Thinking about how to break co-sleeping habits can be really emotional. From the desire for closeness to the necessity of independent sleep, finding the right balance can feel like an overwhelming challenge. As an experienced pediatric sleep coach, I’m going to walk you through how to break co-sleeping in a gentle way so that you can establish healthy sleep habits for your child.

Drawing from years of experience, I’m going to help you navigate into the reasons why parents choose to co-sleep, the risks associated with continued co-sleeping, and the pivotal moment of deciding when and how to make the transition.

 

We’ll explore strategies for breaking the co-sleeping habit with newborns, infants, breastfeeding babies, and toddlers, recognizing that each stage presents its own challenges and opportunities.

By the end of this blog, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the complexities of co-sleeping and will finally have some of the tools needed to embark on this transformative journey.

Whether you’re just beginning to contemplate the transition or seeking practical advice to implement change, know that you’re not alone. I’m here to help you navigate this path toward restful nights and rejuvenated days for your family.

Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. 

Why Do Parents Co-Sleep? 

In addressing how to break the co-sleeping habit, it’s crucial to understand the reasons why parents co-sleep. Parents often co-sleep for bonding, convenience, and cultural reasons.

Co-sleeping fosters a sense of closeness and security between us as parents and our child. When your baby was born, you were probably taught to do skin to skin with them for some time. And that was a wonderful thing. But you may have found that your baby drifted off to sleep on your chest. And that may have started the co-sleeping habit.

A lot of parents I talk to initiate co-sleeping unintentionally. It’s often due to exhaustion and the desire for quicker soothing during bedtime or nighttime awakenings. It becomes a habitual sleep arrangement. And it’s reinforced by the perceived benefits of attachment and comfort.

Co-sleeping can facilitate nighttime nursing for breastfeeding mothers. It offers quick access to comforting and soothing for both us as moms and your baby.

Additionally, cultural norms also heavily influence the decision to co-sleep. In some cultures, sharing a bed with children is the standard practice, deeply ingrained in familial traditions.

I recently worked with a mom named Priya, whose family was deeply rooted in the tradition of co-sleeping for generations. Priya told me how her own parents co-slept with her as a child, following their cultural norms. Initially, they were hesitant when Priya expressed her desire not to co-sleep with her baby. However, as Priya’s baby continued to wake up throughout the night, leaving her exhausted, she realized the need for change. With my guidance, Priya explained to her parents the importance of establishing independent sleep habits. Together, we implemented strategies to help Priya’s baby sleep through the night in her own crib, bringing relief to the entire family.

Why Co-Sleeping Is Not Recommended

When looking at how to break co-sleeping, it’s important to look at why co-sleeping is not recommended. The main reason why co-sleeping is not recommended is primarily due to safety concerns. Infants are at risk of suffocation when sleeping with adults due to bedding and pillows.

Another significant hazard is rolling over onto your baby, which can result in accidental suffocation. In fact, studies have linked co-sleeping with an increased risk of SIDS. Prioritizing infant safety is the primary reason why co-sleeping is not recommended by The AAP.

But beyond safety, another reason why co-sleeping is not recommended is that it can hinder a child’s independence. Children who co-sleep struggle to develop the ability to sleep alone, impeding their autonomy. 

Is swaddling a newborn necessary

 

This dependence on co-sleeping can persist into later childhood, affecting their sleep habits long-term. Independence in sleep is crucial for a child’s emotional and psychological development, making the transition away from co-sleeping essential.

Moreover, the third reason why co-sleeping is not recommended is that it can disrupt your own sleep patterns and quality. The presence of a baby child in your bed may lead to frequent awakenings and disturbed sleep for you as parents. This disrupted sleep can contribute to feelings of exhaustion and affect your overall well-being. Over time, sleep deprivation can have detrimental effects on your own health and functioning, underscoring the importance of establishing independent sleep routines for both your child and you as the parent.

Lastly, a huge reason why co-sleeping is not recommended is that it can strain intimate relationships between you and your partner. The presence of your child in the bed may interfere with intimacy and disrupt your connection. This strain on the relationship can lead to increased tension and conflict. And that can affect overall family dynamics.

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When Should You Stop Co-Sleeping?

Determining when should you stop co-sleeping is a personal decision influenced by various factors. Consider any safety concerns associated with continued co-sleeping. Evaluate your family’s sleep dynamics and routines and reflect on your own sleep quality and well-being. Also consider the impact of co-sleeping on your intimacy with your partner. And really think about your long-term goals for your child’s sleep habits.

As a parent, here’s some questions that you can ask yourself to see when they time is right:

«  ASK YOURSELF  »

» Are you confident in creating a safe sleep environment for your child?

» Is your child able to self-soothe and sleep through the night independently?

» Is co-sleeping still serving everyone’s needs?

