Attachment Parenting and Sleep Training: Can They Really Go Together?

Attachment Parenting and Sleep Coaching

You know a myth we hear often, that really gets us riled up? It’s the myth that attachment parents can’t, or shouldn’t, sleep train. We’ve worked with many attachment parents over the years who’ve told us that initially, they were very, VERY hesitant to sleep coach, because they felt that it would surely mean they had to comprise all their AP values and principles. Some of these parents struggled with chronic exhaustion and sleeplessness for years before finally reaching out to us for help.

Well, we’re ready to set the record straight: attachment parents CAN sleep train in a way that is both effective and that prioritizes their parenting philosophy.

Miriam Chickering, one of our expert sleep consultants, can vouch for that – she spends her days helping other families sleep coach in a way that aligns with their philosophies, and believes wholeheartedly in the value of sleep coaching — and she practices attachment parenting principles in her own home, with her 5 kiddos! So she’s the perfect person to discuss this topic.

Keep reading, and hear Miriam’s thoughts on how attachment parents can sleep coach effectively and gently, as well as her tips for helping attachment parents get more sleep, and build healthy sleep habits in their little ones.

How Attachment Parents Can Sleep Train WITHOUT Compromising Their Values and Beliefs – Tips From Miriam Chickering, Sleep and Lactation Consultant

You may be thinking that attachment parenting and sleep coaching won’t mix, but they really can go together very well at The Baby Sleep Site®. How is that possible? Because we use a holistic approach to sleep – one that accounts for all elements of a child’s emotional, mental, and physical development. This holistic approach allows us to minimize crying, which is crucial to attachment parents who are embarking on sleep coaching.

One of our first steps in working with attachment parents on sleep coaching is to do what we call “setting the stage for sleep”. Here are a few things we look at to make sure we’ve properly set the stage:

  • Is the schedule right? (We look at the timing of naps and feedings in relation to morning wake time and bedtime, and we see how overall nap amounts match up with nighttime sleep amounts.)
  • Do we have a solid routine? (Nap time and bedtime routines are key for signaling to you kiddo that it’s time to settle in and sleep.)
  • Any medical concerns? (We address these right away, before we begin sleep coaching, to ensure that your little one is in excellent health before we start working on sleep.)
  • How is feeding going? (If you’re nursing, we’ll take a careful look at how breastfeeding is going, and address any concerns you may have about milk supply, etc. Similarly, if you’re formula-feeding, or if your little one is on solids, we’ll examine feeding amounts and timing to ensure that your little one is properly nourished.)
  • Often, making small changes in one or more of these areas goes a long way towards improving sleep, and it ensures that we aren’t overlooking anything when we begin working on sleep habits. It also means we have less work to do in sleep training, and that in turn means we will likely have more success using gentle methods with minimal crying.

    Additionally, I always like to point out that working on these elements is a great way to increase your communication and bonding with your baby. And who doesn’t love that? ;-)

    Once we’ve properly set the stage for sleep, we want to move on to resolving unwanted sleep associations. This is really the “sleep coaching” part of what we do – and this is what tends to scare attachment parents away, honestly. But here’s what I want to emphasize: there are very gentle ways to resolve unwanted sleep associations. I know that many attachment parents hear “sleep training” and immediately think crying baby, who screams for hours, but that absolutely does not have to happen…there are so many options between ‘sleepless nights’ and ‘screaming baby’!

    Now, speaking of resolving unwanted sleep associations – let’s first define ‘unwanted sleep associations’. An unwanted sleep association is something that your baby relies on to go to sleep that ALSO causes sleep problems throughout the night. If your baby is rocked to sleep and then sleeps for 5 hours, you probably do not have an unwanted sleep association; however if your baby is rocked to sleep and wakes the moment you stop providing the movement, that’s when you have an unwanted sleep association, since you’ll likely have to spend your nights rocking instead of sleeping!

    Similarly, if you’re co-sleeping, and your baby wakes periodically through the night needing to nurse, but then falls right back to sleep, this may not be a problem for you at all. But if your baby is waking every hour needing to nurse, and then wants to stay awake and hang out with you for awhile, that is almost certainly an unwanted sleep associations!

