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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  • Jennifer DeBoskey says:

    Hi I just finished reading your book and am eager to start. My four month old wakes to nurse every two to three hours at night ( tho he slept 6.5 hours at 2 months). He also takes only catnaps during these unless he is held. I have a question though. We need to work on him sleeping thru the night, taking better naps, moving to his crib (he’s in a cosleeper now) and weaning from swaddling. In what order should we rork on these issues??

    • Breanna Gunn says:

      Hi, Jennifer! First of all, 4 months is still pretty young, but you can encourage good sleep habits! I would begin to watch for his sleep cues (eye rubbing, yawning, zoning out, disinterest, etc.), and work on a shorted sleep routine. Perhaps now is a good time to transition him to his crib for naps, and once he’s used to that, you can work on nights and weaning the swaddle.

  • Rachel Martin says:

    Hi Kim, I’m not sure if you had seen my post last week.

    My daughter is 21 months old. She has been able to sleep wide awake on her own since she was 3 months old. She also sleeps through the nights and can sleep on her own wide awake during naps. A few weeks ago, she started to wake up at night because she was sick and my husband was out of town. She went back to her normal sleep habit but now will wake up randomly at night and have a hard time going back to sleep on her own. I started to shuffle with her but it doesn’t seem to be working (already on day 7). She will do this one night then be good for the next 3 nights. Do you have any thoughts for a child that has always had good sleep habits? Thanks.

    • Breanna Gunn says:

      Hi, Rachel! Is she having any other issues? It may be a case that she is still not feeling well, or she’s just developed a bad habit. Often, the Shuffle may take a few weeks if you’re adjusting after illness. It may also be a sleep regression.

  • Sarah says:

    I was wondering if you had any tips on how to get your child to sleep for naps. Our 25 month old son sleeps great at night (he puts himself to sleep and stays asleep for about 11 hours) but only sleeps well for his naps if I rock him to sleep. I’ve tried putting him down awake for his naps following a shortened bedtime routine and I just hear him chitter-chattering for an hour, then I go get him. It doesn’t seem productive to leave him in his crib for an hour in the dark if he’s not going to sleep. Any help would be great! Thanks.

  • Michael Krebs says:

    Dear Sleep Lady,

    My 22 Month old daughter Lily recently started sleeping through the night, so thank you for your help with that! I wanted to ask, on the nights when she goes to sleep at 8pm and sleeps until 7am, should I wake her up in the morning? My instinct is to wake her, to give her the sense that bedtimes and waketimes are taken care of — particularly if she has gotten the full 11 hours and is napping 2 or 2 1/2 hrs a day. But you also recommend encouraging her to get as much sleep as she is able, so I’m not sure what’s the best way to be supportive.



    • Breanna Gunn says:

      Hi, Michael! You may want to consider dramatic wake up, but 7:00 a.m. is not an extremely late time to wake up, especially if she’s waking happy, refreshed and is napping well (which it sounds like she is).

  • Jamie says:

    My 16 month old has stopped taking naps. I really need help. I rock him to sleep because that’s the only way I can get him down for a nap. and he will be fast asleep until I go to move him to his crib. He will then wake up and scream at the top of his lungs, so I sit back down and rock him again to get him back to sleep and sometimes he goes back to sleep and other times he wont. I really don’t know what to do by the end of the day he is so tired and miserable and that makes me tired and miserable. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  • Candy says:

    My 9 month old wakes between 3-6 times a night and most nights will go about 5-6 hours of consecutive sleep. She does use a pacifier, but will not replace it during the night on her own. My husband and I do not really agree with the CIO method, plus it wakes our 2 year old. So when we go in we assure her from her cribside. She usually wants to hold on to our hands to fall back to sleep. How can we wean her from this? What can we do to get her to sleep longer? Thank you so much!!

  • January says:

    My almost 11 mo old will go to sleep fine at night if I lay in our bed with him first. I then move him to his crib, where he will sleep for about an hour and then wake up crying again. I the take him back to my bed to start over again. This happens about 2-3 times a night. I’ve tried sitting by his crib and soothing him with out picking him up, however….my problem is that after about 3-5 minutes of wailing, he vomits. He ALWAYS does this. I ‘ve given up trying to get him to go to sleep in his own bed, because I am so sick of cleaning up puke. What should I do???

  • breefawn says:

    @January Hello, January! It sounds like you need to teach your baby to fall asleep on his own. This article may help: With his vomiting issue, it may take a bit longer, but it’s doable. Also, you may want to reread chapter 8 in Good Night, Sleep Tight to further help you with the Shuffle.

  • breefawn says:

    @Candy Hi, Candy! Its sounds like this article about night waking may help you:

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