Is Co-Sleeping a Solution for Baby Sleep Problems?

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Co sleeping solutionWhen I was pregnant with my first, I was adamantly against co-sleeping. The reason was that I saw how difficult it was for other parents to get their child out of their bed, months and years later. Although I knew it was right for some, it wasn’t for me. Before you have kids you have all these ideas about how you will do things, but after the baby comes it’s a whole new ball game. I did end up co-sleeping with my first baby for about 2 months and with my second for just 3 nights. This article will talk about whether co-sleeping is a viable solution for you and your baby’s sleep problems or not.

My first son was a challenging sleeper from basically the beginning. Once the newborn sleep-all-day stuff wore off, he was difficult to soothe to sleep for every nap and especially at bedtime. I had to rock him for 2-3 hours (I’m not exaggerating) only for him to sleep for an hour or two before needing to be rocked again. It wasn’t that he wasn’t tired. He’d fall asleep just fine, but would wake up whenever we’d put him down. I know many of you relate.

Once my son was 2 months old, out of necessity, co-sleeping was the only solution. I had gone back to work and just couldn’t hack it anymore. Getting up every 2 hours was not even a possibility anymore. Co-sleeping was just a temporary solution for us, though. The main difficulty for me was that I was getting depressed going to bed every night at 7 p.m. and missing out on time with my husband. More than that, he was still waking every 2 hours to breastfeed for 30 seconds to go back to sleep and although he went right back to sleep, I didn’t always. I was getting more sleep, at least, but it still wasn’t the best and I was petrified I was going to roll on top of him or my husband would cover him with blankets. So, we did transition back to the crib at 4 months when I learned about 4 month sleep and sleep associations. Once he was gone, I did miss him. :( But, it was the best thing for me and my family. We were all happier after that, mostly because he was getting way more sleep than ever, since he was so cranky without it (still is!).

Although co-sleeping wasn’t a long-term solution for us, I do believe that it can be for others. We only did it 2 months, but it doesn’t mean others can’t do it longer and still be successful at helping your baby sleep better. Knowing what I know now, I know that you can co-sleep, you can break sleep associations if you must, and you don’t have to let your child sleep with you until they are 8 if you don’t want to. I have personally helped many parents transition from co-sleeping to crib at a variety of ages.

Co-sleeping Solution

If your baby is having sleep problems, co-sleeping might be a good solution for you. Whether you are breast feeding or bottle feeding, if numerous night wakings are doing more harm than good for either of you and you feel your baby is too young to learn to self-soothe, you may find simply sleeping together is the best option. This is a personal decision for each family. The main thing is that you do co-sleep SAFELY. There have been several recent news articles about the risks of bed sharing and the increase of suffocations. The thing to keep in mind is sleeping on a couch, sofa or other unsafe place is included in these statistics and there are safe ways to co-sleep.

For co-sleeping to be a solution for you and your family, it is best when both parents are on board as a first step. In my case, my husband did support my decision. He did want a sane wife. :D In some cases, a partner will take up temporary residence in a guest room to get more sleep. Here are some guidelines for safe co-sleeping:

• Do not co-sleep if you’ve been drinking, on drugs or on medication that makes you too drowsy

• Do not smoke in the room you are co-sleeping as it’s an increased risk to SIDS

• Do not co-sleep if you have a too-soft mattress or waterbed

• Do not co-sleep where baby can get stuck in a hole or crevice (such as between you and the back of the couch)

• Do not place a baby to sleep next to an older child

• Do sleep on a firm mattress with not too much adult bedding (too much bedding in a crib is just as dangerous!)

• If your baby is young, consider a sleep positioner or Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper

• If your baby is older or a toddler, and moving around, consider a bed rail. I have had parents come to me when their child crawls right off the bed and falls.

If you think co-sleeping might be the right solution for your family I encourage you to read more detailed co-sleeping safety tips and the benefits of co-sleeping. We also have more information here about the differences between bed-sharing and co-sleeping.

