Parenting Child Psychology and Behaviour

When And How to Stop Co-sleeping With The Child

Shikha Batra
1 to 3 years

Created by Shikha Batra
Updated on Mar 12, 2020

When And How to Stop Co sleeping With The Child
Reviewed by Expert panel

Co-sleeping is a practice where babies and young children sleep close to one or both parents and there is sensory proximity to one another. Some parents find co-sleeping as more convenient as opposed to sleeping in a separate room as it makes breastfeeding and resettling the baby easier. In many cultures co-sleeping is the norm. Babies continue to sleep in proximity with their parents until they stop breastfeeding, some sleep even after weaning while others continue until they are teenagers. In India, it is considered a norm to co-sleep with your baby from the moment he/she is brought into the world. It is not frowned upon and even encouraged to do so for as long as possible as it holds cultural significance besides economic influences.

The transition from moving the child from the parent's room to their own might bring a lump to one's throat. But it is essential as co-sleeping is a temporary arrangement and might not last forever. The transition is also important because it would ensure that the whole family is getting a good night's rest and sleep at bedtime. Besides, one needs to allow their child's space to grow and develop with time.

Before we move on to discuss ways of making a smooth transition from a parent's room to their own, let us understand more about co-sleeping.

What are different ways of co-sleeping?

The different ways of co-sleeping would include:

a) Bed-sharing: it is when either one or both parents share the same bed with their baby.

b) Room-sharing: it is when parents and the baby sleep in the same room but they do not share the same sleep surface. The baby could be made to sleep on a different bed, bassinet, portable crib, etc. 

What are some of the advantages of co-sleeping?

There are some advantages of co-sleeping with the baby. These might include:

  • Promotes breastfeeding as it makes nighttime feeding more convenient

  • Infants who have practised co-sleeping have stronger emotional relationships with their parents and with other people

  • Reduces the risk of SIDS-Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

  • Babies/infants sleep more peacefully as they feel secure and warm beside their parent/s

  • Improves the sleep time of the mother

  • Decreases nighttime separation anxiety and stops prolonged crying of the baby

  • Parents are able to keep a watch and monitor their baby well during an episode of illness

  • Reduces the risk of a child falling from the bed

  • Promotes parent-child bonding not only with mothers but with fathers too

  • Easier to resettle the baby if they wake up during the night

  • Helps children in developing confidence by offering a safer environment

What are some of the disadvantages of co-sleeping?

There are many disadvantages to co-sleeping with the child. These might include: 

  • It affects the relationship of the couple as it reduces their opportunities for intimacy with each other which could lead to problems in their marriage

  • Increased risk of SIDS especially with premature and low birth weight babies

  • Transition from co-sleeping to moving to their own room can be difficult

  • Risk of SIDS increases if either or both the parents drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs or medications that can cause drowsiness

  • Parents may face trouble sleeping with a kicking, squirming, and a crying baby

How long should the baby share a room with parents?

As recommended by AAP the babies should ideally co-sleep for the first six months to a year with their parents. This would not only reduce the risk of SIDS but would keep the anxieties of parents at bay regarding the safety of their child in a separate room.

Why is the transition from moving from parents' room to a child's own room important?

It is important for all parents to face this task of moving their child from their room to the child's own room as sooner or later they would need their own space. Not only would they need more space for their growing stash of toys, books etc. but also for development and for a good night's sleep.

How long it might take for the baby to go through the transition from co-sleeping to moving to their room?

Breaking the habit of co-sleeping could take some time. This could take a few nights to a few weeks and even longer in certain cases depending on how consistently routines are being implemented. The more gentle the process, the longer it is likely to take for the baby to adjust.

How to help your child go through the transition from co-sleeping to moving to his/her own room smoothly?

Here are a few tips to make your child's transition out of shared sleeping space to their own room as smooth as possible.

  • Talk to the child about getting a bed in their own room: This would gradually sink in the idea of transition and help them adjust to it at their own pace rather than it being abrupt, hurried upon and forced on to the child. It would also preserve the trust children have in their parents.

  • Initiate the process by introducing the child to their room first: this is done to familiarise the child to their room. Allow him/ her to spend a little time there playing with toys, listening to a story or even exploring their room, bed etc.

  • Timing is crucial for the smooth transition: if a child is suffering from any ailment or is teething, wait until he/she is fine.

  • Start off with day time naps in his /her own room. This would make the process a lot easier as once he/she has settled sleeping in his/her own bed during the day, sleeping at night would no longer be a hassle.

  • Ensure that the baby has a safe place to sleep: clearing off all the clutter from the baby's bed such as plushies, toys, blankets, clothes, bumpers etc. 

  • Allow him/her to carry along their favourite blanket, the bedding and the transitional objects that can help them in self-soothing.

  • The first few nights, the parent can sit in the child's room until he/she falls asleep. Once a child is used to that the parent can gradually move farther away say moving to the edge of the bed to standing next to the bed and until the final step of leaving the room altogether thereby allowing him/her to fall asleep independently.

Moving to a new phase once a child has acclimated to the current one would give them enough time to adjust to each change. The idea is to be consistent about each step and stick with it until the child is comfortable. Count each step as a success, if the child is not upset, not crying and is falling asleep within a normal time frame after three days in a row.

The transition of moving a co-sleeping baby into their own bed is a big change for the child and could be very upsetting for him/her. Though it could be frustratingly slow for the parents, patience is the key which is essential for a smooth transition. Do let us know how you get on with the move from your room to theirs!

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

1. The Impact of Chronic Co-Sleeping With an Older Child | Psychologytoday

2. Mother-child bed-sharing trajectories and psychiatric disorders at the age of 6 years | NCBI.NLM.NIH.Gov

3. Co-Sleeping among School-Aged Anxious and Non-Anxious Children: Associations with Sleep Variability and Timing | NCBI.NLM.NIH.Gov

4. 0823 Early Childhood Co-Sleeping is Associated with Preadolescent Behavioral Problems: A Cohort Study | (Oxford Academic & Sleep Research Society)

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