Welcome to our Sleep Advice Column, in Partnership with Little Sleep Stars. Here, Lauren, Founder of Little Sleep Stars, helps our tired Mamas who have reached out for advice on the challenges that night time brings. If you, or someone else that you know, is struggling to get their little ones to sleep, please drop us a message, or leave your question in the comments below. Sleep deprivation is real, it impacts on both our mental and physical wellbeing. We are here to help get you back on the right track and on your way to a good nights sleep!
I have tried everything to get my 3 year old to sleep in his own bed. He always cries and shouts to come in with me. Sleep is rare now and I’m exhausted. How can I stop co-sleeping? Where do I start?
The first question I always ask a parent is, if their little one would sleep happily all night in their own bed, would the parent(s) still want to bed-share?
Co-sleeping is something I am asked about a lot! If the answer is yes that’s a positive parenting choice to co-sleep which is great! I’m not, in any way, anti-co-sleeping and it works amazingly well for lots of families. More often though, I speak to families who are co-sleeping out of desperation. This remains the case even though some/all of those in the bed aren’t sleeping particularly well.
The boundary on co-sleeping needs to be consistent
Whichever of the above scenarios a family is in. Either it is OK for a little one to sleep in their parent’s bed, and if so, it’s OK any/all of the time. Or it’s not on the cards at all. To have an inconsistent approach is confusing for a little one and typically leads to intermittent reinforcement. This is when we effectively say, “no, no, no, alright then”. So a child who asks to come in with the parents at bedtime is told no. Resettled in their own bed at 11pm, again at 1am, but by 3am a parent is so exhausted that they take the child in with them. In this scenario a little one generally won’t understand that it only happened eventually because it was a certain time. They just know it’s an outcome that can happen if they ask enough. This then maintains the cycle of multiple attempts culminating in co-sleeping.
To bring co-sleeping to an end gently, a family needs to understand the want or need the child is meeting by coming in with the parents.
For example, it may be a little one doesn’t quite have the skills or confidence they need to sleep independently. Or it may be a means of connecting with a parent. Once we understand what is driving the request to bed-share, we can ensure the want or need is met in a different way. All whilst being consistent around a new way of sleeping. Before we know it, everyone is sleeping soundly in their own beds!