For the first three months of Miles Thompson's life, he slept happily in bed with his mom and dad. "For such a tiny thing, he took up so much space," says mom Mina, of Santa Fe, NM, so she and her husband decided it was time for Miles to slumber in a crib. They started by moving him to a portable crib next to their bed, then put him in his own room when he was 6 months old. Even the first transition was rough. I'd nurse him to sleep in our bed and then try to delicately transfer him. When he woke up, he'd cry. "I'd have to redo the process two or three times," she says. "It was exhausting."
Whether your baby sleeps in your bed or in a crib next to you, getting him down on his own can often be a struggle. "How to do it is one of the most common questions I hear from parents," says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night. Though there's no perfect age for your baby to make the move, she advises this gradual, three-step plan when you decide you're ready:
Spend more time in his room. For a week, play in your baby's room for at least a few minutes a day. "Put him in his crib to familiarize him with it," says Mindell. "Build the association that his room is a friendly place." If you haven't already, start a consistent bedtime routine -- putting on pajamas, feeding, reading a story -- in his room.
Start the night right. The next week, put your baby in his crib after the bed-time routine. You can either stay in the room and soothe him (pat his back, whisper shhh...) or check on him frequently until he falls asleep. If he wakes up and cries, try soothing him in his room first, then take him into yours if that doesn't work.
Close the deal. After about two weeks of going to him when he wakes, pick a night to go cold turkey and leave him in his crib. You can go to him and soothe him like you did before, but leave him in his crib. To make the transition stick, you have to be consistent now: Either he always comes into the bed after he wakes up, or he never does... After a few nights, he'll be sleeping on his own -- like a baby.