Can I sleep train if I co-sleep?

co-sleeping and sleep training

Although I have never personally been a co-sleeper (I’m trying to convince my husband I should have my own bedroom) but I do (in theory) understand the appeal. The absolutely primal and uncontrollable impulse to stay close to your baby is so deeply rooted in our DNA that it’s almost frightening sometimes. I’m sure evolutionary defensive instincts are what’s at play in this phenomenon, but it feels more like love to me. “I just love this little human and I want to snuggle them all night” And hey, the baby doesn’t seem to mind, and there’s just something so beautiful, so maternal, about sleeping next to your baby. I have plenty of friends who co-sleep and who swear by it. Some of them even have more than one kid sleeping in bed with them. Power to them. If you are one of those people and you’re doing it safely, I say do what is best for your family.

But I’ve spoken to more than a few parents who are co-sleeping but are still being woken up by their baby numerous times a night and want to know if sleep training will get their little ones to stop squirming or waking up fifteen times a night to nurse.

I really wish I had a more satisfying answer for those parents and I understand wanting those two best-case-scenarios to go together. It could really be magical to have your baby sleep next to you and also not wake you up. That I could get on board with. Unfortunately, I can’t promise much of a change with sleep training if co-sleeping is the way you want to continue.


For one, toddlers are often very animated sleepers. It’s just a fact. They twist and turn and readjust themselves a thousand times a night and will often end up completely on the other side of a queen-sized bed with their feet towards the headboard. Two, you are your baby’s favorite person. When they wake up in the night and see you lying next to them, they want to party. After all, spending time with you may be more motivating than going back to sleep.

So why can’t sleep training alleviate this? Sleep training is all about teaching your baby the skills to fall back to sleep on their own when they wake up in the night. That’s a slight simplification, but at it's basics, that's the main point. We’re not doing anything that will get your baby to fall into stage 3 sleep and stay there for a solid 11 hours, that wouldn't be natural. So while it’s possible that you could see some success in your child’s sleep habits by teaching them independent sleep skills, you’re not likely to see the same kind of results you will if you get them sleeping in their own bed, in their own room, without any distractions.

If you are reading this and thinking, “actually no, I don’t really love co-sleeping, I just do it because it’s the only way I can get any sleep”... then I can help you. Or maybe co-sleeping has worked for you in the past but one or both parents are no longer enjoying it, but you haven’t the slightest idea how to change the situation, reach out. I have worked with many families in making the transition from co-sleeping to independent sleeping with amazing success. I know I can help you reclaim your bed.

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