How to Stop Co-Sleeping with Your Baby

Co-sleeping increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome in babies. Put a halt to the bedtime habit with these tips for how to stop co-sleeping.

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 objects—like pillows or blankets—can fall onto a child at 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 parents 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, preferably a year. This so-called "room-sharing" (which differs from bed-sharing) has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS by 50%.

The transition from a family bed to a crib is bound to be tricky at any age. Remember, though, that some amazing developmental changes are taking place between 9 and 12 months that help your baby become more independent and communicate better with you.

But until your baby has gotten used to their new "baby powers," they're 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.

Parents and baby relaxing together on bed
JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Tips for Stopping Co-Sleeping

Breaking any habit can be challenging, especially when you're a parent and probably already pretty exhausted. But remember, the work you put into creating a new, healthy habit will reap major benefits and rewards: your baby sleeping soundly in their own bed will mean more rest for everyone!

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 the whole family feels when the baby sleeps 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 the most comfortable approach 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 will likely put up a big protest at first; this is to be expected, so stay firm and reassuring.

If you find moments when it feels frustrating or impossible to break the co-sleeping habit, just remind yourself that change takes time for everyone, including your baby.

Plan for this to be a "big project"

Ensure 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!

The Bottom Line

If you started your baby's sleep routine by co-sleeping in a family bed, it could be a tough transition to sleeping in a crib; but it's not impossible. By choosing a plan that makes your family comfortable and consistently sticking to it, you can quickly break the co-sleeping habit. Talk to your child's doctor if you have questions or concerns.

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