You’re exploring sleep training, but you don’t want to stop co-sleeping. What are your options? Well, first of all, you need to ask yourself, “What is the outcome that you’re looking for? What do you want to achieve?” Because if you’re looking at sleep training, it means you want to somehow improve your little one’s sleep.
But you’re also curious about whether you can improve your little one’s sleep whilst co-sleeping, having them in your own bed with you. What’s not working? That’s the thing. If you want to improve your child’s sleep while co-sleeping, it means that their sleep isn’t great. Why isn’t it great? And is it anything to do with the co-sleeping in the first place?
The number one thing I want to share with you before we get started is if you are co-sleeping, make sure it’s done safely. There are some people who would argue that there is no such thing as safe co-sleeping.
There are others who feel like it’s the most natural and perfectly fine thing to do in the whole world, and those are personal views and beliefs and we’re not here to address that today. But we are here to talk about people who want to venture down the road of improving their child’s sleep and aren’t quite ready to give up with the co-sleeping.
I’m going to be honest with you. If you try sleep training while still co-sleeping, you will only reach limited outcomes because the very nature of the co-sleeping, bed sharing scenario is an element of a sleep crutch. It’s an element of a prop for your little one to fall to sleep, and probably back to sleep.
There’s probably other aspects going on as well and, in a lot of cases, babies are kind of helping themselves to some breastfeeding on mum at various intervals in the night. There’s other forms of contact that are assisting the little one but, ultimately, the very fact that they are bed sharing with you is a level of assistance in them falling to sleep and back to sleep.
One of the really key things about sleep training is being able to do that in their own sleep space. Why? Because they need to be able to do it without the things that do it for them or help them along. By being in your bed, a certain amount of it is going to be done for them or helping them along so they can’t fully develop that skill.
Now, sure, we’ve worked with people who have co-slept and we’ve helped to improve things, but you will still be left with work that will need to be done at some point.
Now, I know there are some families and there are some cultures where they’ll co-sleep for years and years on end and multiple children and… Oh my goodness, it goes on. But if that’s not for you or if you’re one of these people who, like many of you out there, are co-sleeping, but don’t want to be.
You’re co-sleeping because you feel that it’s the only way and you don’t know what else to do, and you’re desperate to move on from that or get out of that and you need another way. If that’s you then, absolutely, you’ve got to take action on this and we can help you. We can help you move on from that in a really safe and effective way.
Can you co-sleep and sleep train? Only partially. It’s a bit like wanting your cake and eat it. You almost can’t have it all. And some people will even say, “Yes, but could I sleep train my child and help them learn all these skills and give them their own sleep space, but then still have cuddles now and again, and can they just come into my bed for little morning cuddles and things like that?”
And this is where I have to say to you, in the short term, “No, because it’s confusing and they don’t understand why they can’t and then they can, and when they can’t and when they can.” Further down the line, that kind of thing can become okay once they fully understand when they’re sleeping, they go in their sleep space and if they’re having cuddles, that’s an awake thing.
That can come in later, but when we’re actually helping them to develop and master these skills, it really does need to be in their own sleep space.
I hope that manages your expectations to some extent, and I hope it gives you an idea of what is and isn’t achievable. Sure, progress can be made but that doesn’t mean a finished job with a really healthy, happy sleeper who can get themselves off to sleep and back to sleep. It’s going to be limited if they’re sharing a bed with parents.
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