Tips on Co-Sleeping and Room Sharing

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  • September 21, 2010

“I have faithfully adhered to your book and, as a result, have a 1 year old who has slept through the night from 7pm-7am since she was 3 months old. However, sometimes I’m jealous of friends who talk about how amazing it is to sleep with their babies or toddlers. Will there ever come a point where I can take a nap with her and not jeopardize the great sleep we have all been getting?” Shawn (mom of a 1 year old who has slept thru the night since 3 months…thanks to you).

Dear Shawn,

Let me get right to it….YES you can take a nap with your daughter!! At times I did with my two girls and even occasionally co-slept with them at night (when they were over 3 years old…I tried it when they were younger and I couldn’t get a wink of sleep).

It’s unfortunate that this topic has become so controversial and so filled with judgments! It’s not necessary. If a family chooses to safely co-sleep with their baby and everyone is happy and well rested, then GREAT! All babies will eventually have to learn how to put themselves to sleep independently, even in a family bed environment. I would, of course, recommend a gentle approach.

It would be easier if you waited until your daughter had language so you could talk to her and explain that this won’t be a daily occurrence. However, you may be able to do it on occasion now since she clearly knows how to put herself to sleep and back to sleep. Don’t forget to co-sleep safely!

I don’t recommend reactive co-sleeping (explained below) and co-sleeping intermittently once parents start sleep coaching or very shortly (within 3 months) after completing sleep coaching- its too confusing for the child.

Read my more complete list of tips on co-sleeping and room sharing below.

Sweet dreams,

Kim

 

I have learned over the years that the mere mention of the word “co-sleeping” can get many people’s “knickers in a twist”, so please read this first:

 

I am NOT telling you whether you should co-sleep or not. It’s not my decision to make for you! I do not stand in judgement of your decision–do what is safe and works for you and your family….and what makes you all happy and rested!

 

Tips on Co-Sleeping and Room Sharing

 

Here are some things to think about as you figure out the right and most comfortable sleep-enhancing arrangement for both you and your child.

1. Ideally, make a decision about the shared bed or bedroom before the baby is born, reserving the option to change your minds without any guilt if your decision turns out not to be the best one for you and your family.

2. If you decide to keep your baby with you, consider your sleeping options. You can safely bedshare, and have the baby sleep in your bed. Or you can roomshare, and have your baby in a crib right next to you, in a bassinet that you can reach over and touch, or in a co-sleeper that can attach to your bed.. If you are nervous about co-sleeping then check out the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper– this could be the happy medium you are looking for!

3. Understand your motives when you are deciding whether long-term or short-term co-sleeping is right for you and your family. Think carefully about how having a child in bed with you all the time will affect you. Co-sleeping can be a several year commitment, a practice that you may need to continue until your child transitions to her own bed.

4. Some couples that choose to co-sleep but want to foster a degree of sleep independence in their baby and a little early-evening freedom for themselves, put the baby down in her crib at bedtime. Then they move her into the family bed when they get ready for sleep themselves, or the first time she wakes up at night.

co-sleep5. It is still important for babies to learn how to put themselves to sleep, even in a family bed environment. Try to put your baby down drowsy but awake at least once a day.

6. If you choose to co-sleep with your baby short term, plan to transition to the crib between three and six months when an established bedtime routine becomes so essential. During the months that you are co-sleeping, have the baby nap in her crib, co-sleeper or bassinet consistently to make the transition to crib smoother.

7. Many of the families I work with end up doing what’s called reactive co-sleeping. (I obviously don’t hear from all the families that are successfully co-sleeping!) That means the baby starts out the night in the bassinet or crib but ends up in the parents bed because that’s the only way they can get him back to sleep. Or they wanted to co-sleep for a few months and here it is six months or a year later and they can’t figure out how to stop it. Co-sleeping by choice (where both parents knowingly and intentionally sleep with their child every night) is one thing; co-sleeping by default is another. (I wouldn’t be surprised if reactive co-sleeping is not as safe since you probably don’t have your bed set up safely.)

