15 Brutal & Beautiful Truths About Co Sleeping With A Toddler
Have you been co sleeping with your baby and now want to try continuing this habit as your baby grows into a toddler?
Or was your baby the type to sleep peacefully in his or her younger months, but all that has changed now that he or she has reached toddlerhood?
Do you feel that co sleeping may be the right way to help you and your toddler both get a better night’s sleep?
If any of these are true of you, co sleeping with a toddler may be in your future. Toddler co sleeping, however, is quite a lot different than it is when your baby is a newborn or even a younger infant, so it pays to understand what you’ll be getting yourself into before you ever get started.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to 15 of the most well-known truths about the process of co sleeping with your toddler. We’ll give you some suggestions to help make the process easier, but we’ll also let you know about some of the problems you may be likely to encounter when you go through this process with your little one, too.
When you want to co sleep with toddler aged kids, you may find that the health risks and safety concerns you associated with newborn and baby co sleeping have changed or, in some cases, disappeared altogether. That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t need to be concerned about your child’s safety at all. Because of this, we’ll also make sure you understand some of the bigger risks associated with toddler co sleeping.
By the time you get through reading this article, you should be well on your way to a better understanding of the process of co sleeping with a child older than one year old. We hope to answer many of your questions and give you a better framework of understanding about this process, too.
So let’s get started!
Co Sleeping Past Infancy
Co sleeping with 2 year old toddlers or any children who have passed infancy may seem more than a little strange to people who have never experienced it before. After all, you might not be able to imagine trying to sleep with a squirmy and active toddler in the same bed with you night after night! And in some instances, families have tried doing this on vacations or trips to visit family members, only to end up with a sleepless night for everybody involved. For these reasons as well as several others, co sleeping past infancy is not something that’s generally talked about, although it may be more common than you might think.
It may be helpful for you to remember that, in many countries around the world, co sleeping with 3 year old toddlers and other children older than 12 months of age is considered completely normal and acceptable. In fact, in many countries, children co sleep with parents either in the same bed or in the same room for most of their childhoods and only move to a separate space around the time of puberty.
You might be surprised by just how common this practice really is in the United States, too. Although there is some negative social stigma surrounding co sleeping with toddlers and older children, many families participate in this practice with no trouble. However, you might not hear about it much because these families fear their parenting methods are going to be judged too harshly if they talk about co sleeping habits.
Although many parents will frown on co sleeping and believe it’s bad for the child, unsafe, or just annoying, you may find that it’s the best option for you and your toddler. Many toddlers respond very well to co sleeping, and if you’re willing to put forth some extra effort and make the changes necessary to ensure safety, there are very few risks involved.
15 Toddler Co Sleeping Realities
Co sleeping with one year old toddlers and older isn’t always a fun experience, and sometimes it can be very challenging. However, that’s not to say it isn’t rewarding, and when you go at it with the right frame of mind, you should have a successful time from day one. Below, we’ve outlined 15 of the truths you need to understand about what it’s like to co sleep with your toddler. These are proven facts from parents who have been through the process before, so you never have to worry about whether or not you’re getting accurate information. Although they might not all be true for you and your baby, you can expect at least some of them to be.
1. You may not get much sleep.
Co sleeping may not be the greatest arrangement for your own sleeping habits. This is one of the most common complaints parents who are co sleeping with their toddlers have, and it makes sense. Sleeping in the same bed with a toddler can be difficult on a good night if your child is very squirmy, and if you have an active toddler who likes to play around during the night or in the early hours of the morning, your sleep schedule is bound to eventually suffer.
However, if this is going on with you and your family, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop co sleeping. There are some things you can do to improve the experience, but remember that the situation is going to be quite a lot different with a toddler than it is with a baby.
- You can try putting your toddler in his or her own separate bed in the same room. A co-sleeper for 1 year old babies and older may be a great solution to this problem, but it can also mean your toddler has too much freedom during the night. Very active toddlers may want to crawl out of their toddler beds and run around the room during the night, or they may dive into the bed with you when you least expect it.