    For some parents, a sleep association will become unwanted only when it causes 5 or more sleep interruptions, or when it keeps them awake virtually all night. For other parents, a sleep association becomes unwanted when it causes just 1 or 2 unnecessary sleep interruptions. Really, the line between ‘okay’ and ‘unwanted’ is really personal, and varies from family to family.

    Once you’ve identified the sleep association that’s causing a problem – be it nursing or holding or rocking, or perhaps another association – we focus on gently fading out that sleep association and providing comfort in other ways, while also gradually helping your baby to learn to fall asleep without any help from you. It’s amazing how well this can work when all the groundwork has been laid in a very methodical and comprehensive way and then each step is broken down into easily attainable goals.

    Advice From Miriam For CoSleeping Parents Who Want To Sleep Coach

    Obviously, as attachment parents, we have the goal of limited crying and plenty of soothing and comfort for our babies during the sleep coaching process. But if you are currently sleep coaching, and want to continue to co-sleep while sleep coaching, you’ll need to follow a few unique tips to ensure you see progress.

    For starters, end your “hands-on” soothing about 5 minutes before you want your child to fall asleep. This ensures that you aren’t inadvertently putting your baby to sleep; remember, the goal of sleep coaching is that your child learns to fall asleep on his own.

    I also urge parents to choose a 4 to 5 hour sleep stretch that belongs to them. For some parents this will occur at the parent’s bedtime, after a final Fill-Up feed (if your baby is still young enough/needs to receive a fill-up feed before you go to bed). For others, it may be from midnight to 5 am. The important things is not to feed your baby in this one time slot. Let your spouse or partner give comfort if your baby wakes, but do not offer a feeding. Within a few weeks of beginning this “sacred slot of sleep”, your baby will most likely stop waking during this time, and everyone will get at least one lengthy stretch of sleep at night. Remember that you may have to offer an extra feeding at another time of the day or night to make up for a missed feeding at this time, but you NEED your “Sacred Slot of Sleep”. It will help you become a better parent during the other 19 hours of the day!

    4 Tips All Attachment Parents Can Use To Gently Build Healthy Sleep Habits

    I wanted to end by sharing some really easy, basic tips that any parent can do to help promote better sleep and healthier sleep habits. Use these in conjunction with sleep coaching, or – if you’re not quite ready to sleep coach yet – use them on their own.

  • Start your day in the same 30 minute time window each day, even if you and baby had a rough night. Utilizing a fixed point like this keeps your schedule from getting too far off track.
  • Mind your child’s “nap gaps” (the time between daytime naps) and be sure to use the schedule that’s appropriate for your child’s age
  • Many attachment parents us the ‘Pantley Pull-Off’ to gently transition their baby away from the breast. It works like this – you allow your baby to keep sucking at the breast until he’s drowsy, then you gently break the seal with your finger and pull your breast away. It works for many moms, but if the Pantley Pull-Off isn’t working, I recommend you stop using it and try a different method. Consider fading, or pick-up put down.
  • If you are co-sleeping, at bedtime, stop a feeding at least 15 minutes before your child falls to sleep, and – as mentioned earlier – stop your hands-on soothing 5 minutes before your child is due to fall asleep.
  • Still Not Sure If You Can Mix Attachment Parenting And Sleep Coaching?

    Meet Rebecca, a lovely mom from Massachusetts who follows attachment parenting principles, but was drowning in exhaustion from her son’s frequent night waking. Rebecca wanted her son to sleep better, but she was absolutely not willing to resort to crying methods. Read Rebecca’s story below, and learn how Nicole and the team at The Baby Sleep Site® were able to help Rebecca and her son get the sleep they needed, in a way that matched Rebecca’s parenting philosophy…

