Can I Bed Share and Sleep Train?

Young mom and her cute baby sleeping in bed

No. You can’t.

If you know me or have ever chatted with me about helping families get better sleep, then you know that I PRIDE myself and my services on being able to come up with a sleep solution that meets your family’s needs. That includes all kinds of variables and parenting choices like schedules, nutrition, environment and more. The ONLY variable that I cannot expect to see improvement of independent sleep is bed-sharing.

(Sorry to be so concise, but I figured I would give the quick answer for those of you looking for a “yes-or-no” and get into the details moving forward.)

So why do I think that independent seep and bed sharing are mutually exclusive? Simply, it’s too confusing for the child.

When baby and mom are sharing a bed, there is almost unlimited access to the breast (and the rest of mom’s body). This is likely the reason that the bed sharing arrangement was initiated in the first place; since nursing, or some other physical connection with mom, has been the sleep prop in place. So, when the baby wakes during the night (after completing a sleep cycle, which is typical) they will instinctually go for mom/the breast. Not really because they need the nutrition, but because they need the behavior in order to fall back asleep.

Adults do this too. Of course, not the same behavior (could make for some awkward conversations between spouses) but we have our own sleep skills similar to a baby nursing through the night. Our routines and strategies may look quite different – examples being changing our position, flipping a pillow over, tucking a blanket around us, and more – but they are present and serve the same purpose.

In order to foster independent sleep skills for your baby, you will need to disassociate them from their old sleep props. This is the when and how they will create and learn their own new sleep skills. And that is quite difficult to do when their favorite method of falling asleep is lying right in front of them. And you won’t be providing the same sleep help that you did before.

Many parents can successfully sleep train while sharing a room or environment with their baby. So if that is your situation, either out of want to be close by or necessity of your living situation, then you can still do that. A crib can be placed in the room, or even near the bed. It’s not just a good, or even fair or simple, way to teach your baby to sleep independently if they are sharing their immediate sleep space with you.

One final thought on this topic before I go. I’ve seen and heard many comments 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!” And, if you’re happy with the arrangement you’ve got, I’m not here to change your approach at all. It is important to me that every family does what works for them regarding sleep and parenting. Again, this non-judgmental approach toward sleep and families is how I distinguish myself.

But I would like to point out that I’ve seen families with kids in elementary school and older who are still sleeping in their parents’ beds – and not because parents want that. Don’t assume that your little one will decide one night to go sleep in his own room out of the blue. Sleep habits can die hard, especially with kids, so the day your child sleeps in their own bed, in their own room, is probably the day you tell them they have to.

The good news is that once your child has moved into their own bed and learned some independent sleep skills, they will typically sleep much better, more soundly, and for longer than they do in your bed. And so will you and your partner, which means the whole family will be rested and refreshed in the morning, which comes with a whole collection of mental and physical benefits.

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