- Communicating with your toddler and setting boundaries can work well for some children, but not for all of them. Sometimes, children are simply not going to take well to the idea of settling down and being quiet on anybody else’s schedule but their own, no matter how much you try to explain it.
- Make sure you reward good behavior. The first time your toddler stays quiet throughout the night, buy him or her a toy or treat your child to a favorite snack. Make sure your toddler knows that this is a reward for behaving well during the night and not for something else that might have happened since then. Lots of verbal praise goes a long way, too!
- Sometimes, you may not be able to get your toddler to settle down enough for you or your partner to get enough sleep. If this happens, it might be time to stop co sleeping. Don’t feel bad if this is how your co sleeping experience ends—some toddlers just aren’t cut out for it, and that’s okay!
2. Your spouse may be jealous or long for privacy.
This isn’t always the case at all, but sometimes spouses do feel that there’s a rift between the two of you when co sleeping is going on. Even if your partner isn’t necessarily jealous or feeling incredibly left out, you may find that intimacy and privacy is strained during the co sleeping process. And it’s true that you’re probably going to have to give up on spontaneous intimacy in your bed when you’ve got a toddler sleeping there with you. However, there are a lot of things you can do to get around this problem and remain a happy couple for a long time to come.
- You can try to plan out your intimacy a little more. Although it may lose a little bit of the spontaneity and fun it once had, your love life doesn’t have to go away completely if you’re willing to make plans and fit it into your schedule.
- You may want to ask someone else to watch your toddler for a little while. As your baby gets older, it becomes much easier to leave him or her with a sitter or a family member for a few hours so you and your partner can enjoy a date night together and a little relaxing and romantic time at home, too.
- Don’t forget about trying to be intimate in other parts of the home, too. Although raising a toddler may not leave a lot of time for it, some couples have had luck sneaking off to another room after their toddler goes to sleep and then returning without their toddler ever noticing.
- If you plan to try this, just remember that your baby may wake up and notice you aren’t there. This can lead to crying, fussiness, and even to your toddler wandering around the house looking for you—so be sure to bring a baby monitor along so you don’t have any unfortunate surprises during your private time!
3. Your toddler may kick you or push you off the bed.
Co sleeping with your toddler may have its downsides, and getting kicked and pushed are definitely a couple of them. Sleeping with a toddler in the bed with you can get frustrating, and this is just one of the many ways it can be unpleasant. Your toddler will want to have enough room to be comfortable, and some toddlers expect a lot more space for this than others. Don’t be surprised if you end up on the floor more than once during the experience.
Just remember to smile and get back in the bed if this happens. There’s no need to get angry or upset about it since your toddler is learning how to co sleep effectively. These will be precious memories later on in your child’s life!
4. Your toddler may surprise you some days when you wake up.
There’s no telling what you’ll wake up to when you’re co sleeping with a toddler. You may find that your baby has crawled or wiggled around and is sleeping at your feet or almost on top of your head, or you might be covered in stuffed toys your toddler has brought into your room instead. Some parents have even woken up to find that their toddler is no longer in the room at all, but is somewhere else in the house getting into mischief!
When you regularly co sleep with a toddler, it’s important to understand that things aren’t necessarily always going to go smoothly. If you have a toddler who likes to wander and you don’t wake up very easily during the night, you might want to think about putting in a doorknob that locks with a key from the inside of your bedroom. This may seem strange, but locking your door when you go to bed at night and hiding a key away from prying little hands can help keep your toddler from “escaping” into the rest of the house unsupervised.
5. You and your toddler will need to go to bed at the same time.
In almost every co sleeping experience, you and your toddler will probably need to go to bed at the same time. This also means that your partner will need to head to bed at the same time, too. Unfortunately, since toddlers tend to tire out a lot sooner than adults do on any given night, this may mean that the whole family is enjoying bedtimes as early as 7:30 or 8:00 pm for the sake of the co sleeping toddler. Some families do okay with this, but for others, it may negatively impact relationships both in and outside of the family, work life, and hobbies. Don’t be afraid to try different methods if you find that this isn’t working out for you and your partner.
- You can always try putting your toddler to bed first and explaining that you’ll be there soon. Some toddlers are happy to fall asleep first if they know one or both parents will be there later on in the night. If you do this, make sure to check in often for your toddler’s safety.
