When I was pregnant with my first baby, 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 possible solution for you and your baby’s sleep problems or not based on my 15+ years as a sleep consultant.
Why Co-Sleeping Happens Out of Necessity
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 take it anymore! Getting up every 2 hours was not even a possibility anymore. Co-sleeping was just a temporary solution for us, though.
When Co-Sleeping Can Get You Down
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, my son was still waking up 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. In addition, I was petrified I was going to roll on top of him or my husband would cover him with blankets. It just didn’t feel like safe baby sleep!
Transitioning to Crib From Co-Sleeping
Eventually, we transitioned 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 (and 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 change exhausting 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 co-sleep more successfully than I did and transition from co-sleeping to crib at a variety of ages.
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 many 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 drowsy.
- Do not smoke in the room you are co-sleeping as it’s an increased risk of 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. (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 can be a great solution for your family but it is not a solution for everyone. My philosophy as a sleep consultant for 15+ years 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, gently transition to a crib or bed. I don’t typically recommend jumping to The Ferber Method or Cry It Out for long-term co-sleepers as it’s a huge change! If you’d like to discuss options, I’m always here.