I've found a solution that's worked really well for our family, so well that I can't believe that I don't hear more people talking about it! It's a super easy, transition free way to help your kids slowly start sleeping in their own beds as they get older.
When my babies were brand new, I felt most comfortable with them right in bed with me the entire time. I'm pretty paranoid about leaving newborns to sleep(or do anything, really) alone for any length of time, so I'd always keep them close to me and bring them to bed with me as soon as I was ready to go to sleep, even if they were still sleeping.
Here's the key though. At 3, 4, 6 months- whenever you start to feel more comfortable with your baby sleeping unattended for a little while- have them start out the night in their own bed. That's it! That's my whole tip! Isn't that easy? Seriously though, have them start out the night in their own bed. Then, the first time they wake up to nurse, just bring them back in bed with you, and you can co-sleep and nurse to your mutual hearts' content for the rest of the night.
This is a great idea for so many reasons. The first is that it gets the child used to their own bed. Of course, as an AP momma I never expected my babies to sleep all night in their own beds(and I still don't). But I think the idea of getting them used to another bed at an early age, in a non-scary, non-threatening way can only be a good thing. If they've only ever slept in one bed for the first several years of their life, that could be a big transition when it's time, but if they're comfortable in a couple of beds from 6 months on, it makes for an easier transition. Also, since I was bringing them back to your bed to co-sleep and nurse for the rest of the night, I found that my babies didn't get scared when they woke up in the middle of the night. I came to them, every time, and they learned that when they woke up momma was going to be right there and get them for nurses and snuggles. I was NOT wiling to try to get them back to sleep in the other room, and get in and out of my bed several times a night, but I could handle getting up once and falling right back to sleep. I enjoyed the snuggles too, of course.
Here's the real kicker though. Typically(and your baby might be different, of course), as babies turn into toddlers and then preschoolers, they start to sleep for longer stretches without waking. If they start out the night in their room, that means that as they start to sleep for longer stretches, they'll be sleeping longer in their room. When I first started doing this with Tristan, he'd sleep until maybe 11PM or midnight. As he started getting older, he'd sleep until around 1AM, then until about 2 or 3 AM. Now? Most nights, he sleeps the entire night in his own bed, in his own room, and comes into my bed to nurse around 6 or even 7 AM. It's wonderful!
There was no transition period. There were no sleepless nights of putting him back in his bed multiple times. There was no nervousness for him about a new bed or about sleeping without mommy. He simply went to sleep in his bed like he'd been doing since he was about 6 months, except now he sleeps all night! He's totally confident in the fact that if he needs me I'll be there, and that he's welcome in my bed if he needs to snuggle, and occasionally he does need those middle of the night snuggles. But most nights, he doesn't need to anymore. My 2.5 year old, attachment parented, still nursing, never-left-to-cry-it-out toddler sleeps most nights in his own room, of his own will.
Did I mention that there was NO transition period, at all???
For the life of me, I can't figure out why more moms are not talking about this! I realize every baby is different, but this was SO easy for us and worked SO well that I can't imagine it not working well for at least some other families!
Now, if you want to take this tip to the next level, here's my other suggestion. Skip the crib. Really. I moved both of my babies into a twin bed by the time they were 13 months old, but if I ever have another, I'm planning to skip the crib altogether and just have them sleep on a twin or double mattress put right on the floor. Why? Like a lot of breastfeeding moms, I like to nurse my babies to sleep. And like just about any mom can testify to, it's SOOO difficult to nurse/rock/cuddle your baby to sleep, and then do the dreaded transfer to the crib. Just typing that makes me feel anxious! Not. Fun.
Tristan when we first moved him out of the crib. We didn't have a twin bed at first, so we just put his crib mattress on the floor. It was uncomfortable, but did allow me to kindof lay next to him and nurse him to sleep. Wasn't he cute?!
Are you catching how awesome this idea is? Laying next to your baby to nurse them to sleep, no crib transfer required, and then as they get older, no transition period required to get them to sleep in their own room!!! They just sleep all night on their own whenever they're ready! SO. EASY.
Am I living under a rock? Are there moms everywhere doing this and talking about it? If you've done this or something similar, I'd love to hear about it! I understand that this idea probably won't work for everyone, but it worked so well for us that I can't believe that there aren't moms everywhere shouting this idea from the rooftops!