- With some toddlers, the opposite tactic works better. You may stay in the bed with your little one until he or she falls asleep and then sneak out quietly to stay up for a few more hours. Once again, make sure you’re checking in often to be certain your toddler is doing okay if you go this route.
6. Expect your toddler to demand to be in the bed with you for a long while.
Co sleeping is a comfortable experience for your toddler, and he or she is going to want to enjoy it for a long time to come. If you begin co sleeping with your toddler, don’t expect it to end anytime soon. Although it will eventually come to an end, it may be several months or even a few more years before your toddler is ready to go to a separate room. Remember that you may be in it for the long haul when you begin this sleeping arrangement!
7. You may need to move things around if you bring a new baby into the picture.
Some parents have success co sleeping with toddlers and babies together, but this generally isn’t recommended. Especially when your baby is still a newborn, there are a lot of safety concerns to keep in mind if you plan to co sleep in the same bed with your toddler and your baby both. It’s usually best to put the baby in a separate crib or cot attachment in the same room until he or she is a little bit bigger when there’s a toddler in the picture, too.
- Another great way to encourage safe co sleeping with the whole family from day one is to put two mattresses together on the floor. You can sleep with the baby on one side of these two mattresses while your partner sleeps with your toddler on the other side. This may be a complicated arrangement, but it’s very safe and tends to work best for this situation.
- You may also need to divide your co sleeping into two separate rooms. Let your partner take over with the toddler while you stay with your baby in a different room. This should only be a temporary solution, however, because your relationship with your partner is sure to become strained over time if this keeps up.
8. Your toddler will eventually need to transition to a separate room.
Although you may love the co sleeping experience and your toddler may be doing great with it, eventually, all good things must come to an end. You will not continue co sleeping with your toddler forever, although some parents have had a lot of success with co sleeping all the way up until their children reach puberty. Deciding when to stop co sleeping is a personal matter and you should consider your own needs as well as those of your baby and your partner in order to determine when the time is right to call it quits on this arrangement.
- When it’s time for your toddler to move to his or her own room, you’ll want to really play up the excitement of this experience. Let your toddler pick out some decorations or sheets for the new room and express joy and pride with your baby for being a “big kid.”
- It may take some time to get your toddler used to sleeping in a separate room, even as he or she gets older. Make sure you let your child know that he or she is always welcome to come into your room at night if there’s a need, such as a bad dream or a scary storm outside.
9. Your toddler might sleep better.
Even while you’re struggling to make it through every night with a wiggly toddler by your side, your child may be having a much better sleeping experience than he or she ever did before in a separate room—or even in a separate bed. Toddlers often feel isolated when they’re sent to sleep in their own rooms from a very early age, and this can lead to more dependence on you and your partner as your child ages, too. When you bring your toddler into the bed with you for a co sleeping experience, you may be surprised at just how well your baby sleeps through the night.
- You should still expect your toddler to wake up some during the night, but this should dwindle over time. Eventually, your child will be able to sleep through the night, and that’s a time to really celebrate—for everyone involved! Many times, co sleeping helps to facilitate better sleep throughout the night, and toddlers are more inclined to stay restful for longer when they’re sleeping in the bed with one or both parents.
- Your toddler will learn how to self-soothe and get back to sleep without having to wake you up for everything throughout the night when you practice co sleeping. Even if your toddler isn’t breastfeeding anymore, you may be used to your baby waking you up for nighttime feedings or for other types of attention when he or she is scared or lonely during the night.
- When your child can just reach out and touch you for comfort all night long, sleep will be much more restful overall and you may not be awakened over and over again by a nervous baby.
10. You and your toddler will continue to have a close bond for much longer.
Bonding with your toddler is an incredibly important experience, and it’s a lot different than bonding with a younger baby or infant may be. Many times, parents fear that they’re going to lose the closeness they had with their younger children as their babies age and grow into the toddler stage and beyond. If you’re concerned about this, don’t worry. You’re still just as important to your baby as you ever have been but in different ways. However, you can do a lot to facilitate bonding between the two of you as well as between your toddler and your spouse by co sleeping.