    “When I came across The Baby Sleep Site, it was quite by accident. I wasn’t looking for it, but I stumbled across it while searching for websites that addressed sleep issues. At the time, I had a 10-month old son who was sleeping in a sidecar arrangement (crib up against my bed with one side missing) and waking 4-6 times every night. He went through a bad time early on: he had reflux for the first 9 months of his life, plus around month 5-6 he had a bad reaction to an antibiotic treatment and wound up with serious gastrointestinal issues (waking every 2-3 hours with diarrhea). Nursing was always a method of deep relaxation leading to sleep and had now become a necessity to get my son to sleep even after all the physical issues were over. His napping was always very poor and then around 7 months of age the only time he slept for naps was in the car. If I tried to put him in his crib or even lay with him in bed, he’d only sleep for 30-45 minutes once a day, twice only if I was very lucky. While I had done a ton of reading on the subject of sleep issues and Attachment Parenting (the methodology I had followed since birth) and tried to believe that someday my son would “grow up” and would grow out of this stage he was in, I was feeling a tremendous uneasiness about how things were going. Deep down I felt like he was missing out on precious sleep, even though his attitude was positive most of the time. Something in his eyes told me he was more tired than he let on.

    When I first entered the site, I was more skeptical than I can ever express in words. The first thing I did was download the “5 Ways To Help Your Baby Sleep Through The Night” and “7 Common Napping Mistakes” figuring they’re free and maybe they would help. No dice – not for my situation. I started receiving the newsletter and reading Nicole’s in-depth commentaries. At the end of each newsletter is the invitation to visit the services page and/or to contact Nicole with questions. For weeks I saved these newsletters and kept mulling over and over whether I wanted to spend the money to start emailing Nicole. Although everything sounded legitimate, I thought there had to be something I was missing and that it would be a mere waste of money. Another online scam. Finally I couldn’t take it any longer – I decided simply to start by taking Nicole up on her continuous offer to “email with questions.” I gave her a very brief synopsis of the situation and asked if she felt it was something she could indeed help me with. Her email back to me was quick and left me feeling very positive. I decided to purchase an email package and get to work trying to help my son, and myself for that matter.

    What transpired from that point on (we started our work together at the beginning of August) was nothing short of miraculous. Granted, the first day or two was the most difficult but in retrospect, there were close to no tears from either my son or me. Being a Christian woman I’d been praying for something to happen to bring the needed rest for my son. I would pray daily, before every nap and before every bedtime, to “please let Ben get the sleep he needs.” Enter Nicole and The Baby Sleep Site. I can honestly say that “meeting” Nicole and taking the financial and emotional risk that it felt like at the time, was the answer to prayer that I’d been looking for. Nicole had given me a multi-step approach to getting my son to disassociate the breast with falling asleep at nap time (we worked on that first, which incidentally is opposite to what Nicole would normally do) and from there another step-by-step approach to get him disassociating the breast with falling asleep at night, and then to get him into his crib completely away from my bed. From there we were going to work on getting him into his own room and getting him to allow being put to bed by other people (his own father included). I am grateful to report that within 3-4 weeks, my son was taking two 1.5-2 hour naps in his own crib (with all 4 sides up) and being put down with NO breastfeeding at all and completely awake/sitting up. NO TEARS. Not only that, but the bedtime issues were resolved almost on their own, just utilizing some of the same methods we’d come up with to fix the napping issues. Something I expected to take months, took mere weeks, days even. My son is now, and has been for quite some time, sleeping 12 hours a night and two 1.5-2 hours naps a day. No more night waking or nursing to sleep. All 98% tear-free. Any change as major as the one my son experienced is most likely going to cause some degree of sadness, and invoke tears, depending on the sensitivity of the child. For the changes and benefits I see now in my son’s sleeping habits, the 10 minutes he cried for a couple of days is so worth it – and I was completely against ANY amount of crying around “sleep training.” With Nicole’s help and understanding, something you’ll never find in a book, I was able to truly “train” my son in the most gentle and personalized manner I could ever find.

    God bless you, Nicole, for the help you have provided to me and countless other families. You were the answer I was seeking. I wish you continued success in your endeavor to bring peace in the form of needed sleep to many, many more babies and parents to come!

    -Rebecca
    Westfield, MA

    Personalized Sleep Help For All Parenting Styles

    You don’t have to sacrifice your parenting philosophy in order to sleep train – there is a sleep training style to suite every parenting style! Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® specialize in creating Personalized Sleep Plans™ that are customized to your own parenting philosophy, and that will NEVER make you feel guilty or pressured to give up your unique parenting style. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan™, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.
     
