Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not about discussing the pros and cons of co-sleeping or to give the myriad forms of evidence that:
(a) A lot more parents co-sleep than admit to it (depending on their societal norms).
(b) Co-sleeping can have lots of health and safety benefits for both parent and child.
This article is to provide practical tips for parents who wish to co-sleep or are already co-sleeping and would like further support for their decision.
1. Just try it: Until you have done it, you don’t know how you or your child will sleep. You might be surprised by the outcome.
2. Do not co-sleep if you are under the influence of alcohol or any sleep-inducing medication.
3. Remember that parenting is a 24 hour job: Co-sleeping is a great way to connect with your children at night.
4. Naptime co-sleeping: Get children who are difficult to sleep to do so in a sling or backpack style carrier as you go about your daily chores. Remember co-sleeping doesn’t always mean that you have to be asleep too.
5. Co-sleeping and breastfeeding go hand in hand: Children develop confidence to sleep on their own by not associating sleep with the distress of being separated from their primary caregiver. Breastfeeding children to sleep, does not mean that they will later have problems falling asleep on their own. It also means that you can get children to fall asleep anywhere which is useful for traveling and a lifelong skill.
6. Co-sleeping is time efficient: It actually takes less time to get your children comfortably asleep beside you than it does to leave them before they are ready, come back every time they cry and repeat the cycle again.
7. Co-sleeping takes into consideration natural night waking: Up until children are toddlers (for some children until the ages of 4-5) it is normal for them to wake at least once at night. It is easier to soothe and get them to return to sleep without distress for either party if they are in the family bed.
8. Use bolsters and pillows not for your child’s head but to ensure that he or she does not fall out of the bed. Alternatively just place the mattress directly on the floor.
9. Co-sleeping speeds up nighttime dryness: If you are co-sleeping it is much easier to tell when your child is waking to go to the toilet thus preventing accidents and re-enforcing potty training with minimal effort.
10. Transition slowly: Enjoy the time you co-sleep as children will be ready to “graduate” to their own bed much sooner than you think. You can have a cot-bed or mattress in the family sleeping room that you transition your children to when you feel they are ready, before the switch to their own sleeping room. It is much less arduous to transition children who are already sleeping through the night so you don’t have to keep waking up to go and check up on them.
Remember that it is totally normal in many societies around the world for families to share a sleeping room. It is still possible to create private spaces for your children with a bit of imagination. Your child’s play room doesn’t have to be his or her sleeping room for example.