» Are you feeling rested and refreshed in the morning?

» Are you finding it challenging to maintain intimacy as a result of co-sleeping?

» Do you want your child to develop independence in their sleep habits?

Your answers may be pointing you towards breaking the co-sleeping habit but you may not be sure if your child is at the right age to do it. When is the best age to stop co-sleeping?

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Best Age to Stop Co-Sleeping

Determining the best age to stop co-sleeping depends on various factors. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Many experts suggest transitioning away from co-sleeping by the time your child reaches toddlerhood at the latest. Toddlers will really benefit from having their own sleep space. And as they continue to get bigger, the space in your bed is going to get smaller and smaller.

But I really recommend prioritizing safety and well-being when considering the best age to stop co-sleeping. And that usually means as soon as possible.

Ultimately, when should you stop co-sleeping depends on your family’s unique circumstances and needs. It’s essential to approach the transition with sensitivity and patience. Don’t’ worry, I’m going to walk you through how to break the co-sleeping habit.

How to Break Co-Sleeping Habit

When addressing how to break co-sleeping, consider your child’s age and stage of development. Different strategies are needed for newborns, infants, breastfeeding babies, and toddlers. Each stage presents its own challenges and opportunities for transition.

However, the first step that you can do regardless of their age is start by creating a consistent bedtime routine. Create a fun and enjoyable bedtime routine that lasts between 20 – 30 minutes.

Some things I love to do in a bedtime routine are a bath, massage, books and a feeding if your baby is under a year old. Consistency is key in reinforcing new sleep habits.

Then what you do from there will depend on their age. Next, I’m going to walk you through how to break co-sleeping habits for newborns, infants and toddlers.

How to Stop Co-Sleeping with a Newborn

When it comes to how to stop co-sleeping with a newborn, safety is paramount. Newborns are too young to self-soothe. In other words, your newborn will require significant help in breaking the co-sleeping habit. It’s crucial to establish a safe sleep environment for your newborn from the start.

To break the co-sleeping habit with a newborn, focus on creating a soothing bedtime routine. Establish a consistent bedtime schedule to signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep. Start winding down with calming activities like gentle rocking or singing.

Your newborn may need extra comfort as they transition to sleeping in their own space. Use techniques like patting, shushing, and gentle rocking to soothe them when they’re crying. Offer reassurance and warmth to help them feel secure in their bassinet.

Practice safe sleep practices by placing your newborn on their back to sleep in a crib or bassinet. Avoid using soft bedding, pillows, or stuffed animals in the sleep area. Ensure the sleep space is free from hazards and meets safety guidelines.

While it may take time for your newborn to adjust to sleeping alone, be patient and consistent in your efforts. Your job as parents is to provide comfort and support as your baby learns how to fall asleep from a drowsy but awake state in their crib. With patience, persistence, and a safe sleep environment, you can successfully stop co-sleeping with a newborn.

 

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How to Break Co-Sleeping with Infants

When it comes to how to break co-sleeping with infants, you’ll start off with bedtime. Use your new bedtime routine to help to set the stage for sleep. This will help your baby’s mind and body begin to prepare for going to sleep soon.

The big difference between newborns and Infants over three months old, is that infants have the ability to learn how to self-soothe. This makes it possible to teach them to fall asleep independently in their crib. While newborns learn to consolidate sleep by being placed in their crib drowsy but awake, infants do not. They are much more aware of their surroundings. Infants will learn how to sleep longer stretches in their crib when they’re placed in their crib fully awake and aware of where they are.

As a result, your baby may not be very happy about their change. And it’s important to recognize that infants may still need some help in this process. If your baby cries when placed in their crib, you can use gentle sleep training methods to provide comfort and support as they learn to sleep well.

Try Gentle Sleep Training

One gentle sleep training option is the Interval Check-In Method, where you gradually increase the time between comforting checks. Another gentle option is the Medina Method, which involves staying in the room with your baby while they learn to self-soothe. I talk about these gentle sleep training methods in detail in my course Live Love Sleep Academy. They allow you to provide comfort to your baby while teaching them to sleep independently.

If you want to use a full cry it out method, you certainly can if that works for you. But you may find leaving your baby to cry alone for extended periods can be distressing for both you and your baby. Instead, I recommend focusing on comforting techniques like using your voice or gentle touch to soothe your baby when they’re in their crib. With patience, consistency, and gentle support, you can successfully break the co-sleeping habit with your infant and promote healthy sleep habits for the whole family.

How to Stop Co-Sleeping While Breastfeeding

You can absolutely teach your child how to sleep in their own crib if you’re breastfeeding. I’ve done it myself with both of my children and have worked with thousands of families who have too. Breaking the co-sleeping habit while breastfeeding starts with establishing a consistent bedtime routine. If your baby is under a year old, you’ll still want to nurse them in their bedtime routine. 

