Sleep Choices: A Guide to Making Informed Decisions About Cosleeping

bedsharing cosleeping informed sleep decisions room sharing sleep choices
Cosleeping bedsharing and sleep training

Have you ever felt bombarded by conflicting advice in the parenting world, especially when it comes to sleep, you're not alone. The great cosleeping debate – from "NEVER cosleep" to "ALWAYS cosleep" – is one that stirs up plenty of opinions. As a sleep consultant and postpartum doula, I've had my fair share of conversations about cosleeping, and today, let's unravel this topic together.


What is Cosleeping?

Cosleeping is a broad term covering various sleeping arrangements where a child shares a sleep space with one or both parents. It's essential to differentiate between bedsharing and room sharing.

Bedsharing means the baby sleeps in the same space as the parent or parents – the classic cosleeping scenario. 

On the flip side, room sharing involves having the baby in their own sleep space, like a bassinet, pack n play,  or crib, within the same room as the parent or caregiver.

Making Sleep Decisions

Sleep is a personal decision and will vary from family to family.  As a postpartum doula, I meet with families before the arrival of the baby to allow parents to create  a plan for sleep during their postpartum planning session.   The Postpartum Planning Guide provides an opportunity for parents to have a  discussion before the  birth of their child that can help evaluate their  values, preferences, and priorities when it comes to feeding, sleeping, roles, expectations, household chores, and responsibilities to help  minimize stress, conflict and misunderstandings that can occur when sleep is more fragmented  during the early weeks with a newborn. 

 Postpartum Doula Tip:  Communication will help you have sleep coaching success!  Honest conversations about sleep preferences can lead to better outcomes and less stress and it’s never too late to have them! 


Deciding to Bedshare

For families intentionally choosing to cosleep or bedshare, safety is important. Following Safe Guidelines to Sleeping Safely with Infants  provided by James McKenna, can minimize potential risks.

When choosing to be intentional about cosleeping: 

  • Avoid soft bedding, sleep sacks,  and second hand smoke
  •  Keep the mattress firm and clean
  •  Ensure there are no gaps where the baby could get trapped.
  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep, as it reduces the risk of SIDS.


Deciding to Roomshare

Room sharing is generally considered a safer option compared to bedsharing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room sharing without bedsharing for the first six months to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

 Postpartum Doula Tip:  Create a safe sleep environment by placing the baby in a separate sleep space, like a crib or bassinet, within arm's reach for easy access during nighttime feedings.


Deciding on Solo Sleep: In Their Own Room

Some families find solace in having their child sleep in their own room, even before the AAP's six-month recommendation. Comfort and awareness of your child's patterns, along with the use of a video monitor, can offer peace of mind.

Sleep Coaching Tip: Informed decisions about your child's sleep space empower you as a parent.

 It’s important for families to have the information to make informed decisions about their child’s sleep space.   As a pediatric sleep consultant I’ve encountered so many families that feel guilt and shame about their sleep choices.  This also includes parents feeling like they have to lie or avoid conversations about sleep with their friends, family, and even providers which results in  reactive cosleeping.  

Reactive Cosleeping- My personal journey

I've been there – a reactive cosleeper. It wasn't planned; it just happened out of sheer exhaustion.

 I was  what is called a reactive cosleeper.   This means that I ended up cosleeping without meaning to cosleep because it was the only thing that worked for our family to even  get sleep.  Sleep was a struggle for our family, you can read more about it here.  This experience fueled my journey to becoming a sleep coach, determined to help families find sustainable sleep solutions.


Reactive or accidental cosleeping can put infants in danger.  Reflecting back on my journey as a new parent, I found that we did not plan for safe cosleeping which resulted in falling asleep on the couch, rocking chair, having a crawling infant almost crawl off the bed and dropping my youngest son off the bed while feeding.   These kinds of situations and stories  occur more often than we think and can create so much shame and guilt  for a parent.  I know that it did for me and made me feel judged.  While this did seem to get me some extra sleep, honestly it was never restful because I was on edge and anxious when I should have been sleeping. 


Sleep Coach Tip: Guilt and shame around sleep choices are common. You're not alone. Seek support and solutions without judgment.


Compassionate Support for Parents

I hope that you know that you are not alone.  There are ways to create sustainable sleep solutions for your family.  Some families want to follow the safe sleep guidelines but also feel stuck not knowing how to implement that with their child.  This is the exact reason why I created the Sleep Coaching Success- Course & Coaching Membership  so that families could learn how to lay a healthy sleep foundation and work towards sustainable and safe sleep practices, especially when you have a child that will not allow you to put them down, lay flat on the sleep surface and you feel like you are at your wits end.  

Understanding that every family is unique, it's essential to support parents in making the right choices for their situation. If you're considering cosleeping, weigh the benefits and potential risks, and communicate openly with your partner about your sleep preferences.

Sleep Coaching Tip: Communication is key! Discuss your sleep preferences with your partner to find a solution that works for both of you and promotes a safe sleep environment for your little one.


Transitioning Away from Cosleeping:

So, when is the right time to transition? It varies for every family, but here are some gentle strategies:

  • Gradual shift: Start by moving your baby's sleep space slightly away from your bed. Gradually increase the distance over time.
  • Bedtime routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes calming activities to signal that sleep time is approaching.
  • Patience and reassurance: Your little one might need time to adjust. Offer comfort and reassurance as they get used to sleeping independently.

Sleep Coaching Tip:  Transitions are a journey, not a race.  Be attuned to your baby's cues and provide the comfort they need during this adjustment period.  You can do this without leaving your child to cry it out.   If you’re not sure how, schedule a time here on my calendar. 



Remember, every family is different, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Listen to your instincts, communicate openly with your partner, and create a sleep environment that suits your family's needs. Here's to restful nights for everyone!