- As your toddler learns to comfort himself or herself throughout the night, you will be the prime role model for this action. Your toddler will also use your closeness to help feel safe and secure even if a bad dream happens or something startles your baby during the night. And you’ll be able to display this skill yourself as you gently check in on your baby while he or she is sleeping without having to wake up fully and bother your child in the process.
- While some other parents may be concerned that you’re raising a clingy baby by encouraging co sleeping past infancy, the truth is actually quite the opposite. Your toddler is going to be closer to you emotionally without feeling like he or she has to rely on you solely for support. While you’re still a very important support system for your child—and you will be throughout much of his or her life—your baby will learn to practice healthy coping skills by co sleeping with you and your partner.
- When your child is old enough to avoid suffocation risks when co sleeping, you may want to bring a favorite blanket or stuffed toy into the mix to help with those healthy coping skills, too.
11. Your toddler probably won’t be more spoiled or less developed in any way due to co sleeping.
Your little one’s development and social skills are as important to you as any other aspect of raising your child, and that’s great. But if you’re concerned about whether or not you’re spoiling your child by encouraging co sleeping or worried that your toddler isn’t going to develop on the same level with his or her peers because of this experience, don’t worry. There have been plenty of studies to show that co sleeping does not have any negative effects on the mental health and development of children who participate in this practice. Although many other parents may want to argue with you, especially on the point of spoiling your baby, rest assured that he or she will be on the same level as other children of the same age unless some other factor is going on.
- Parents worry that it’s spoiling a baby to allow co sleeping at all times because they believe it’s the same thing as coddling. They think that your baby will not learn healthy coping skills and will always rely on you to solve anything that might be going on in his or her life. However, this is pretty far from the actual truth, and you can educate these other parents by showing them the results of studies on this matter.
- Some parents also worry that children won’t develop as quickly because co sleeping is somehow stifling. Sleeping alongside one or both parents is a very healthy practice, however, and it actually encourages your child to grow naturally and at the proper rate.
- Your baby will be able to learn more social skills from being near you at all times, and if you or your partner are busy a lot during the day, your child may learn to develop a sense of quiet time and one-on-one moments with you both at the end of the day, too.
12. If you want to breastfeed later on in your child’s life, co sleeping can help make this possible.
The topic of breastfeeding beyond 12 months of age is heavily contested amongst many parents and even healthcare professionals. Some people believe that breastfeeding absolutely should stop by one year of age, while others think it’s okay to continue nursing children well into the toddler years. As with most aspects of raising your child, the right answer depends solely on whether or not the situation works well for the both of you. If you do choose to keep breastfeeding your child past the twelve-month mark, co sleeping can help make that experience much easier and more enjoyable for the both of you.
- Keeping your baby close to you during the night can help make it much easier for you to reach over and breastfeed your child anytime he or she wakes up hungry. Although you may want to cut back significantly on nighttime breastfeeding sessions as your baby gets older, this sleeping arrangement can still help make things go much more smoothly when you do want to nurse during the night.
- It can be very relaxing to go to sleep in the same bed with your toddler right after a bedtime nursing session. And since the bedtime breastfeeding session is usually the last one to be given up during the weaning experience, this may continue to be an important bonding time for you and your child for quite a while.
- If you’re still breastfeeding in the morning, your routine can be made much easier by being able to nurse your baby without ever even getting out of bed. You may enjoy some quiet time with your toddler and your partner both while you’re taking care of a morning nursing session together.
13. Your toddler isn’t going to be any less independent as he or she grows due to co sleeping.
Studies have shown that independence—both observed by outsiders and perceived by older children themselves—isn’t affected in any way by co sleeping. Similar to the concern some parents and health care providers have with spoiling children who co sleep past infancy, some people are worried that they’re going to cause their toddlers to be less independent by encouraging co sleeping habits, too. However, this just isn’t true, and as a matter of fact, many toddlers are actually more independent when they’re raised in a healthy sleeping environment.
