Wouldn't it be lovely to have THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS?
The decision to co-sleep with your child really depends on your parenting style, what you feel comfortable with AND your baby’s sleep style. There are parents who are totally avid fans of co-sleeping and I am not here to talk them out of it. If you are one of them and it works for your family that’s all good. But, there are many families who co-sleep and live with sleep being constantly interrupted overnight for both parents and baby. Here’s why…
When I meet a new client who’s been bed sharing, they usually fall into one of two groups:
1. Parents looking to get their kids out of their bed
2. Parents who want to keep their kids in their bed, but want them to sleep better
For those parents who are looking to move their little one out of their bed, I’ve got a variety of approaches which I personalize based on baby’s personality, temperament, and established sleep habits.
The number one reason why I can’t recommend sleep training in combination with bed sharing is because it always ends up causing confusion for the child.
In a bed sharing situation, baby usually has access to a breast whenever they want it, and that’s almost always their tool for getting back to sleep when they have a wake up. They wake up in the night, after completing a sleep cycle, and then instinctively go for the breast. Not necessarily because they’re hungry, but because that’s the way the path they know in order to get back to sleep.
If you think about it, adults do something very similar… we have routines and strategies
that we use to get to sleep when we wake in the night. They’re usually very brief and simple, like turning on our backs, taking a sip of water, flipping the pillow, or wrapping our blankets around us, but they’re sleep skills, just like nursing.
So, if your goal is to get your baby to sleep through the night without waking up, you’re going to have to break that association between nursing and falling asleep. This means baby’s got to learn a new skill; one that doesn’t involve you. That’s not going to be easy when their favorite method of falling asleep is sitting right in front of their face.
A great alternative and a way to stay in close proximity to your baby when they’re sleeping is using a sidecar or a crib in the room. There’s just no good way to teach a baby not to nurse
themselves to sleep if they’re sleeping right next to you.
One final thought on this topic… I’ve seen a lot of people on Facebook and other social media channels, saying things like, “They’ll leave your room when they’re ready! Don’t rush them! This time is so short! Nobody sleeps in their parents’ bed when they’re 18!”
Again, if you’re happy with the arrangement you’ve got, I’m not here to change your approach. But I would like to point out that I’ve seen families with kids up to eight (!) years old who are still sleeping in their parents’ beds. Actually, I was one of them! That’s right, I slept in my mom’s bed until I was almost 12 years old. And, I have to tell you that I’ve had to do a lot of work on my own sleep over the years as an adult.
Don’t assume that your little one will get finished brushing their teeth one night and say, “Actually, I think I’ll go sleep on my own tonight.” Sleep habits die hard, especially with kids, so the day your child sleeps in their own bed, in their own room, is probably the day you tell them they have to.
The good news is that once your child has moved into their own bed and learned some independent sleep skills, they will typically sleep much better, more soundly, and for longer than they do in your bed. And so will you and your partner, which means the whole family will be rested and refreshed in the morning, which comes with a whole collection of mental and physical benefits.