I was at the dollar store the other day with all four of our kids ages 2, 4, 5 and 7. The cashier looked at them and then looked at me and said “are you a nanny?” After turning 35 last week I gladly took her remark as a compliment that I must look WAY too young to have that many kids and laughed ;)
We draw attention most places we go, but I can tell you this, with four kiddos under 7 we have learned ALOT about baby sleep and transitioning them out of our bed. From our colicky first to our perfect sleeping third, we seem to have had the full gamut of sleepers.
And because my first post on transitioning our oldest from our bed to her crib was so popular, I wanted to add to it. (If you haven’t read that, you may want to read it first, it goes more in depth!) Know this, YOU ARE NOT ALONE if your baby’s sleeping habits have caused you stress and if you feel completely unsure how to help them sleep on their own.
To re-cap, here is what has been the most important with all four of our children…
Top tips for transitioning baby from co-sleeping to crib:
- Consistency is (and always will be) king with kids: Make a plan, find a good time to execute the plan and then STICK WITH IT! Make adjustments if needed, but know that your kids need to be able to trust you and trust is built by you following through with what you’ve started–this gives them security.
- Husband/significant other/non-mom seems to get a better response for night time wakings: Our kids just knew that if my husband was the one that came to the crib when they woke up at night that they weren’t getting out, end of story. Because of this, they usually settled back in very quickly and eventually didn’t bother crying at all if they woke up during the night. If you have someone else in the house that can respond to night-time wakings, things may go smoother!
- Noise machine or other sleep cue: For our oldest we played lullabies and for the rest we have white noise, and to this day, they all know that when the machine goes on its sleep time.
- Don’t stress too much about bedtime routines: I know there is A LOT of hype about bedtime routines for kids, but for us, it wasn’t always practical. The extent of our bedtime routine has always been: change diaper, put on jammies, drink a bottle (with milk, formula or watered down juice depending on the age and what their system tolerated), go to bed.
- 12-18 months seems to be a prime time to transition to crib: Between 12 and 18 months seemed like a natural time for us to transition our babies, however, no matter what the age of your child, we’ve heard success stories with these methods.
- Letting them get older DOES NOT make it easier!: It can be tempting to think that maybe when they’re a little older the transition from parent’s bed to own bed will be smoother, but from our experience and what we’ve heard from others, this simply isn’t true. It is a time and energy investment, but helping them to know that bedtime is in-your-bed-time and nothing else has made our life SO much easier now! We can put all four of our kids to bed in ten minutes now (and they stay there!).
We decided against cry it out
I’ll get to how we transitioned our third and fourth in a second, but also wanted to touch on the cry it out method. We know plenty of parents who swear by it and have happy kids, so if it is what you choose, no judgement from us! For me, it felt strange to go from co-sleeping to letting them figure it out in their crib all by themselves…it just didn’t feel natural to make such a sudden change.
So I was glad that we were able to find a way where they were still in their crib and learning how to go to sleep on their own, but where they also knew that we were close by and ready to respond to their needs. And for us, it seemed to be equally as effective. Don’t get me wrong, both require effort and consistency, but I felt more at peace with this method.
Different Babies, Different Needs
What I never anticipated as a mom was that breastfeeding my third and fourth would end for each at the two month mark. For the life of me I couldn’t alter my diet enough to keep them happy when they were only consuming breast milk. They were fussy and didn’t sleep well at all. So I switched both to formula. It wouldn’t have been my preference, but it is what was best for all of us at the time.
I mention this because the majority of babies are bottle fed at least part of the time by the one year mark (when we transitioned them) and it actually made things even easier for us. NOW, I know what “they” say about kids going to bed with bottles, but none of our babies ever took pacifiers and a bottle was a way for them to relax and wind down for bed.
SO, what we did was dilute one ounce of apple juice (yes only ONE-they didn’t mind the taste!) with seven ounces of water for their bedtime bottle. We’d hold them while they drank about half of it and then lay them down in their crib with the rest to go to sleep. If they got up in the night we’d give them another half bottle of the same solution.
Again, our kids weren’t reliant on pacifiers, so if your baby is, this may work differently, but for us, it was enough to help them settle down to sleep each night and be able to go to sleep on their own.
Using the Super Nanny Trick with our Fourth
Out of all of our kids, our fourth gave us the toughest time with the transition from our bed to his crib. He’d wake up screaming at night, standing in his crib and refused to lay back down, he just wanted to be picked up. So, we ended up using the super nanny approach where we would sit next to his crib when he was really worked up. We’d say “I’m going to lay you back down in your crib and then sit right here on the floor next to you.”
He’d then allow us to lay him down and in 5-10 minutes would be back to sleep.
Was this fun? No, not really. (I recommend installing the kindle app on your phone and having a good book to read!)
But the next time we moved farther from the crib and the next time a little further until we said we’d be just outside the door. In about 3 nights it was no longer an issue and we could lay him back down to sleep without needing to sit on the floor.
So in the end, it was worth it.
Getting Through the Tough Nights
Now that we’re on the other side and have four kids that sleep through the night (every night) we can say, it takes work but it is SO WORTH IT!
This can be a stressful season to navigate. By the end of the day it can be tough to find the emotional energy to engage new routines. But here is my encouragement: KEEP THE END GOAL IN MIND. For me, I just wanted to get to the point where I could put our baby to sleep quickly at night, trusting that she was happy and comfortable, so that my husband and I could have some time together before our own bedtime.
It took less than a week with each, and I couldn’t believe how much stress it alleviated for me. From then on I had time at the end of the day to do things that I needed to and things that I wanted to. And while I’ve stressed consistency, perfection is NOT required– don’t be too hard on yourself and stick with it!
Best wishes and GRACE to you as develop new routines, you’ll do great!
P.S. Currently all four of our kiddos share a room, here is how we do it (along with some other helpful advice!): 4 Moms Share: How we get our kids to bed in 15 minutes or less each night (and keep them there!)
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