Can I Bed Share and Sleep Train?

Parents often ask me the question, “Can I bed-share and sleep train?”. And my answer is always No. You can’t.

I know. I know. The idea of bed-sharing can be oh so tempting, especially in the middle of the night when your little one is refusing to sleep. I know how it feels to be desperately tired and ready to throw in the towel when it comes to putting your child in their own bed. But I encourage you to hang in there and keep your child in their own bed for sleep training! 

So why do I think that sleep training and bed sharing are mutually exclusive?

When I meet a new client who’s been bed sharing, they fall into one of two groups. 

  1. Parents looking to get their kids out of their bed
  2. Parents who want to keep their kids in their bed, but want them to sleep better

For those parents who are looking to move their little one out of their bed, I’ve got a variety of approaches which I personalize based on baby’s personality, temperament, and established sleep habits. 

For those in group two, I’ve only got one approach. I’m happy to help, so call me when you’re ready to move your little one to their own bed.

Bed-sharing can be Confusing 

It’s not because I’m a tyrant. In fact, the reason I don’t like to work with families who bed share is because I think it’s too confusing to the child.    

In a bed sharing situation, baby usually has access to a breast whenever they want it, and that’s almost always their sleep prop. They wake up in the night, after completing a sleep cycle, and they instinctively go for the breast. Not necessarily because they’re hungry, but because that’s the way they know to get to sleep.

Sleep Props Aren’t always bad 

Sleep props are not inherently bad. The key is to promote self-soothing and long-term sleep skills that do not involve direct contact with a parent. I think it’s safe to say that at the end of the day, most of us are striving to help our kids become independent sleepers. That’s why we don’t want to train children to become reliant on a sleep prop that involves mom or dad. 

These long-term sleep skills will follow your child into adulthood. Have you ever noticed that even adults have certain routines that help them drift off to sleep? It can be as a simple as a sip of water, tucking in your blanket a certain way, or flipping your pillow. All of those small practices are examples of independent sleep skills. So you can see why it’s so beneficial to your child to help them acquire these skills early on. 

Sleep Habits Die Hard 

One final thought on this topic before I sign off. I’ve seen a lot of people on Facebook and other social media channels, saying things 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!”

Again, if you’re happy with the arrangement you’ve got, I’m not here to change your approach. But I would like to point out that I’ve seen families with kids up to eight (!) years old who are still sleeping in their parents’ beds. Don’t assume that your little one will get finished brushing his teeth one night and say, “Actually, I think I’ll go sleep on my own tonight.” 

Sleep habits 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.

Independent Sleep Skills will Improve Sleep for the Entire Family 

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.

Looking for tips on how to transition your child to their own bed? If so, be sure to join my FREE Facebook Group Rest4Mommies here! In the group you'll have access to the live Q&A sessions that I host regularly. I look forward to answering your questions there!

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