Co-sleeping is not a solution for everyone and my philosophy is that we all must find our own way to parent our children and find the right solution to our baby’s sleep problems. Hopefully this article has helped you determine whether co-sleeping is the right solution for you and your family. Keep in mind that even co-sleeping, you may need manage sleep associations in order for all of you to sleep well. And, when you are ready to transition to crib, I typically recommend a slower approach the longer you’ve been co-sleeping. I don’t typically recommend jumping to cry it out for long-term co-sleepers. If you’d like to discuss options, I’m always here.

Was co-sleeping a solution for you? Share your story.

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28 Responses to Is Co-Sleeping a Solution for Baby Sleep Problems?

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  4. MF says:

    Like you we have been co-sleeping for a bit just to get some sleep (only about 1-2 weeks). Any suggestions for getting the little one to like her own bed again? You say to take a slower approach any quick suggestions?

  5. Nicole says:

    @MF We’ve been talking in the Sleep Helpdesk now, so I’ll just say good luck! Can’t wait to hear an update! I know you’ll do great!

  6. Jessi says:

    I am desperate…I have a 2 mo old and he is not sleeping, along with my husband and I. He will fall asleep but the minute we put him down, he is bright eyed and awake. I definitely do not want to create a monster and have a 6 mo old in our bed, but am desperate to try and get some much needed sleep. Would be curious to know if anyone has transitioned from co-sleeping to the crib and at what age were you successful?

  7. Nicole says:

    @Jessi I would not worry about creating a “monster” at 2 months old. I’ve worked with parents as early as 4-6 months transitioning to crib and as late as 2+ years. If co-sleeping is not working for you, I’d recommend waiting until at least 4 months old and then start to work on transitioning him to his crib then. In general, these things are easier before baby can pull up to standing in the crib. Good luck!

  8. Andrea says:

    co-sleeping saved my sanity! If done safely and especially if you are berastfeeding, it helps you get through the feeding every two hours in the first few months. my son easily transitioned to sleeping alone in his crib when we established a routine at approximately 4 months. He’s 6 months now and he naturally fell into a schedule where he now sleeps from 8 – 6 am. BUT it took time and organization. We listened to his needs and stuck to a routine.

  9. Laura Van Vliet says:

    Any suggestions for transitioning a toddler to his own bed? My 2 year old has been co-sleeping with me for nearly a year now. I actually don’t mind it at all, and he’s become a cozy bedbug. However, I know that at some point he’ll have to be on his own, and several people have told me the longer I wait, the harder it’ll be. He was climbing out of his crib at 12 months, so we changed his crib to a toddler bed, got fun bedding, had a “go to bed by yourself” party, and still, at bedtime, he literally won’t go near it. Runs away screaming from the very suggestion of “why don’t you lay in your bed to hear a story.” I don’t know how else I can get him to go to his own room without making every night a battle.

  10. Nicole says:

    @Andrea That’s great your son transitioned easily to the crib. Thank you for sharing your story!

  11. Nicole says:

    @Laura It would be way too much to type up here. I typically write up a 2 (or more)-week plan for transitioning from co-sleeping to own bed. It is a big change, so I typically recommend a slower approach, but it CAN happen. I have heard of families who have 6, 7, 8+ year olds in bed with them, so I agree with the people who’ve told you it can be a long-term issue. Old habits die hard, so in that way it makes sense that it would get harder until they want to be in their own bed. Some families have a family bed on purpose, but if that’s not what you want, then you might want to start working on it. Good luck!

  12. lucy says:

    Co sleeping has been the best thing I have done with my baby. Neither me or my husband has had a single sleepless night since the birth of our little girl.
    She doesn’t sleep through, but when I wake to feed her, not having to get out of bed allows me to go back to sleep very quickly. She also never cries at night, because she is so happy being cuddled all night, so my husband has been waking up fresh every morning.
    She sleeps much more soundly when she is next to me and it is amazing for bonding.
    Regarding the dangers of Co sleeping, it seems that there is also much research to say that Co sleeping is safer.