    Browse our list of consultation package options here.
     

    Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

    Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

    Sleep Resources That WORK

     
    bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
     
    Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
     
    bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
     
     
    bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
     
    bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
     

    So, what do you think? Can you mix attachment parenting with sleep training?

     

    The Co-Sleeping Campaign That Backfired Completely

    CoSleeping Campaign Backfired

    To co-sleep, or not to co-sleep…that’s a hot, debatable topic these days! Of course, we work with families all over the world, who sleep in a variety of arrangements, so we pass no judgment. We make it our priority to respect every parent’s personal philosophies and goals.

    But we also make it a priority to emphasize the important of safe sleep practices. And let’s face it, when it comes to co-sleeping, there is quite a debate out there about whether or not it’s a safe way to sleep.

    The Overlooked Facts About Co-Sleeping

    There’s a lot we could say about safe co-sleeping, but we’ve already made those points in this article, Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous?

    But here’s the thing – we have learned a lot about how and why parents co-sleep in the 3 years since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its warnings about the dangers of bed-sharing in 2011. The AAP went to great lengths then to issue warnings about the dangers of co-sleeping…and some states (New York and Wisconsin, for example) have taken up the call by creating their own anti-co-sleeping campaigns. The goal was to staunch the rising tide of infant deaths related to bed-sharing, and some of the tactics used in this anti-co-sleeping campaign were downright disturbing (like this image of baby sleeping next to a meat cleaver).

    But it’s looking more and more like these campaigns have not only failed to make a meaningful difference in co-sleeping rates — it’s looking more and more like they have backfiredand it’s easy to see why.

    For one, most of these campaigns strongly emphasize the dangers of sharing a bed with your baby – but really, sharing a bed is far, far less dangerous than parents sharing a couch with their babies, or a recliner. As Dr. Melissa Bartick shared in a recent article with WBUR, in Boston,

    “As states have adopted the AAP 2011 recommendations, the advice to never sleep with your baby has backfired in the worst possible way. Rather than preventing deaths, this advice is probably even increasing deaths. Included in 2009 study that the AAP even cited in its statement for other conclusions, parents of two SIDS babies who slept with their infant on a sofa did so because they had been advised against bringing their infants into bed but had not realized the dangers of sleeping on a sofa. In fact, deaths from SIDS in parental beds has halved in the UK from 1984-2004, but there has been a rise of deaths from cosleeping on sofas.”

    And it’s becoming clearer and clearer that not all co-sleeping is equal. An attachment parent who is committed to co-sleeping, and who is incredibly intentional about her family’s sleeping arrangements, is not at all the same as an parent who simply collapses on the sofa with baby on her chest, out of sheer exhaustion. So to treat ALL co-sleeping as dangerous is really unfair; we know that intentional co-sleeping, done safely and carefully, is actually quite safe indeed.

    And finally (and perhaps most importantly), here’s what is most revealing about how fall short these anti co-sleeping campaigns have fallen: the evidence suggests that in spite of the AAP’s best efforts, over 40% of mothers report that they frequently or always share a sleep space with their child (and it’s likely the co-sleeping stats are grossly underestimated). The scare tactics simply aren’t working.

    So what does this suggest? To us, it suggests that what we don’t need is a fear-based campaign designed to terrify mothers into not co-sleeping…instead, what we need is a comprehensive system to educate mothers about how to co-sleep safely and with intention, if they do choose to occasionally or frequently (or even always) share a sleeping space with their babies.

    In some ways, this is like similar to the sex education that many teenagers receive in school. (Okay, not totally similar, but stick with me here!) There is lots of evidence that abstinence-based sex ed, on its own, is not nearly as effective as programs that teach both the value of abstinence AND safe-sex practices. You simply can’t terrify or persuade teenagers into not having sex, and hope that works. It doesn’t.

    Similarly, you can’t terrify moms into not co-sleeping – the evidence suggests that they will anyway. So what if, instead, we focused on educating moms about what safe co-sleeping practices look like?

    The fact is, as Dr. James McKenna points out, co-sleeping has been around since the dawn of time. We will never eradicate it, and campaigns that are designed to dissuade parents from sharing a sleep space with their children are bound to fail – whereas campaigns designed to educate and inform can only succeed.

