I didn’t buy a crib when my daughter was born. If you know anything about Mumbai or have visited a Mumbai home, you would appreciate the fact that a crib is a luxury. My second bedroom was spare, but I had wanted my baby to co-sleep from day one. Come on, isn’t nursing easier with your baby sleeping on your side? So, we happily slept together. I loved her warm body next to mine and her sweet breath. Well, my husband wasn’t much of a fan of this arrangement. Believe it or not, the baby kicked him and hardly gave him any space to sleep. The poor man spent many of the nights in the spare bedroom.
My daughter turned 2. And I thought it was a good time to make her sleep in her bedroom. I talked to her pediatrician about it, and he agreed with my suggestion. So, once my daughter was asleep, I put her in her room. In the middle of the night, my husband woke me up.
I woke up with a start. “What happened?” Then, I saw our daughter in his arms, with tears streaming down her cheeks, and sobbing loudly.
She had been crying for sometime. And I didn’t hear that. Our bedrooms are at the opposite ends of the apartment, and I just didn’t hear her crying. So much so for the idea that mothers are tuned to their kids’ needs. After that sorry (guilty) episode, I didn’t dare to put her in her bedroom.
Two years passed. And the thought of making her sleep in her bedroom never surfaced. She was four, and then I realized she was old enough to understand that she should sleep in her own room.
I sat with her one day, and told her, “You know you are four years old, and soon you will be five. That’s quite big. And big kids do not sleep in their parents’ room, but sleep in their own bedroom”.
She enjoyed the idea of becoming big. But I could see her face fell down when I mentioned she needed to sleep in her bedroom.
“All alone?” She asked. I nodded.
“Why me? You and papa sleep together, why I have to sleep alone?”
“Mama and papa are married, hence we need to sleep together. But, kids need to sleep in their bedroom till the time they get married.”
“I also want to get married.” She replied, her lips puckering.
“Yes, all in good time. But for now, you can sleep with your soft toys. You have so many, just pick one everyday, and you won’t feel alone.” I suggested.
So that night, she picked up a Red Peppa and went to sleep. I stayed with her till the time she fell asleep. I also switched on the night lamp, in case she woke up in the middle of the night and was scared.
A few hours later, I felt the touch of warm fingers on my neck. I didn’t need to open my eyes to know she had come back.
The next night, I told my daughter, I will give you a surprise if you sleep the entire night in your bedroom.
It was the first child-free night that my husband and I got since after the birth of my daughter. The next morning, when I woke up my daughter, the first thing she asked, “Where’s my surprise?”
The bribe worked. It kept my little darling to her room. This went on for a few days, till the time I decided, enough was enough, and I needed to stop the pattern. Then, I told her, “No more surprises, and you still need to sleep in your room.”
It’s been quite a few months now…there are nights when she comes back to us if she is scared, and then there are nights when she wakes up the next morning in her bed. I am glad that I did that. As a mother, I feel empty and miss her sweet warmth, but as a mother, I also know that my daughter needs to start being independent. And sleeping on her own is one of the first steps in the direction.
Also, I have a confession to make – I can now fearlessly spread my arms and legs in all directions…I love sleeping without my child.
Here are a few tips on how you can slowly transition your child to sleep separately:
- Make a child sleep in a cot/crib from day one. She is already sleeping in a separate bed, it makes the transition to a separate bedroom easier.
- You can give your child small gifts as a way of appreciating her effort. However, decide a duration, for instance 5 days or a week, and convey it to the child.
- Kids love being big and grown up. Talk to your child how sleeping in her bedroom would make her feel big.
- Let her know she can come to your room anytime in the night, if she is scared or upset. Kids are reassured by this knowledge.
- Install a night lamp in your child’s room. You get some interesting ones nowadays, in different shapes, colours and characters.
- Initially, you can pat your child to sleep in her bedroom or sleep with her on her bed. As she gets comfortable sleeping in her room, start distancing yourself. You can read a story and kiss her goodnight. Let the child fall asleep on her own.
Happy independence to you!