- Even if your baby’s independence doesn’t really change for the better when co sleeping, it probably won’t change for the worse, either. Your child is likely to be just as independent as he or she would have been without co sleeping being factored into the situation.
- You may not notice changes in your toddler’s independence level at first, but as he or she gets older and goes to preschool or on play dates with other children around the same age, you’ll be able to tell which children are more reliant on their parents and which ones are able to take care of themselves to some degree.
- Although your toddler will still need you to do a lot for him or her at this point in life, that isn’t really what independence is all about. It’s more about being able to self-soothe if something goes wrong or calm down without your assistance if he or she gets upset. These are very crucial skills in your baby’s mental and emotional health and development, and encouraging them will make a big difference as your child gets older.
- When you have an older child who has fostered good independence as a toddler, he or she will be more likely to want to join groups and clubs and may even take the initiative to talk to you about these interests without you having to bring them up first.
14. Your toddler may stop sucking his or her thumb or a pacifier much sooner.
This isn’t always the case, but a lot of times, when your toddler is allowed to co sleep in the same bed with you or even in the same room, he or she will give up the thumb-sucking or pacifier habit much more quickly than a baby who is put in a separate room might. This all goes back to self-soothing once again, as well as those healthy coping mechanisms we keep talking about. Thumb sucking and using a pacifier are both ways that babies soothe themselves, and for a short time there’s not really anything wrong with either one. However, as your child ages, it’s important to introduce other, better ways of cheering up when he or she feels sad, scared, or lonely.
- It can be tough to wean your baby away from using a pacifier and even harder to stop the thumb sucking habit. However, with a little patience, you can break one or both of these in your child with no lasting consequences.
- Thumb sucking and using a pacifier are both bad for your baby’s teeth. Because of this, in an indirect way, co sleeping may even improve your baby’s oral health as he or she gives up on these habits earlier in life.
- If you notice that co sleeping isn’t helping to improve your toddler’s thumb sucking or pacifier usage, you may want to talk to your child’s pediatrician about other suggestions for breaking these habits. It’s important that you don’t allow this to continue too long into your child’s life, not just for his or her oral health, but also because peer pressure will eventually kick in about both of these habits, too.
- As a side note, when peer pressure becomes an issue in terms of co sleeping, it’s probably time to stop. You don’t want to do anything that may embarrass your child or lead to feelings of discomfort.
15. Your toddler may have more confidence, self-esteem, and a better mood when co sleeping.
We’ve already touched on independence in toddlers who co-sleep, but self-esteem, overall mood, and confidence are also affected in positive ways when co sleeping is encouraged, too. You may notice your toddler being a lot bolder and more outgoing when he or she is enjoying regular co sleeping with you and your partner. This is because of the stronger family bonds that are encouraged through this practice, and it may also have something to do with getting a good night’s sleep and feeling secure, too!
So, you’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to try co sleeping with 1 year old toddlers and older, right? You’ve found out some truths, some of which might be a little harsh, and you should have a better idea of what to expect from your co sleeping experience. With all that said, however, remember that every baby is an individual and your family’s experience with toddler co sleeping might not be at all like someone else’s. If you think co sleeping is a good fit for you and your toddler, giving it a try is the best way to determine if it’s really going to work out for you or not.
But with all those harsh realities to think about, why would anyone want to try co sleeping, anyway? Wouldn’t it just be better to go from co sleeping to toddler bed when your baby reaches about a year old? Some families may decide that the risks and issues associated with toddler co sleeping far outweigh any benefits, and if this is what you and your family decide, that’s okay. There’s no shame in deciding it’s time to stop co sleeping or that it’s not right for your situation to begin with.
However, if you choose to pursue co sleeping with your toddler, that’s great, too! You and your little one are sure to enjoy many happy nights together that will be very rewarding no matter how much trouble you feel like you’re going through. In the end, the decision is up to you, your partner, and your toddler, so make sure everyone is in agreement with whatever the final decision is.
As always, talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have any further concerns about changing your baby’s lifestyle or sleeping habits. And no matter what you choose to do, have fun and enjoy your baby’s toddler years! They’re an exciting time that’s full of plenty of new experiences for you both, whether you choose to try co sleeping or not.