    I know we may have difficulty breaking her habit of her wanting to still sleep with us in the future, however, the benefits of co sleeping we have had far outweigh the annoyance of breaking a habit.

  13. Kimberly says:

    I was against co-sleeping until my husband got orders to deploy. He wanted to spend as much time with his son as possible before he left, and against my better judgement, I began to allowing it. Now my son does okay. What usually happens is he sleeps by himself till about 3 or 4 in the morning. At that point he wakes up to breastfeed. I usually bring him back to bed with me nurse him and we both fall back asleep. He is usually good until about 8 or 8:30 when we get up. My husband is coming home soon and I would like to break him of the getting up at 3 thing and letting him sleep until his wake up time. I’m looking for suggestions because unfortunately at 3, I’m not interested in staying awake and fighting with him.

  14. Kimberly says:

    Hi Kimberly,
    You don’t mention how old your baby is, so any advice for how to approach this issue would depend on whether or not your son is old enough to realistically go through the night without a feeding. If he is old enough to be sleeping through the night without a feeding, then the first step will be to not bring him to bed with you when he wakes and work on soothing him back to sleep without picking him up or feeding him. This will probably take a few nights of having to get up and reassure him. I’d also recommend checking out these other posts for helping with night weaning: http://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/night-feedings-by-age-when-do-you-night-wean/ and this one: http://www.babysleepsite.com/breastfeeding/baby-sleep-breastfeeding-series-part-2/

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  17. Andrea says:

    Hello Nicole and thank you very much for this website :)
    I would like to ask you if possible because I worry a little bit now as I have two boys, age 10 and 19months and am now 33 weeks pregnant, so having a little one very soon :)

    My 10yr old has never been good at sleeping through the whole night, he does it sometimes, but more times he wakes up during night and runs to my bed and I’ve gone through so many nights having not a very good sleep. But he’s not had trouble falling asleep in his own bed though. I’ve tried walking him back during nights and took it very seriously for a while where I got so frustrated with him that I was sometimes screaming at him in the middle of the night because I just couldn’t handle it as he seemed not to be able to learn it and I think he felt rejected and I even thought of getting some sleeping medicine for him. It is not always at the same time that he wakes up.

    The same is now happening with my 19months old son it seems. We recently moved him out of a baby bed and into the room with his older brother in a bunk bed and it seems that he is ok to fall asleep there, but then he is always waking up and he runs to our bed during the night, sometimes around midnight, sometimes later.
    We haven’t done the walking him back to his bed yet (unless when we are awake when he comes) and I feel awful about doing it with him crying and feeling rejected. But I cannot even start to think about having to go through next 10 years without sleeping well if he cannot learn to sleep through the night.

    So you see, now I feel I’m in a dilemma what to do with the boys so that they sleep all night long as they will soon have a little sister that will for the first few weeks or months sleep in my bed while nursing. It will be too much for us to be 5 people in the bed. And still there is the feeling of doing wrong if they feel any rejection about our bed … so do you have any advice to try out before the little girl arrives to see if the situation can be improved? :)

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  20. karen says:

    Hey Nicole,

    I love reading your website for feedback thanks for reaching out to all the mamas out there! :) I have a 10 month (will be jan 11th) and he won’t sleep thru the nite we started a routine for him now and he gets tired and we get him to bed after a bath with some lullabyes around 9:30. But we put him to sleep and either myself or my husband have to lie with him because once he wakes up he won’t go back to sleep on his own, we have to tap him back to sleep. Any advice on how we can try and get him to sleep on his own in his crib (which is also in our room) do you do any consultation over the phone? Thanks for your help! :) hope we can get thru this.

  21. karen says:

    Oh btw my son had a club foot on his right foot so he sleeps with boots and bars at night.

