How to Stop Co-Sleeping with Your Baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against co-sleeping with your baby because it increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths. Parents or other objects—like pillows or blankets—can fall onto a child during the night, leading to strangulation or suffocation.
Despite these facts, though, co-sleeping still happens across the country. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 60% of mothers bed-share with their baby in some capacity.
Are you a bed-sharing parent that wants to break the habit? Follow this advice on how to stop co-sleeping and transition to the crib.
When to Stop Co-Sleeping
The AAP advises against co-sleeping at any time, especially when the child is younger than four months old. The organization also recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents, in a crib or bassinet, for at least six months, but preferably a year. This so-called "room-sharing" (which differs from bed-sharing) has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS.
The transition from a family bed to a crib is bound to be tricky at any age. Keep in mind, though, that some amazing developmental changes are taking place between 9 and 12 months that help your baby become more independent and to communicate better with you. But until he's gotten used to his new "baby powers," he's likely to be more fussy and clingy—even at night, says Heather Wittenberg, Psy.D, a Parents advisor.
Some parents decide to wait out this stage to make the transition to a crib. Others feel it's time to reclaim the bed sooner rather than later. Both are legitimate decisions, and typically developing babies can handle either one.
Tips for Stopping Co-Sleeping
If you decide to stop co-sleeping and make the transition to a crib, here are some tips:
Talk to your baby about your plans. Read your child books about babies who sleep through the night. Talk about how happy and rested Mommy and Daddy feel when they sleep until morning in their own crib. Emphasize how daytime is for fun and play, and nighttime is for rest and sleep. Reinforce every little step they take with praise.
Pick your approach. Many approaches work, depending on your family's preferences and the baby's temperament. Some babies do better with a parent sitting next to the crib, providing reassurance. Others do better with a "cold turkey" strategy. Ask your pediatrician or a child development specialist for guidance in picking the best approach for your baby, if you're unsure.
Consistency is the key. Pick an approach that feels most comfortable for you and your family, and stick with it. The transition from family bed to crib often takes up to 3 weeks, advises Dr. Wittenberg. Your baby is likely to put up a big protest at first; this is normal, so stay firm and reassuring.
Plan for this to be a "big project." Make sure both parents are on the same page with plans for late-night awakenings. You'll both need support from each other when the baby awakens at 4 a.m. Remember that this is only one step in the process of encouraging your baby towards independence and self-reliance—important accomplishments for all of you!