One thing I get asked a lot is whether or not you can sleep train while room sharing. YES! Absolutely. Let’s talk about a few things that might make it easier on everyone.
Any sleeping environment for your baby is really important. You will want to consider, temperature, light, white noise, and of course safety. The AAP recommends room sharing for the first 6 months of life, even better to 12 months. To each their own, though – some people room share because they want to/the AAP recommendation, some because of space considerations. Personally, I hated room sharing and kicked my kids out as soon as possible (for E that was night 2 home from the hospital and for V that was 3 months when she finally had her own room). I mention this to say that if you choose not to room share, that is A-Okay!!
Ok, but let’s move on to how to set up the perfect room for you and baby for when you are room sharing…
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You will want to put up the blackout curtains in your room. I know many parents kind of grimace at this because you are thinking “but what about the natural light I need?” Yes, I get it. And I have a secret option for you – keep reading. But overall, you want your room (both in day and night) to be a 10/10 on the darkness scale at times of sleep for your baby. Even if that means it is not optimal for you – remember, this is temporary (for some longer than others) depending on your room sharing goals/needs.
You will also want a white noise machine set not too loud and about 3-6 feet away from baby. Some adults find white noise soothing, some not so much. You can certainly try pink or brown noise as well. Make sure the sound is continuous with no interruptions.
Regarding the type of sleeping space, it doesn’t much matter. I will say though, I prefer babies to be in a full size crib if space allows because that is usually where the parents want baby to sleep eventually so we might as well use that. However, space is usually the biggest issue there and a bassinet (until 4 months), mini crib, or Pack and Play are just fine as long as they meet safety requirements on the correct height setting.
Next, get the crib or pack and play as far away from your bed as possible. This does two things, it creates a separate little space for your little one. And two, it creates a physical barrier which makes it harder for you to just grab baby and put them in your bed or sooth them in another way (popping in that pacifier, hand on chest…you know what I am talking about). And, of course, babies sense of smell is excellent and it will be harder for baby to sleep if they smell your proximity. If you physically have to get out of bed to attend to your child it takes a bit more effort and will make the process the slightest bit easier. I recognize that some families do not have a huge bedroom to begin with, for this I recommend either putting the crib on the opposite side of mom or even in the closet or bathroom (as long as safety measures have been met) – I’ve worked with families in each of these scenarios! Do what you need to do.
My biggest recommendation, however, for room sharing is a room divider or even a hung sheet. Not only are we creating baby’s own little space in the room, but we are operating under the “out of sight out of mind” idea too. This is HUGELY powerful for the work you are about to do. It doesn’t have to be fancy – tac/Command hook a sheet up to the ceiling, put up a shower curtain, etc. Or actually purchase or borrow an accordion style room divider. I’ve even had clients turn around their bed so the headboard is the divider. Don’t forget that this too is temporary. Keep reading for my secret option.
Now that you’ve gotten your room all set up, the method will be your second consideration. I choose methods based on the age of the baby as well as the family circumstances.
Regardless of what method you choose, you will need to
leave the room at bedtime (if you use the chair method, leave 10 minutes after they fall asleep). I would recommend gathering your PJs and perhaps setting up your tooth brush and face washing etc. things in a different bathroom (or even the kitchen) if you can so when it is time for you to go to bed, all you have to do is sneak into your bedroom and crawl in bed. Rest assured, however, if that is not an option, your baby will adjust to your bedtime prep and after sleep training they will better be able to go back to sleep and you will know how to support them as necessary.
You do not need to sleep somewhere else during sleep training – although some parents choose to do so and then move back in with the process is complete, but it is definitely not a requirement. There is some truth however in both babies and adults getting better sleep in their own space and certainly us adults get better sleep when our babies are not as close to us – babies are LOUD sleepers! And we can sometimes make loud noises that disrupt babies too.
While, yes, sleep training can certainly be done with baby in the room, it is wise to consider the age of your baby and your final sleep space goals. If you are considering moving your baby to their own sleeping space when they are 6 months old and they are currently 5 months old, I would suggest either moving them into their room earlier or delaying sleep training until you are ready to put them in their room. For babies older than 6 months, I generally like to start when you want to end up. So if you ultimately want your baby in a crib in their own room and your baby is older than 6 months, I do recommend making that switch if that is an option for you (obviously if space is the barrier there is nothing to be done).
The next question I get with this is how and when to transition to their room – whether you sleep train before or after the transition. If your baby is not yet transitioned to their new room, I recommend moving them into the room and start sleep training at the same time. The main reason for this is because its two birds with one stone and there is less transition and tears. It’s like ripping off a bandaid. You can absolutely do one and then the other, move to a new room and then sleep train later, but it will just take longer.
Conversely, for those babies who are sleep trained in their parent’s room and then are moved out, they generally transition really well into a new sleep space because they have the skills to put themselves back to sleep – just keep to your routine. This is also not to say there won’t be a transition time, but it will usually be easier.
Secret Option, Slumber Pod
Have you heard of the SlumberPod yet? This is a nifty little contraption. The original went over a pack and play, generally used for travel. However, they just came out with a new model, HomeBase, that fits full size crib. This is an EXCELLENT option for many families. Why? Because it automatically creates a black out environment for your baby, it is that physical barrier between the two of you (no need for a room divider), and it can contain some of the white noise sound (if white noise bothers you). Not to mention it has pockets for video cameras and fans for ventilation. If you are a parent who really likes to read in bed before sleep or is simply finding that your baby’s room sharing is crimping your style, I highly suggest getting a SlumberPod. And use my code SUSANSSLEEP$20 for a discount!! And if you are local to the DMV, I have one you can rent by the week to try it out! Contact me for details.
Yes, you can absolutely sleep train and room share!! But, like any parenting thing, you will want to be thoughtful and considerate to your roommate and prepare appropriately. There is usually not difference in how long it takes babies to be sleep trained when they are in the room vs out of the room (about 2 weeks), just make sure you are as consistent as possible and once you start you keep going! If you need support or have questions, please feel free to reach out!