The problems, that were recently (30-40 years ago) unknown to parents, nowadays become actual. There was not much difficulty stopping BF (breastfeeding), or rather, this process was not perceived as a difficult one, since mothers just less worried about how their child was experiencing this fact, did not see any psychological trauma in it, and rarely thought about the childhood traumas. And as mothers become more sensitive to what is happening in the child’s soul, new worries begin to appear. A new worry is a manifestation of a new, more empathic mothering. And they did not wonder how to teach a baby to sleep alone in his own crib, as there were neither a concept of “sleeping together”, nor discussions about its benefits (or harms), the baby was being swaddled and placed in a separate bed immediately after his birth. But motherhood is evolving.
The question “How to teach a baby to sleep alone?” arises in the community of advanced mothers for whom “sleeping together” with the baby is natural from the first days of his life: the baby has used to the parents’ bed, and he is not going to leave it. But after 2 years old a child is adult enough to cope with the stress of movement, and it is time for mom and dad to turn the “child” bed, in which the baby was sleeping with his mother and father, into the “adult” one for the marital relationships. Just after the baby’s birth his mother becomes his “property”, her body belongs to him, he “rents” it temporally. And then the husband “returns” his wife and the relationship of the “Mom + baby and Dad” turns into “Mom + Dad and child.” Thus, the bby’s move into his own bed is necessary as for the baby, since it is an important step in the process of psychological separation from his mother, so for the parents, for them to stabilize the family as a system.
How to teach a baby to sleep alone?
Now let’s analyze the whole process.
1. The baby’s movement is the movement of the entire family to a new stage of relations. An important thing is how parents are ready for this. Difficulties can arise due to the fact that parents do not really want their “reunification.” After all, not only baby has got used to these relationships, but also the parents did, as they give a lot of warmth to both sides, the feeling of being wanted and loved. That is, the very mother can feel the internal resistance of the separation process (psychological separation). The father could get used to the life being on the family’s periphery (psychologically) as well, performing only the function of a financial provider without sharing excessive emotions with his family. Thus, parents often feel ambivalence about their child’s growing up: this fact is happy and sad at the same time. Resistance of the child can be expressed in his increased anxiety or difficulty in falling asleep. These problems often go away when parents adjust to a new, more emotionally intimate relationship.
2. A baby stops sleeping together with parents usually at the same time when he is stopped breastfed. BF performs the same psychological functions, and termination of BF is also a part of separation process. While sleeping together mother has an opportunity to breastfeed at night and upon waking up. It is often easier at first to stop BF, and then let the baby sleep separately. Though sometimes, if the baby has no need to wake up at night to be BF, moms can BF before sleep and then take their sleeping baby into his crib, and having woken up in the morning, the child comes to his mom by himself.
3. Baby receives emotional support from his mother when he is scared, he leans against her when he is sad, he calms down when being next to her. While developing, a baby solves an important task – he needs to learn to support himself in order to cope with most difficulties on his own, to soothe himself, when he is scared or sad. In particular, he needs to learn how to support himself while being at night alone in his own crib. This psychological problem can be solved easier through a special stage – the appearance of a big friend Teddy Bear in a child’s life. A child gives him his mother’s qualities and he can cuddle him, carry him everywhere, and receive support from him and not from the mother. That is, the baby has “portable handheld mother” with which he can be more mobile and less dependent on his real mother.
Development of a child’s psychological stability is expressed in the development of ability to soothe and praise himself the way his real parents could do. In other words a child develops his inner caring parent, enabling to increasingly care about himself on his own. A child adopts the model of his parents’ caring, he seemed to take their parents inside himself, and begins to behave the way they do when it is necessary to praise, berate, support, or comfort someone (or himself). This process is simplified when parental qualities and functions first performs a big Teddy Bear or other soft toy friend.
Very often a child chooses such a friend on his own, he just becomes attached to one of the toys stronger than to the others. But if it did not happen so, parents can “meet” the baby with such a friend, wait until the attachment appears, and then move them together to a separate room. At night the baby will lean against him, feeling more secure.
4. Movement of the baby to his own bed is an achievement in his psychological development, which his parents and the very child can be proud of. A child likes to grow up, to learn new skills, get new opportunities. A sense of pride is a very natural feeling on this way. Parents just have to connect the purchase of a new bed for the baby and his move to it with a merry fact of his growing up. A child should learn from his parents that all adults have their own beds, that when he grows up enough, he can also get his adult bed. And the child is in a joyful anticipation of the day when he finally grows up. You can connect the move with a child’s date, with the fact, for example, that he is 2 years and 5 months old. He chooses a new bed with his parents, and his movement becomes a feast. Then movement is an important step in a child’s life, and not a family problem.
5. If you have a son and he is about 3 years old, it is better for the father to move the boy. By this age, special male relationships between a father and the son can already start developing. You should not rely upon them yet, the boy’s gender awareness has only just begun to develop, but you can use it as an additional psychological leverage. The father says that boys unlike girls are characterized by courage and the ability to quickly get comfortable in their own beds. And the movement is filled with a sense of masculinity. It is important that the father gave a psychological support to his son. The child should be moved with positive emotions. At first the child can be accustomed to the new bed gradually, you should give him some time to get used to it – stay in his room together with him.
6. Sometimes it is advisable to buy a special night light that will allow your child to fall asleep with the light (mom turns off the light after the baby has fallen asleep.) The night light is given a “special power”, it is magic, it guards baby sleep, etc. Create a special story about the “magic night light.”
7. A child can be quite easily accustomed to bedtime ritual: a fairy tale, massage before bed, etc. Initially, the baby gets used to fall asleep listening to a story or after massage in the parents’ bed, and then after the movement this ritual will help him to sleep in a new environment.