Tips for Sleeping Safely

The term “co-sleeping” is often used alongside “room sharing”. While having your child rooming with you for the first six to 12 months is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, sleeping with a baby in your bed is another story. A parent wrote in about the topic, so here are some clarifications and tips about co-sleeping and room sharing.

“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 

Co-sleeping for Naps

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. It’s too confusing for the child.

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

Isn’t Co-Sleeping Controversial?

I am NOT telling you whether you should co-sleep or not. It’s not my decision to make for you! I don’t 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

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 it isn’t working for your family.

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 BabyBay bedside sleeper, or Baby Bjorn Cradle. One of these could be the happy medium you are looking for!

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.

Help your Baby Learn Independence

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.

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.

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.

What is “Reactive Co-Sleeping”

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.

How Can I Co-Sleep Safely?

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

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.

How Should I End Co-Sleeping?

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.