nurse. Then nurse her on the couch or in a chair somewhere outside of the bedroom
  • Sometimes, if your baby won't go back to sleep at 4 or 5 and it's too early to get up, nurse her outside of the bedroom and go back to bed afterward. It will work sometimes and not work others, but it's worth a shot.
Like sleep training, this will fly out the window when you travel, so be prepared to do it again if you have a trip coming up. (This is next on the docket after we get the bedtime sorted out again. Phew!)

What tips and tricks do you have? It seems that sleep and nighttime routines are some of the most stressful aspects of parenting. I would love to hear what has worked or not worked for you! xo 

Join the conversation!


    You may have already seen this, but thought you might be interested. Before becoming a parent I had no idea sleep training was such a hot topic. Sleep! So awesome. So important. :)

    1. Brilliant! This article is completely rad. I feel more confident than ever in helping Coco sleep - and restoring my own sanity. :) Thank you so much! xo

  2. I would never ever sleep train my child. I have three, one is a good, one an ok and one a not that good sleeper. The last one is our middle daughter who is the same age as your Coco. She is the sweetest, kindest, most cheerful creature, so tender to her baby sister and everybody else. I think by sleep training (even the world training with a child who is not even two sounds terrible) we would ruin all that, we would destroy her stability and confidence in life, us and herself. Catherine

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  5. Thank you for your honesty! In general, I like the idea of co-sleeping. But it has too many disadvantages. Probably one of the most damaging effects of co-sleeping is the problems it causes within your relationships with husband. I've read that interruptions from a crying baby are not helpful for new parents and many people cite this as a reason for problems in their marriage.

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