If you’re stumbling upon this blog from an internet search, you’re likely a co-sleeping parent. And odds are that you’ve encountered an obstacle with co-sleeping. If this is the case, then I’ll tell you now that there is no “best age” to transition from co-sleeping. Instead, the timing is more about when it’s no longer working for your family.
Every family is different
As a certified pediatric sleep consultant, my job is to help those families who reach out to me. So, if co-sleeping works for you, you more than likely don’t need my services. However, if it’s not working, I can help.
Because every baby is different, there’s really no best age to transition from co-sleeping — it’s really more situational. While I am not an advocate for bed-sharing, I trust parents to make the decision that’s right for their family. However, the basics of the Sleep Sense program require that I follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations regarding safe sleep practices. The AAP advises against sharing the same sleeping surface with babies and advocate for room-sharing as a safer alternative. (more…)
If you’ve stumbled upon this blog because you’re wondering if you and your baby can co-sleep and sleep train, it’s probable that something just isn’t working for you. If something’s not working for your baby’s (or your own) sleep habits, my job as a pediatric sleep specialist is to help you find what works. And if you’re not ready to make some major changes, you’re not going to like what I have to say. The short answer is that no, you can not co-sleep with your baby and sleep train.
Notice that I didn’t say that room sharing was off-limits. I’ll get to that later, but right now, I want to address bed-sharing and sleep training. Co-sleeping is a personal decision, and I work with families with all types of sleeping arrangements — my job is to address concerns and come up with solutions that work for both parents and babies. I find that those co-sleeping families who contact me are looking for one of two solutions; they either want to transition their child from their bed, or they simply want their little one to sleep better while bed sharing.
If you’re looking to transition your child from your bed, I can definitely help your little one make a smooth transition. My approach to moving your little one out of your bed, and into their own, is tailored to your family’s needs. I take a look at your baby’s existing sleep habits, their personality and temperament, and come up with a personalized plan to make your baby’s transition, from your bed to their own, work for the entire family.
Co-sleeping and sleep associations
Those of you who came to this article through an internet search, in hopes of finding a way to better streamline your baby’s sleep habits while bed sharing, are not ready for my assistance — and that’s fine! When you are ready to transition your baby out of your bed, give me a call and I’ll be more than happy to help.
But now you’re probably wondering why I can’t help you now. Let me explain.
The majority of my co-sleeping clients bed share because there is an established breastfeeding relationship. Co-sleeping makes mother’s breast accessible throughout the night, and as a result, the breast becomes a sleep prop or a sleep association. This means that each time your baby wakes at the end of a sleep cycle, they head right to the breast — hungry or not — to soothe themself back to sleep. The longer that association remains, the more difficult it is for your baby to be able to transition between sleep cycles on their own.
Think about it. You, perhaps unknowingly, have sleep strategies you employ when you wake in the night. Maybe you shift positions, re-adjust your pillow or blankets, or maybe you take a quick drink of water. Whatever it is that you do to get yourself comfortable enough to go back to sleep can be likened to your baby’s need to nurse themself back to sleep. And in order to break the association between nursing and sleep, your breast needs to be inaccessible to them.
Room sharing as an alternative
Remember when I said I didn’t rule out room sharing? While not ideal, those parents who strongly desire to stay in close proximity to their baby can set up a crib in their room, or attach a sidecar to their bed (but a sidecar may make it even more difficult to break the breast-sleep association). The most important thing is that you’re happy with your sleeping arrangements.
I will leave you with this — the longer a sleep habit persists, the more difficult it is to change. And the longer your child shares your bed, the more difficult it will be to get them to sleep on their own. But when they do make that transition, they’ll acquire the sleep skills they need to have independent, healthier, sounder sleep, which is especially important during the formative years.
If you’re ready to make a change, or are simply wondering if a sleep consultant is right for you, contact me to set up a complimentary 15-minute phone sleep assessment by clicking HERE.
BONUS: Did you catch my interview today with Jim Masters of CUTV. If not, take a listen HERE.
Safe sleep guidelines is a topic that I never tire of sharing, and it’s important to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) research-backed suggestions. The AAP recently revised their safe sleep guidelines, and I thought it would be great to take a moment to share those with you, as well as to take a look at how those guidelines have changed over the years.
Back is best
In 1992, the AAP instructed parents to lie their infants on their backs to sleep, which resulted in an overall decrease in the occurrences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) across the country. But while SIDS deaths decreased, infant death by suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia rose, prompting the AAP to revisit and further explain their safe sleep guidelines.
What is a safe sleep environment?
The American Academy of Pediatrics again changed their safe sleep guidelines in 2011, this time with an emphasis on the explanation and demonstration of safe sleep environments for infants. The AAP made three additional safe sleep recommendations, to reduce the overall occurrence of infant deaths, including SIDS related deaths. Those recommendations included:
Breastfeeding is recommended and is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
Infants should be immunized. Evidence suggests that immunization reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent.
