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Can you Sleep Train and Bed Share?

No. You can’t.

Sorry to be so concise, but that’s my straightforward answer. I can share more details as we get further along, but for those of you who just wanted a “yes-or-no,” I thought I’d give it to you up front.

So why do I think that sleep training and bed sharing are mutually exclusive?

When I meet a new client who’s been bed sharing, they fall into one of two groups:

1. Parents who would like to move their child out of the bed;

2. Parents who want to keep the child in the bed but want better sleep for both the parents and the child. For those parents who are looking to move their little one out of their bed, I have a variety of approaches which I personalize based on baby’s age, temperament, and established sleep habits.

For those in group two, I’ve only have one approach - call me when you’re ready to move your little one to his or her own bed! : )

It’s not because I’m against co-sleeping – I have no judgement on your sleep situation if it’s working for you. The only reason I will not work with a family who wants to continue to co-sleep is because it is too confusing for the child.

In a bed sharing situation, baby typically has access to Mom’s breast whenever she wants, and that’s almost always the sleep prop. She’ll wake in the night after completing a sleep cycle, and instinctively want to nurse - not necessarily because she’s hungry, but because she’s learned that’s how she falls back asleep.

Not surprisingly, we as adults use similar tried, true and comfortable strategies to get back to sleep when we wake in the night. They’re usually very brief and simple, like turning on our backs, taking a sip of water, flipping the pillow, or wrapping our blankets around us, but they’re sleep skills, just like nursing.

So, if you are going to successfully break the association between nursing and falling asleep, which you have to do if you want your baby to sleep through the night, then baby must learn a new skill; one that doesn’t involve you. That’s not going to be easy when her favorite method of falling asleep is literally right in front of her face! Think of how hard that would be if there was a freshly baked sugar cookie (my favorite here in Texas is Tiff's Treats) sitting on your night stand, night after night, and being told you had to wait until morning to take a nibble. Wouldn't it be so much easier if that cookie were in the other room, away from temptation?!

If you’re truly set on staying in close proximity to your baby while she’s sleeping, try moving her to a crib in your bedroom and putting up some sort of partition between the crib and your bed so that baby cannot see you when she wakes. Parents have had success with folding room dividers or even hanging sheets from the ceiling.

Before I sign off, i want to say that some people tell me that they have heard well meaning friends (or Facebook commentators) say things like, “They’ll leave your room when they’re ready! Don’t rush them! This time is so short! Nobody sleeps in their parents’ bed when they’re 18!”

Again, if you’re happy with the arrangement you have, I am not here to judge or change your approach. But, I would like to point out that our company of consultants has worked with families with children up to ten years old still sleeping in mom and dad’s bed. Don’t assume that your little one will finish brushing her teeth one night and say, “Actually, I think I’ll go sleep on my own tonight.”

To be honest with you, although this is rather embarrassing, I was one of those kids. I slept in my parent’s bedroom rotating between their bed and a daybed my mom set up in my parent's bedroom until i was around 10 or 11! I don’t remember a whole lot, other than the feeling of feeling that my own bed and bedroom was somewhat foreign and uncomfortable to me because I never spent much time there.

Sleep habits die hard, especially with children, so the day your child sleeps in her own bed, in her own room, is probably the day you tell her she has to.

The good news is, once your child moves into her own room and learns independent sleep skills, she will typically sleep longer and more soundly than she would in your bed. And, best of all, so will you and your partner, which means the whole family will be rested and refreshed, which comes with a whole host of mental and physical benefits.

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