    How To Co-Sleep Safely

    With all this talk about how to co-sleep safely, you may be wondering, “How exactly DO I co-sleep safely, anyway?” Glad you asked! These resources are great ones, if you want to educate yourself about safe co-sleeping practices:

  • Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines
  • KellyMom Guide To Safe Co-Sleeping
  • Co-Sleeping Frequently Asked Questions
  • In the end, what we want to leave you with is this: there is no “right” or “wrong” sleeping arrangement for you and your baby, provided your sleeping arrangements are safe. Safe bed-sharing, safe room-sharing, safe crib-sleeping…it can all work! And your baby can sleep well, and peacefully, in any sleeping arrangement. The Baby Sleep Site® team is 100% committed to respecting your parenting goals, and your family’s sleeping arrangements, and we will work with you to improve your child’s sleep no matter what those arrangements look like. We will never pressure you to change you sleeping set-up; instead, we will work within the parameters you give us, and will respect them every step of the way.

    Browse our list of consultation package options here.

    Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

    Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

    What are your thoughts on co-sleeping? Any co-sleeping stories or tips to share?

     
    bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
     
    https://www.babysleepsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Essential-Keys-to-Newborn-Sleep.jpg“>Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
     
    bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
     
     
    bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
     
    bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
     

    Is Co-Sleeping The “Right” Way to Sleep With Your Child?

    Is Co-Sleeping the "Right" Way?Over the years, I’ve really had to reflect on what works and what doesn’t for so many families, in order to give the best advice to our clients. After personally working with over 10,000 families (with my team, of course!), I have a lot of opinions. :)

    Not too long ago, my eldest son (and inspiration for The Baby Sleep Site®) was going through a rough patch of waking a lot at night and coming into our room. Sometimes it was a nightmare and sometimes he just felt scared in the dark room, alone (and who could blame him?). Mind you, he was not a toddler anymore. He was a school-aged kid! So, I did something you might never expect and decided that if he was coming to me virtually every night, I would sleep in his bed for a solid week to restore his feeling of security. I had tried almost everything else, already. I stopped him from watching anything scary on TV or playing any game that seemed too influential. We had talked a lot about fears, being brave, reading books about it, and all sorts of stuff. It simply wasn’t enough. So, I shared his bed with him for a week to “show” him it was safe. And, it seems to have worked! At least, it has for awhile now. I did let him know that it was temporary, but doing this made him very happy. :)

    When I think about him since he was a baby, he really has been the type of child who wanted/needed to be very close, physically and emotionally. For that reason, it might seem like he was the type of baby who needed to co-sleep/bed-share. Unfortunately, co-sleeping just didn’t always work for us. I tried. I really did. But when my son and I co-slept, he woke constantly and I barely slept at all. Even our most recent week of co-sleeping didn’t work that well. He would wake up when I moved positions too much, and his elbow would land in my face or a knee would be in my back. But, emotionally, he needed it, and it worked as a temporary sleep arrangement.

    Is Co-Sleeping The “Right” Way?

    For some families, I do believe co-sleeping can be an effective sleep solution (when done safely). For them. It works for baby and it works for parents. But, it isn’t the only way, and it isn’t the “right” way for everyone. My younger son has never seemed to need or want to sleep close. Although very affectionate by day, by night, he wants his hugs and cuddles and then doesn’t like to be very close. When he was first starting to talk, he’d say, “Too tight” even if you didn’t have your arm around him. He wanted us further away. He, too, is a wild sleeper and he grinds his teeth. I have worked with a lot of families who are in this same position: they wanted to co-sleep, but their baby wanted nothing to do with it (or would co-sleep in arms, but not in a bed, which is simply not sustainable for years!). And, I’ve had others try to co-sleep (either out of desire or necessity), but it just didn’t work for their family. In the end, we at The Baby Sleep Site® trust our families to know what is best for their own family. We work with co-sleeping families who want to improve sleep and continue to co-sleep and others who want to transition to crib, because it’s just not working. The bottom line is to choose what works with YOUR family, not because someone or some book said it’s the “right” way to sleep with your child.

