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Attachment parenting ideas: Transitioning child from the family bed

Do you question your parenting technique? Wondering how to make the transition from family bed to separate rooms respectfully? You've come to the right place! In this article, attachment parenting experts Katie Allison Granju and Betsy Babb Kennedy, RN, MSN talk about how to transition your child from the family bed.

Question: I am expecting my second child in two months, and my firstborn still sleeps in our bed (and nurses once a night). I'd ideally like to move her into her own bed and, when the baby's born, have the baby in bed with us. I can't see us all safely and comfortably fitting in the bed we have (and a larger bed is not an option). Any suggestions?

Answer: First of all, congratulations on your impending birth! As the mother of three little ones, I know how exciting it is to fall in love with a sweet newborn all over again.

You didn't mention how old your first child is. This can play a strong role in how well she will adapt to moving to her own bed. A child under two will usually be more resistant to making this change than an older child (although there are exceptions to every rule, of course). Most importantly, your child shouldn't be made to feel that the new baby is taking her place in the family bed. Be very careful not to relate any changes you make to the arrival of your daughter's sibling, since this can lead to jealousy and insecurity in a toddler or preschooler.

Gradual weaning
A child who has shown no interest in moving out of the family bed and who is still nursing once at night needs a slow, gradual transition out of her favorite sleeping spot. Just like weaning from the breast, parent-led weaning from the family bed shouldn't be handled in an abrupt way. This wouldn't be fair to your first "baby."

That said, there are a couple of ways you can approach this. You could make a big celebration out of setting up a small bed or futon in your child's room or in a corner of your room. Allow your child to help choose bedding and location. Maybe she could pick out a new stuffed animal to keep her comapny at night. But be prepared for her to need *you* or your partner to sleep with her in her new bed a good bit of the time until she becomes comfortable.

As for giving up the one night nursing, with a verbal child you might explain that your breasts need to "rest" during the night. Let her know that your partner will be there for her to rock her, massage her, sing to her and comfort her during the night. Ideally, if you plan to stop all night-nursings, you should make this transition as far in advance of your new baby's arrival as possible so that your current nursling isn't confused as to why mama suddenly won't nurse her but will nurse her newborn sibling. Sidecar solution
An alternative to this scenario would be to set up a "sidecar" on your family bed using a crib attached to the side of the bed nearest you (an excellent description of the sidecar arrangement can be found in the chapter on sleep in The Baby Book by Sears and Sears. You can also buy a ready-made sidecar crib called the Arm's Reach Co-sleeper from Little Koala, among other places). Then you will have plenty of room for both children without having to purchase a larger bed.

Weaning a child from the family bed who isn't really ready can sometimes be quite tiring for parents as they deal with their child's nighttime needs from another room. Since you will already be tired from postpartum adjustments, using a sidecar arrangement for awhile and then watching your older child's cues to see when she might be ready to move to her own bed will probably provide the whole family with the greatest amount of rest at night.

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