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Transition from Family Bed (13 Months)

QUESTION: Any suggestions on smoothing the transition for my 13-month-old son moving from a family bed situation to his own twin size bed? He will still remain in our room with us. I am still nursing him at night.

Children of this age tend to sleep more soundly when in enclosed spaces. For this reason, it may be a smoother transition if you use a port-a-crib, or standard crib. Otherwise your child will likely come back to your bed in the middle of the night. This is also a good idea for safety reasons as your child could hurt himself attempting to find you from a twin bed when sleepy and disoriented.

Many parents find that if their child awakens, they can easily give comfort by patting the back or stroking baby's head. Your baby will get used to the very gentle nudge towards sleeping more independently if he is not able to crawl back in with Mommy and Daddy too readily. Your plan to keep your child in your room and continuing to breastfeed during the night is a good one! You are sensitive to easing, rather than forcing transitions on your child.

By giving your child his own bed, you are helping him to establish a separate sleeping space. But by reinforcing boundaries so that he cannot easily get up and go find you, a delay in external comforting allows him a small amount of time to begin developing his own capacity for self-soothing. He will wait for you to come to him to nurse in the night. And he will get used to the comfort he continues to receive, but in his own bed. Nursing him in the night, but returning him to his own bed creates a bridge for separate sleeping which is not too great of an adjustment for him.

Develop a bedtime ritual, if you haven't already, which ends with your child going down for sleep independently of the two of you. Read stories, rock him and sing to him if you like. Tell him about the animals in the bedtime stories that are getting ready for bed. He will grow to learn the songs and stories that help him prepare internally for the transition to sleep. And he will take your nurturing with him into his dreams. This kind of nurturing bedtime ritual will form a bridge between he and you, that allows him to sleep separately and peacefully.

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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