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 children 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 for 2 months. This doesn’t mean others can’t do it longer and still be successful though!! You can co-sleep and still help your baby sleep better. Knowing what I know now, I know that you can co-sleep, you can break negative sleep associations, 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 breastfeeding 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 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 another 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. 😀 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 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. 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 to manage sleep associations in order for all of you to sleep well. And, when you are ready to transition to a 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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23 thoughts on “Is Co-Sleeping a Solution for Baby Sleep Problems?”

  1. Hi,

    My wife and I have an 8-month old. Up until this last week he has slept very well on his own. He has all of the sudden regressed and started screaming every half hour all night long. The only way to get him to actually go to sleep and stay asleep is to pull him into bed with us. I don’t know what has changed and I don’t want to start this habit, but at 3 a.m. it’s hard to just not give in and pull him into our bed. Any thoughts?

    • Hi @Daniel Whitman, I’m so sorry your once good sleeper has been regressing and exhausting the whole family! At this age there is actually a sleep regression that some babies hit, so that may be the cause of it. Here is a link to give you more information about what may be happening:
      There are some tips in the article to help you get through this rough patch and hopefully it will pass quickly! If you guys need more support, please let us know! Hang in there!

  2. Some “expert ” you are, if you were truly and expert you would know that bed sharing is 100% not safe and can not be done safely. Do not encourage this behaviour. By doing so you are inadvertently killing babies.

    • Hi @Amanda – Thank you for stopping by, and we are sorry that you have gotten the wrong impression about us here @ The Baby Sleep Site. We don’t make any specific recommendations about the “right” or “wrong” place for a baby to sleep. Co-sleeping, room-sharing, and bed-sharing are all quite common across the globe, however, as you note, some studies have found that bed-sharing can be risky when not done safely. We encourage our clients to talk with their health care provider to discuss the best options for their baby’s sleep space. Our goal is to ensure all of our families who bed-share (whether occasionally or consistently) have the proper safety recommendations. Some important aspects of sharing a sleep space include (but are not limited to):
      a. Have the mattress on/close to the ground, so mobile babies will not crawl off the bed.
      b. The bed should be free from pillows and loose bedding.
      c. The baby should not be swaddled.
      d. The mattress should be firm (i.e. no waterbeds).
      e. The baby should be placed on his or her back to sleep.
      f. Parents should not be smokers.
      g. Parents should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
      h. Parents should not be overly obese.

      Thanks again for writing, and for more safe sleep recommendations, please check out these links:

    • It is so amazing how people can write things on the internet and not realize as they write how ignorant and moronic they sound. Do you know that almost all parents in countries like India and China co-sleep and that they have the lowest incidences of SIDS? Get your facts straight

  3. 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?

    • @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.

  4. 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!

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