  22. Sunisha says:

    Hi,
    I found your articles really helpful and hence I am looking for some advice. My 11 months old son is co-sleeping with us. We generally rock him to sleep which is a habit I want to get rid of. I don’t really want to put him in the crib but with co-sleeping if he gets up in the middle of the night he needs me at his side to fall back to sleep. He also normally gets up in the middle of the night and searches for my arms, cuddles up and sleeps clinged to my arm. I do not get a good sleep because of this. Is there a way we could co-sleep and still he could fall alseep on his own and not have any sleep association like rocking, or holding my arm or wanting me at the bed side. How difficult will it be for him and us totransition him to a crib now? How long would the transition approximately take?
    Eagerly waiting for some guidance.

  23. Pam H says:

    Hi Nicole,

    Our little one was sleeping fine on her own in her crib until her 9 month checkup when she got shots. She wasn’t feeling well so I let her sleep in bed with us. From that point on she will not have anything to do with her crib! She is now 15 months old. Here’s the other issue. Her crib is in our room. We live in a small home with 3 other school age children. So, I don’t want to move her into one of their bedrooms in fear she will disturb their sleep. I have tried letting her cry (Every time she cried for over an hour and didn’t go to sleep). I have tried sitting by the crib and having her lay back down each time she got up. But nothing seems to work. HELP! Thank you in advance for any help!

  24. Mary says:

    Hi Nicole & all,

    After reading your website I breathed a sigh of relief. My 9 month old son has been co-sleep for 2 months now. It started when he felt seperation anxiety during the day and now night time. Which was not fun, since he had been successful at sleeping in his own crib throughout the night from 3 months old. His bedtime is at 8pm-7am which was great till recently. I work fulltime and need my sleep or its hell. Before it would be as simple as bath, bottle and musical mobile for him to sleep soundly. Now its bottle, bath, (teeth brushing), and sleep with me untill he is out. Problems were as I would wait for him to sleep usually 20 minutes, I would doze off and miss time with my husband or go back to my daily activities. (Laundry, bottle washing, preparing for the next day). I don’t neccesarily have an issue with co-sleeping, since I enjoy cuddling every night with my son but want to encourage independence. What works is falling asleep in our bed and transferring him into his bed shortly after, he does not wake up when put down, he rolls over and sucks his thumb and is fine till 3am and cries till I pick him up. Which I do and snuggle for a few minutes till he falls asleep again till 7amish. My husband and I are fine with it and devote our time to his needs. We feel if it works for us then it can’t hurt. He does seem to understand that its his room so has no issue hanging in the crib till I come get him shortly after 7:15am. But I do look forward to him somehow returning to falling asleep with out aid from us. Any tips?

  25. Kimberly says:

    @Pam – It might be helpful to her to spend some time in her crib other than sleep time and go over how that is her bed and it’s where she sleeps. Work on helping her understand that it’s her space for where she sleeps. Then work to be consistent with helping her to go to sleep there and not bringing her into your bed. It may be a matter of picking her up and putting her down several times for several days (if you don’t want ongoing crying to disturb the rest of the family) but she should catch on as long as you stick to your plan. She may also be old enough to understand when you tell her that you will only stay with her as long as she stays laying down and then leaving if she gets up.

    @Mary- I’m glad that you found the site helpful. I’m also glad to hear that you’ve found a solution that works for you. It’s always a great feeling when you find some balance for what works for you and works for your child. Most likely for him to return to going to sleep on his own will require either that you create a plan for doing this and work to help him learn to do that again or it may be a matter of waiting and seeing if he grows into doing it on his own. It sounds like he sleep pretty good now with only one brief wake up and has a good bedtime/wake up time, so unless it starts to get worse, then you may want to wait and see. For the night time wake up though, it may help if you just cuddle him until drowsy and then lay him down rather than fully asleep as this will help him to learn to be able to go back to sleep on his own.

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