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Dear David Coleman: I want to wean my four-year-old son off co-sleeping

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Q Our four-year-old wakes after about two hours and only goes back to sleep if I or his dad get into bed beside him. He gets very upset and won't settle unless we do this. I want to wean him off us sleeping in with him gradually. Any advice on how best to do this?

David replies: The key to getting him used to not having you in the bed with him is, as you suggest, to do it gradually! Co-sleeping is not a bad thing, per se, but if you are clear that you want him to learn to sleep alone, then you need to plan a staged approach to removing yourself from his bed.

So, the first stage might be to lie beside him (but outside the covers), then sit on the bed, then sit beside the bed, then move to sit further towards the door (but staying in the room) and then finally to leave the room but check on him every few minutes.

Each time you move to the next stage he may protest and get upset, and it may take a bit longer to settle him for a few nights, but you need to calmly stick with it.

Once he has settled easily, at a given stage, for a period of time (eg a week) you can move to the next stage. So, the process may take several weeks, or even a couple of months, but will be a comparatively gentle and supportive experience for your son.

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