Bumper pads should not be used in cribs. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.
Further recommendations included:
Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
Wedges and positioners should not be used.
Pregnant woman should receive regular prenatal care.
Don’t smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
Breastfeeding is recommended.
Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).
So, what’s different between 2011’s AAP safe sleep guidelines and those recently released? The AAP now recommends that infants share the same bedroom as their parents, or room share, for at least the first six months of an infant’s life, and ideally, the first year. This comes as a result of new research findings, showing a decrease in sleep-related infant deaths in those infants room-sharing with their parents. The AAP also included the recommendation of immediate skin-to-skin time after birth, regardless of feeding or birth type, for a minimum of one hour, as soon as the mother is “medically stable and awake.”
Breastfeeding is still recommended, and the AAP urges parents to move babies to their [separate] sleep space as soon as feeding is completed, to further reduce the risk of accidental death [should a mother or father fall asleep while holding the baby].
While these recommendations are not hugely different from what they have been, they do further explain ideal safe sleep conditions, back by research showing a reduced rate of infant mortality. In addition, AAP is urging doctors to have more in-depth conversations about infant sleep environments with new and expecting parents, in an effort to communicate ideal safe sleep environments and field any questions parents may have.
If you have any questions about your baby’s sleep environment, I am available to review and make recommendations for the safest sleep environment for your little one.
As a pediatric sleep consultant, I’m asked many of the same questions from tired parents everywhere (read: You’re not alone!). One of the most popular questions I’m asked pertains to co-sleeping. I’m often contacted by parents to help with transitionining their baby from co-sleeping to a crib. The short answer is yes, I can definitely help you with that!
Co-sleeping is a personal decision, and I work with families with a wide variety of sleeping arrangements. I’ve written a blog addressing concerns that some new or expecting parents have about co-sleeping, called Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous? Since I’m asked the question so often, I thought it would be fun to create a tongue-in-cheek list of 8 signs that you’re ready to transition from co-sleeping.
You’re Now Going to Bed When Most People Eat Dinner
Your little one won’t sleep without the warm, snuggling embrace of mom, so you’re now on her schedule…which means you’re going to bed at 6pm and waking at 4am (because you can’t sleep 12 hours like she can). Oh, and you’re not a morning person, what’s a mom to do?
You Get Nothing Completed Throughout the Day (or Night)
Those early 3-4 naps a day times are rough on co-sleeping moms. You have time to put a load of laundry in, but no time to dry and fold it because naptimes call.
You’re Both a Human Pacifier AND An All Night Buffet
You’ve given up sleeping in a nighty because your little one has an all-access pass to your breasts. You’re exhausted from waking multiple times throughout the night from the tugging sensation of a nursling, who’s both suckling for comfort AND for nourishment…ALL NIGHT LONG.
You Find Strange Things in Your Bed
Bed-sharing parents share their sacred space to keep their little ones feeling secure and comfortable while they sleep. However, you may be ready to transition your preschooler when you begin finding strange things tucked underneath the pillow…like a wrench. True story.
You’re Being Kicked From Within AND Without
If you bed-share, you’re used to shuffling around the bed with your little one’s movements, removing stray little appendages as they work their way over your face and across your body throughout the night. But when you’re pregnant, and are beginning to get kicked by in-utero and by your bed-sharing little one, it may be time to transition to make room for baby.
You’re Shopping for a Larger Bed
Your bedroom is small, so a queen-sized bed is the largest you should really go, but you need more room to accommodate the family. You can invest in a king-size bed that will be a tight fit in your bedroom, or you can finally transition your toddler/preschooler to their own room.
Your Bedroom Looks Like a Summer Camp Cabin
Your little one has outgrown your bed, or you now have a baby sharing the bed with you, so you add a small mattress so your child can sleep on the floor. At this point your bedroom now resembles a sleepaway camp cabin or a squatter’s den, with both you and your partner tripping on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
You’ve Developed Ninja-like Skills
In an effort to have a little alone time with your partner, you lay down with your baby to get her to sleep. Once her breathing has settled and she’s entered the world of dreams, you stealthily swap a pillow or plush toy for your body, maneuvering out of the bed and creeping out of the room like a ninja in the night.
All kidding aside, just as weaning a baby from bottle or breast can be difficult, I understand that it can often be challenging to transition a little one from co-sleeping to crib. If you’re struggling with the transition, give me a call so that I can guide you through the process.
Often a controversial topic in parenting circles, and the cause of many “mommy wars”, co-sleeping is heavily debated; but is co-sleeping dangerous?
