Peaceful Parenting: Transitioning from Co-Sleeping

To ease the transition from co-sleeping into their own bed, offer your child a transitional object, a soft toy or blanket, to provide comfort or solace during separation at bedtime.

Dear Dr. Markel,

“We have been co-sleeping with our son since we brought him home from the hospital 18 months ago, and now my husband and I are ready to transition him to his own bed. Any advise on how to ease this transition?” — S.F.

Dear S.F.,

Congratulations for being such wonderful loving parents providing a safe, peaceful home for your son. You used the apt word “transition” which signifies a gradually letting-go so that babies can develop their own ways of dealing with the world. To ease the transition, you might want to encourage your son to become attached to a “transitional object”, a soft toy or blanket, specially used to provide comfort or solace. Eventually your child associates the transitional object with the attention of a parent, and it is particularly helpful during separation at bedtime if you do not want to continue to have him in bed with you.

Attachment to the transitional object can happen quite organically when your child develops an affinity for a particular object, or it may be encouraged by you. The transitional object should be offered consistently at all times whenever your baby is learning to sleep alone or in any situation that is causing him to be sad, lonely afraid, upset or stressed.

Some babies maintain this attachment throughout the preschool years and beyond, There is no predetermined time for abandonment of a transitional object. Your child will put it aside when he is ready. Most children outgrow the need and use it less and less over time.


Dr. Susan Markel

Susan Markel, M.D. is a board-certified pediatrician who has a private consultative practice specializing in parent coaching and child health. A graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Dr. Markel became a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1981 and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in 1997. For many years she served as a medical liaison for La Leche League and is the author of What Your Pediatrician Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Your Child.

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(Photo credit: (ccl) brennaval)

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