8. Be aware of the safety issues about co-sleeping and talk to your doctor about the most recent safety recommendations to reduce any hazards. Just like you would regarding crib safety. See my previous post on Safe Sleeping Recommendations

9. Do not sleep with your baby if you are very overweight, have sleep apnea or if you have been drinking alcohol or using drugs or medications. You need to be able to respond properly and quickly to your baby’s needs.

10. When you do move a child out of your bed, you must be completely consistent. Consider spending a week or two getting her accustomed to napping in her own crib or bed during the day, before you make the nighttime transition.

Was this article helpful to you? Please tell us by commenting below! For more baby, toddler, and family sleep tips and tricks, please subscribe to The Sleep Lady’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube channel! If you are looking for more sleep content, please check out Get Sleep Now-an exclusive members-only area designed to provide in-depth help and support during your sleep coaching experience.

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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9 Comments

  • Stefanie Dopp says:

    Hi. I actually need help with my 4 year old. I used your book when he was 9-10 months old. He has been an excellent sleeper ever since. THANK YOU. Now, he has decided not to go down easily anymore. He protests and doesn’t want us to leave. He goes down at 8pm. My husband thinks he needs a later bedtime. I however, do not. Then when we finally get him to stay in bed, he gets up a couple times in the night. He wants a new toy, so we told him he had to earn it with going to bed and staying in bed. I made a calendar. We started it two day ago. One good night (kind of) and last night was not good. He shares a room with his 2 year old sister. HELP!

    • KimWest says:

      Stefanie-
      4 yrs olds need on average 11.5 hrs of sleep at night so unless he is still napping I would not make his bedtime later. I would read the 2.5-5 year old chapter, start a sleep manner chart (perhaps that is what you meant by a calendar)and start the Shuffle. There is also hints about doing the SLS with 2 children in a room and in additional to a previous blog article.
      Good luck and stay consistent!
      Kim

  • Jessenia says:

    Thanks to this book and Kim I am getting better sleep in two days after reading and implementing it with my seven week old baby. I still am working on her daytime naps which all of a sudden aren’t as much or rather too short I guess???? But really it was very good and I really needed it especially since I am starting my job in three weeks..

    • KimWest says:

      Thank you! Remember that day sleep is not developed at 7 weeks so feel free to use motion sleep and other strategies come the afternoon so she is not too overtired at bedtime!

  • Nicole says:

    Hi Kim,
    We’ve followed your techniques since our son was 6 weeks. Now he is 8 months old. He naps morning and afternoon, a little over an hour each & occasionaly 1.5-2hrs, in his crib in his room. Another nap for 1/2hr-45min, late afternoon. He sleeps through the night in our room in port-a-crib (his room is downstairs across the living room & seems far away at night. Besides how can we kick the kid out and let the dog stay!). He goes down drowsy but awake at 7:30pm and sweetly talks himself to sleep. He’s gone to bed at night very easy! Thanks to your advice of drowsy but awake! My issue is, he wakes up most mornings at 5:27am (sometimes earlier) talking and then cranky because we make him wait until 6am. We turn on the light and do a dramatic wake up. Occansionaly he’ll sleep till 6am, but nothing in his routine is different. He eats a healthy serving of solids 3x’s a day and always a protein at dinner. He’s a great eater! He breastfeeds morning & night and after each nap (except the last nap). Have any thoughts so we can sleep in just 1/2 hour more!
    Thanks!
    Nicole

  • prafulla1234 says:

    We’ve followed your techniques since our son was 6 weeks. Now he is 8 months old. He naps morning and afternoon, a little over an hour each & occasionaly 1.5-2hrs, in his crib in his room.So thanks for this techniques of co-sleeping.

    http://www.simplehealthguide.com/10-crucial-safety-guidelines-on-sleeping-pills

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