Sleep Training while Co-Sleeping – It Can Be Done
When your sweet, Beautiful Baby is first born, you feel the primal need to be close to him at all time. If you’re like me, you also feel compelled to obsessively watch him and check on him, continuously asking yourself and others if he seems ok.
Is he still breathing? Is he too hot? Is he too cold? Is his swaddle too tight? Is his swaddle too loose?
You find yourself peering at this little cherub, unable to leave his side, even when he is sleeping soundly. Although you are tired yourself, It’s difficult to settle into sleep because you’re so worried about what could happen while your eyes are not glued to him.
The innate need to be close to your baby is the force behind sleep training while co-sleeping. The idea of leaving a newborn alone in a room to sleep often inspires panic in new parents, which makes co-sleeping a reassuring option. Other parents may choose to co-sleep out of sheer necessity, often because they do not have the space to give the baby his own room.
Bear in mind that co-sleeping is different from bed sharing. Co-sleeping refers to sleeping in the same room with your child, in a separate sleep space. Health Canada and the American Association of Pediatrics recommend that babies sleep in the same room as their caregiver until at least 6 months of age. Both organizations also recommend that babies sleep in their own crib or bassinet.
What is Independent Sleep?
As your baby grows and develops and your postpartum anxiety begins to subside, you may want to encourage your baby to fall asleep on his own. This may seem impossible while sharing a room with your baby but it can be done as long as the baby is over 4 months of age. (I actually recommend the baby be 5 months or older.) When we talk about independent sleep, we are focusing on the act of falling asleep and connecting sleep cycles throughout the night. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will sleep in a room with no caregiver close by. For most parents, the frustration with infant sleep is in getting the baby to fall asleep – not with co-sleeping in the same room. The goal of a sleep training program is for your baby to learn to fall asleep independently, even if he is sleeping in the same room with you.
Give Your Baby the Bedroom During Sleep Training
If you can temporarily move out of the room while implementing the sleep plan, do it.
The plan will go smoother, faster and will be easier on the whole family. The first 2-3 nights of sleep training bring about a big change for your child and it will take some time for him to fall asleep independently. Imagine that your child finally falls asleep on the first night, only to wake up 2 or 3 hours later when you come into the room. He will definitely cry and you will have to start all over again. Every creek of the floor or spring in the bed will stress you out and it may stop you from getting a good night’s rest. Not to mention the unnecessary stress it will cause your baby if you do wake him up. If you plan to keep your baby in the same room with you indefinitely, it’s best to get him used to sleeping in the room without you in it.
A typical sleep plan takes about 2 weeks to carry out and I recommend you sleep in a different room for the entire time. Once your baby is sleeping soundly through the night you can transition back into the room.
A Room Within a Room
Sometimes co-sleeping parents find that their presence in the shared room is stimulating or disruptive to the baby and can lead to night wakings. Even if the room is as dark as possible, your baby may be able to see you and he can sense that you are close by. Of course he’s going to call out for you. A room divider, or even a baby-safe curtain is a simple solution. It’s like giving the baby his own room within a room and as such, his own private space to fall asleep. This is also a good option for a young baby sharing a room with a toddler who may have a later bedtime.
Manage Expectations and be Realistic
If you’re in a situation where you have to co-sleep indefinitely, know that sleep training can take longer. There may be more hiccups along the way, making the process seem slow and difficult. The key is steadfast consistency and making your expectations crystal clear for your child. Be sure to have a solid bedtime routine that ends with your baby being placed in his sleep space when he is tired but awake and stick with your commitment to independent sleep.
Remember, the key is that your baby falls asleep on his own, even if he is sleeping next to you. Once you have that component in place, you and your family will have peaceful nights and productive days in no time.
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