Cosleeping and Sleeping Through the Night — Is It Possible?
“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. Is cosleeping and sleeping through the night possible?” -Nancy
I’ll answer Nancy’s questions about:
- Cosleeping and sleeping through the night
- Continuing to cosleep
- Ending cosleeping
- A middle ground
Cosleeping and Sleeping Through the Night
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! And at 8 months-old, it’s important Nancy and her family work on cosleeping AND sleeping through the night.
Sounds like Nancy’s son has half the skill of putting himself to sleep independently. Now he needs help with the other half — learning how to put himself back to sleep during the night.
Want to know more about using The Shuffle to gently train your baby to sleep?
Read: The Sleep Lady Shuffle: How To Gently Sleep Train Your Baby
She didn’t mention what she’s doing when he wakes after the 11 p.m. feeding. I’ll guess she’s nursing him back to sleep. The first question is whether he really needs to receive calories during the night. If he does not, and it is more of a habit, then it is important to address that also.
Continuing to Cosleep
Once you’ve confirmed with your pediatrician that night feeds aren’t necessary, and you choose to wean, you’ll want to break the association between waking and feeding. Then you’ll be on your way to cosleeping and sleeping through the night.
Have Dad — as long as you feel it is safe — co-sleep with your son a few nights in a row to wean the night feedings. Dad can comfort and snuggle baby for each waking.
If you’ve decided your son still needs those extra calories at 11 p.m. then go ahead with that. Then Dad will respond to all the other night wakings. This may lengthen the since it can be confusing to him. That’s why I would not recommend feeding him during the night unless he needs calories during the night given his age and weight.
Do 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. You can read more about The Shuffle in The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight.
Want to transition your baby to a crib or bed?
Read: How To Stop Co-Sleeping: Transitioning Your Child To A Bed
If you decide to keep the one feeding then I suggest you use “set time” feeding. 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.
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Is There a Middle Ground?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends sharing a room (not a bed) for at least six months, and ideally a year. You can continue to have your son nearby, but in his own space. A co-sleeper or crib next to your bed will allow you to comfort your baby from your bed. If you need to keep the 11 p.m. feeding, have Dad comfort him for other wakings.
First you have to decide about the night feeding. Then decide where you want your son to sleep at night. Once these decisions are made you can follow the gentle guidelines above to get you cosleeping and sleeping through the night.
Want to know more about the latest roomsharing recommendations from the AAP?
Read: Room Sharing For The First Year: Is It Right For You?