Can I Co-Sleep AND Get My Baby to Sleep Through the Night?

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  • December 15, 2010

“We have been co-sleeping with our 8-month old son for some time now. We did try CIO originally but stopped because we were so uncomfortable with it, and since then we’ve been sharing a bed. The positive outcome of CIO was that he can now put himself to sleep independently, and does so for all his naps, and at bedtime (all in his crib). At 11pm he wakes up for his first feeding and stays in bed with us and then wakes up every hour or two for the rest of the night. We need to do something since we’re not getting any sleep, but we’re not sure what. Is there any way to co-sleep and get him to sleep through the night? If not, any suggestions for gently transitioning him to his own bed? We are not interested in trying any drastic methods again. Thanks so much for your help!” -Nancy

When parents ask me what I think about co-sleeping, I tell them that if you are co-sleeping safely and the whole family is happy and rested then fabulous–but make sure you teach them how to put themselves to sleep independently. That is a life skill they will always need! Sounds like your son has half the skill of putting himself to sleep independently  and now needs help with the other half– learning how to put himself back to sleep during the night. You didn’t mention what you are doing when he wakes after the 11pm feeding but I’ll guess you need to nurse him back to sleep. The first question you have to answer is whether your son needs to physically receive calories during the night. If he does not and it is more of a habit then it is important to address that also since I don’t want you to be inconsistent in your responses (sometimes I feed you when you wake up and sometimes I don’t). Here are a few options:


Be Consistent in Your Responses


recommended sleep schedules-If you want to night wean and continue to co-sleep, have Dad (as long as Dad will arouse during the night and you feel it is safe) co-sleep with baby a few nights in a row to wean the night feedings. Dad can comfort and snuggle baby for each waking.

– You can also get a co-sleeper or put the crib next to your bed and comfort your baby from your bed for each waking after the 11pm feeding if you need to keep that feeding or for all wakings if you decide to night wean. If you decide to keep the one night feeding then consider having Dad comfort him at the other wakings for a few nights. Just know that this may lengthen the process since it can be confusing to him which is why I would not recommend feeding him during the night unless he needs to physically receive calories during the night given his age and weight. Ask your doctor for his or her feeding advice also.

-If you decide that you want to stop co-sleeping and have your baby sleep the entire night in his crib then I would I go to him when he wakes up in his crib and soothe him from crib side, following the rules of the Shuffle outlined on page 122. If you decide to keep the one feeding then I suggest you use the “set time” feeding I outline on page 124. With the set time feeding you would go to him for this first waking and feed him. All other wakings go to him and sit by his crib offering physical and verbal reassurance. Proceed with the Shuffle as outlined and move your chair every 3 nights.

So first you have to decide about the night feeding and then decide where you want your son to sleep at night. Once these decisions are made you can follow the gentle guidelines above and in my book.

Sweet dreams!


Gentle Sleep Solutions

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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