The term, co-sleeping, seems to be a catch-all, referring to a myriad of sleep situations involving both parent(s) and child. Let’s further define some of the terms that fall under the co-sleeping umbrella:
Co-sleeping, or sleep-sharing, is the proper term for a child and parent sleeping within sensory distance of one another. “Modern” co-sleeping often uses a device called a co-sleeper, that attaches to the side of the bed, giving baby a safer sleeping area of his/her own, but allowing the caregiver to easily reach over for feedings or comfort.
Room-sharing is likely the most common scenario, where parents have a crib or bassinet in the room with them, allowing them to easily hear the baby and tend to his/her needs throughout the night.
Bed-sharing, or utilizing a family bed, refers to parent(s) and child sharing the same physical sleeping area.
When co-sleeping is referred to as being dangerous, bed-sharing is the term that is being referred to, with an increased risk of suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So the quick answer is that yes, co-sleeping, specifically bed-sharing, can pose an increased risk of infant mortality.
From a [healthy and safe] sleep perspective, I don’t recommend bed-sharing. Bed-sharing often prevents parents from getting adequate and healthy rest; much needed with a newborn! You are also, unknowingly, creating a sleep association with your baby, requiring a parent to be present, and often in the parents’ bed. This can cause long term sleep issues with naps, requiring a parent to lay down with the child in order to fulfill that sleep association, and can be problematic if the baby needs to go to bed before a parent. My recommendation? Separate sleeping accommodations for baby and parent(s), whether it be a co-sleeper, crib or bassinet.
What can you do to decrease the risks associated with co-sleeping? Back is best! Make sure that your infant is positioned for sleep on his/her back, wearing minimal clothing (so as not to overheat), on a firm surface, devoid of pillows, comforters, plush toys, or any other soft items that can pose a potential risk.
If you do choose to co-sleep, my recommendation is to utilize room-sharing, as it is thought to reduce the risk of SIDS and is more conducive to healthier sleep for both parents and baby.
As many of you have read, I provide prenatal/newborn sleep consultations for new and expecting parents who are looking to start off their baby’s life with healthy sleep habits in mind. This is in addition to the sleep training consultations I offer for older infants and toddlers. I wish I had access to someone like me prior to my first daughter’s arrival because I definitely would have made this investment to gain the knowledge necessary to ensure my daughter slept safely and prop free.
While there are many different places that babies can fall asleep in (crib, bassinet, swing, car seat and rock n plays just to name a few), the safest places for your newborn to sleep is in a crib or bassinet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the same room as a parent for the first 6 months of their life. This is an ideal situation and it can work for some families. But most often, by the time a baby is around 3 months old, they become very curious about the world around them and can often find it difficult to stay asleep at night due to their curiosity and the sounds that their parents are making while they sleep (cue daddy’s snoring). At this point, a move to a crib in their own room just across the hall from mommy and daddy may be what’s needed.
The Infant Co-sleeper: What You Need to Know
But for parents that are very committed to the idea of co sleeping with their child I make sure that they know the SIDS risks associated with bed sharing and how to possibly do it safely (see next paragraph). I’m also more than happy to discuss other opportunities to co sleep/share a room.
One of the frequently asked questions I am asked by my prenatal clients is what my recommendations are as far as co sleeping with babies and babies sleeping in the parent’s room. My advice regarding co sleeping with a baby is that you ensure your baby is sleeping in a safe space free of pillows, blankets, too soft mattresses and rolling or repositioning parents. The safest way to even begin to safely attempt to bed share with your baby is on the floor away from walls, on a firm mattress with no pillows or blankets and sans daddy. But this still is not a 100% guarantee that the baby will sleep safely considering a very tired mommy is sharing the bed. With this in mind, I do not advise parents to co-sleep in this manner and instead suggest a parent should seriously consider using a great alternative, a baby co-sleeper/bassinet.
Using a co sleeper/bassinet, parents can sleep soundly knowing that their baby is just within reaching distance. This option is great as it allows moms to breastfeed during the night without having to get up and get the baby. It is also convenient for if mommy needs to offer baby a reassuring careful touch to resettle baby back to sleep in the middle of the night.
I suggest that parents find a co sleeper that can attach to the bed for safety. It should also have the ability to raise the side closest to the bed to allow it to convert to a bassinet for naps and times when mommy will not be close by (some of those newborns can squirm quite a bit). I’ve noticed several brands out there that offer the ability to raise or lower the legs of the co sleeper so that it sits flush with even the highest of beds/mattresses. Some brands even fold up and come with a case so that you can bring it along with you on overnight trips or daytime visits where you can set it up for naps.
Co-sleeping – Different Strokes for Different Folks
Ultimately, the decision on where a child sleeps is up to their parents and their desires and requirements. What works for one family may not work for another and that is okay. My only concern is that I help all families that reach out to me to make informed, safe decisions about where their baby sleeps and, if one day they come to discover that their original sleeping plans no longer work for their family, I will be more than happy to help them decide upon and safe and healthy solution/alternative.