When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, assess if they need a feed. If they do, set a predetermined time for feeding to avoid prolonged night wakings. If they don’t need a feed, use gentle sleep training techniques to help them fall back asleep independently.

To encourage independent sleep, avoid feeding your baby in bed during nighttime wakings.

Is swaddling a newborn necessary

 

Instead, use a rocking chair or recliner for feedings. This helps prevent your baby from associating feeding with being in bed, making it easier to transition them to their crib. Once they’re done nursing, you’ll place them back into their crib to finish their night sleep. 

Weaning Off Co-Sleeping with Toddlers

Weaning off co-sleeping with a toddler involves more than just transitioning to a big bed. It requires a strategic approach to establish independent sleep habits. One crucial aspect is setting clear rules and boundaries. Toddlers thrive on consistency and structure, so outlining expectations around staying in their own bed all night long is essential to teaching them to sleep on their own.

Implementing specific rules can help reinforce the transition. For example, you can establish guidelines such as laying down quietly, staying quiet until morning, and only getting out of bed when a designated wake-up time is reached. These rules provide toddlers with clear expectations and boundaries. As a result, they will understand what is expected of them during the night.

To support the transition, you can invest in tools like color-changing clocks, such as the Hatch, which signal to toddlers when it’s acceptable to get out of bed. These visual cues provide a tangible indication of when it’s time to start the day, helping toddlers grasp the concept of staying in bed until an appropriate hour.

Moving your toddler to their own bed will require your patience and support. Transitioning away from co-sleeping can be challenging for both toddlers and parents. And it’s natural to encounter some resistance along the way. So you may want to start off in their room and slowly transition out over the course of a few nights. Offering reassurance and praise for small victories can help toddlers feel confident and secure as they adjust to sleeping alone.

By approaching the transition with patience, consistency, and supportive guidance, you can successfully break the co-sleeping habit with your toddler and establish healthy sleep habits for the whole family.

End Co-Sleeping Once And For All

Navigating the delicate journey of ending co-sleeping can feel overwhelming for any parent, whether you’ve got a brand-new baby or an energetic toddler. I vividly recall my own experience as a new parent, torn between the desire for closeness and the need for independent sleep for both myself and my daughter. It’s a journey fraught with emotion and uncertainty, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to navigate it alone.

Having worked with countless families over the years, I’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges and triumphs that come with ending co-sleeping. From sleepless nights to heartwarming success stories, each family’s journey is unique and deserving of understanding and support. 

 Through gentle sleep training techniques and personalized guidance, I work with families to transition their little one to sleeping independently in their own crib or bed, bringing peace and harmony back to your nights.

If you find yourself at a crossroads, yearning to break free from the cycle of co-sleeping and establish healthy sleep habits for your child, know that help is available. Take the first step by scheduling a free discovery call with me. Together, we can explore your child’s specific sleep struggles and determine if my program is the right fit for your family. Let’s embark on this journey together and pave the way for restful nights and rejuvenated days for both you and your child.

«  About the Author  »

I’m Kaley Medina, the proud founder of Live Love Sleep®. I live in Texas with my husband and high school sweetheart, Zeke, along with our two wonderful children, Evalyn and Leo, and our furry companion, Louie.
My journey into the world of sleep consultancy began with the sleep struggles of my own daughter, Evalyn. From her early days, she proved to be a challenging sleeper, staying awake for waaaaaay too long and causing many sleepless nights. I tried everything I could think of, from feeding her to sleep to bouncing on a yoga ball until my legs ached to the delicate process of transitioning her to her crib without waking her. I even resorted to late-night vacuuming while wearing her in a baby carrier….needless to say, none of it work.

The constant sleep deprivation left me frazzled and unable to enjoy precious moments with my family. Desperate for a solution, I ventured into the world of sleep training when Evalyn turned six months. To my surprise,

gentler methods yielded incredible results, transforming our lives. Fueled by this success, I became a Certified Sleep Consultant and founded Live Love Sleep®. As your Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I understand that a child’s sleep is influenced by various factors, including diet, sleep environment, routines, schedules, developmental milestones, and so much more.

I craft personalized sleep plans that consider the bigger picture to solve your child’s sleep challenges comprehensively. What sets my services apart is the ongoing support I provide, ensuring your family reaches its sleep goals within weeks.

A former client described the experience as “utterly LIFE CHANGING.” I’m committed to helping parents like you and your child get the rest you need and deserve. Let’s work together to achieve better sleep and a happier, healthier family life.

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Kaley has been featured on numerous podcasts, on NBC, CBS, Yahoo!, Forbes, Texas Today, MindBodyGreen, WonderBaby.org, Work & Mother, Homes and Gardens, TinyBeans, and more!