    Need help with your baby or toddler’s sleep? Take a look at the resources below.

    • This article is an editorial from our weekly newsletter. Not receiving our newsletter? Sign up on the main menu bar, above, and start receiving free sleep help in your inbox! You can also sign up for our free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night, and be automatically registered to receive our weekly newsletters.
    • Need more information? Browse our list of e-Books, tailored to suit your child’s age. Or, consider becoming a site member; membership gives you access to all of our e-Books at no extra cost!
    • Tired of trying to solve your little one’s sleep problems on your own? Ready for personalized help? Check out our consultation packages.

    Is Co-Sleeping a Solution for Baby Sleep Problems?

    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.

    Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) Series – Part 2

     
    Sleep Training Series, Part 2: Co-Sleeping

    Part 1 of this series I discussed why it’s a good idea to sleep train your baby and the bedtime routine, your first step. Now I will discuss the various methods to help your child learn how to fall asleep without your “help”.

    Co-Sleeping

    Co-sleeping is not a “sleep training method”, but I wanted to talk about a way you can sleep train your baby but still co-sleep. Remember, sleep training is not cry-it-out (CIO). You can sleep train without letting your baby cry. Co-sleeping works for many families without any special steps taken, but for some it’s difficult due to the fact their baby wants to nurse all night. Nursing may or may not be the challenge for the mother, but perhaps the fact she can’t go right back to sleep during or after nursing. And, maybe mom and dad want to continue co-sleeping, but not nurse all night.

    In some cases, nursing while co-sleeping has become the baby’s sleep association and the key is to break that association. But, how do you do it without letting the baby cry, yet still sleep in the family bed? The key to this dilemma is to help your baby learn to fall asleep without nursing. You will want to move nursing away from the final moment your baby falls asleep, but without replacing one sleep association (e.g. nursing to sleep) for another (e.g. rocking your baby). I include pacifiers as a sleep association. I am not a big fan of pacifiers but know plenty of people who use them and have no problems. But, others become frustrated they are replacing the pacifier 8-10 times per night. At this point, the pacifier has become a hindrance more than a help, so be very careful not to replace nursing with a pacifier. Once baby learns how to fall asleep without nursing, (s)he can start to learn to go BACK to sleep throughout the night, which is true of all sleep associations. This method will take a lot of patience, determination and commitment on the parents’ parts, but with consistency, it can work.

    Co-Sleeping Safety

    I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about co-sleeping safety. It gets a bad rep sometimes, but when done properly, it can be perfectly safe. If you feel nervous you are going to roll on top of the baby, an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper or The First Years Close & Secure Sleeper are great options. Dr. Sears’ website has more tips including put baby next to mom, not between mom and dad, sleep in a large queen or king-size bed, and don’t sleep on a too-cushion-y surface where you might roll over too easily (e.g. waterbed or couch), among other tips. He makes sure to mention not to sleep with your baby if you are severely sleep-deprived where you might be less aware of your baby. Ironically, I would think this is when most people do start to sleep with their baby (if they didn’t plan to from the get-go like me).

    When Co-Sleeping Isn’t Working

    There may be another reason or multiple reasons co-sleeping is difficult for your family. If it’s not working for you, that’s okay. It works for some, but not all. This is not a reflection on you as a parent. Some people are too nervous and don’t sleep well due to worry. I’d say that makes you a caring parent. Some people just can’t go right back to sleep. You have no control over that. Some babies are very active, waking you up all hours of the night. Whatever the reason, if it’s not working for you, don’t let guilt drive you to more and more sleep deprivation, which can lead to unhappiness, stress, and depression. Once you feel ready, you may want to transition your baby out of the family bed. As I always say, well-rested babies make happy babies and well-rested parents make happy parents and happy parents make better parents.

    Get Personalized Sleep Help You Can Feel Good About

    Sleep training can be tough – but you don’t have to go it alone! Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® are standing by, ready to create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ for your family. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan™, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.
     
    Browse our list of consultation package options here.
     

    Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

    Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

    Sleep Resources That WORK

    bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
     
     
     
     
    bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.

     

    bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

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    Continue to Part 3 of this series where I discuss the “fading” approach.
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    Share your co-sleeping story with us!