Parents Beware: The Negative Effects Of Co Sleeping

  • Learn 10 negative effects co-sleeping may have on your kids
  • Find out how co-sleeping affects babies, toddlers and big kids
  • Discover the benefits as well: 3 positive aspects of co-sleeping

Can co sleeping have any NEGATIVE EFFECTS on your baby?

Have you been co sleeping with your little one for a while without an end in sight? Is it harmful in any way?

Do you find yourself wondering if there are any reasons you should be concerned about this practice, especially as your child ages?

If you want to learn about the potential downsides to co sleeping with your child, then you're definitely in the RIGHT PLACE. Read on...

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you’re planning to try co sleeping, and the negative effects of co sleeping are some of the most important factors to consider. While you may have heard of a lot of possible bad outcomes from co sleeping, some of these are more myth than fact. This is why it’s crucial to learn as much as you can about the truth behind co sleeping—both the good and the bad—before you get started.

There have been plenty of studies on co sleeping that have helped researchers, medical professionals and parents around the world come to have a better understanding of the whole experience. This means knowing what works when co sleeping as well as what doesn’t. In this article, we’ll try to narrow down the most important potential problems you should be on the lookout for when it comes to co sleeping with your child.

By the time you’ve finished reading, you should be better able to decide whether or not this process is right for you and your family. So let’s get started!

10 Negative Effects of Co Sleeping

Is co sleeping bad for kids? Especially if there are so many positive aspects of it? You may feel as though these benefits are well worth any negative outcomes you might have to deal with, but it’s still a great idea to have a solid understanding of what to expect if things should go a little sour with your child’s co sleeping experience. Check out the sections below, divided into stages of your child’s life, and take this time to familiarize yourself with problems you may need to be on the lookout for.

On Babies

For our purposes, we’re considering “babies” to be children from birth to one year. This is the time frame in which most families begin co sleeping, and many continue into future stages of the child’s life as well.

1. When your baby is still very young, safety is the number one concern, and there are many health risks involved with incorrect co sleeping with an infant.

 Most healthcare professionals don’t recommend co sleeping in the same family bed with newborns or any children who are younger than about four months of age. However, a lot of families still do this with no problems, but it may severely increase your worry and stress if you’re constantly fretting about whether or not your child’s sleeping arrangements are safe ones.

  • You can cut back on this problem by waiting until your child is at least four months old before you start co sleeping in a shared bed situation. This will allow your baby to be a little bit bigger and, therefore, a little bit less likely to suffer from suffocation or choking hazards that may arise during the night.

  • The best solution, however, is to co sleep in separate beds in the same room with your child for the first part of his or her life. You can achieve this in one of several ways. You may choose to place your baby’s cot or crib right next to your bed so that you only have to sit up to reach it during the night. You might also choose to use a sidecar crib attachment or place a bassinet so that it hangs over your side of the bed. Finally, there are co sleep bassinets made specifically for newborn babies that you may choose to use as well.

2. Noisy or active babies may make it next to impossible for you to get enough sleep at night, especially as your child gets a little bit older and bigger. 

You may feel as though your newborn or younger infant is sleeping soundly enough and not really becoming a problem that keeps you up during the night, but as your baby reaches six months and older, your child may become very vocal throughout the night. Even if your baby is sound asleep, he or she may start making lots of noise while sleeping! If your child was in a separate room, this noise would be background sound on the baby monitor and not something that might wake you and your partner up often.

  • If you’re sharing the same bed with your baby instead of using a bassinet or sidecar sleeper, you may also encounter thrashing, kicking, shoving, pushing, and flailing from your child, especially as he or she gets a little bit older. Babies tend to get active throughout the night, and when your child begins crawling you may notice your baby flipping and rolling over a lot while sleeping, too. This can be disturbing to your night of sleep.

  • As your child starts to move around more during the night, this may also pose safety risks that are unique to this stage of your child’s infancy. For example, if your child is crawling arou​nd the bed during the night, he or she might get tangled in a blanket or end up under a pillow. This is uncommon if you’re practicing safe co sleeping, but it is still a possibility you should keep in mind.

3. It may be more challenging to get your baby to take a nap during the day unless you take a nap, too. 

Some babies take well to the idea of napping alone as long as it means they have someone close by when bedtime rolls around at night. However, some other children get so used to having someone next to them when they sleep at night that they become anxious or stressed when they have to lie down for a nap during the day by themselves.

  • There are a few different ways you can solve this problem if you find it arising for you and your little one. For example, if you try co sleeping in separate beds in the same room, you may be able to lie down in your bed while your child falls asleep in a bassinet or co sleeping attachment, then get up and continue your daily routine while your baby naps.

  • You may also be able to purchase a portable co sleeping bassinet. This is a sleeper on a stand that can be moved around the house with you throughout the day and then placed so that the bassinet itself hangs over your side of the bed during the night. With this, you can keep your baby close by during nap time throughout the day as well as bedtime.

  • Some parents go for the “cry it out” method when it comes to day naps. If you’re patient and know you won’t lose your temper with your child (or with anyone else in the house) while going through this process, this may work for you.

On Toddlers

Toddlers are usually one or two-year-old children, but we’re also including three and four in this stage as well. In terms of co sleeping, the second stage of your child’s life includes the time after infancy and before kindergarten.

4. Your child’s individual personality, likes and dislikes may take a back seat when there is less freedom for your little one to express himself or herself—such as through having a separate room. 

This is a little bit of a nebulous idea that some co sleeping advocates don’t believe at all while others feel as though it’s true of their children. There haven’t been any significant studies to prove this one way or another, but some parents have noticed that their children are more reserved in terms of their personalities, preferences, and creativity when they don’t have their own room by the toddler stage.

  • Allowing your toddler to help pick out some things about his or her own bedroom can be a fun way to let your little one explore self-expression. You may not want to let a two-year-old have complete control over all the decorations in the room, but giving your child a few choices between bedspreads, area rugs or fun kid-friendly room décor can be an exciting experience for everyone involved.

  • You may be surprised to see what your little one comes up with if you allow for a little self-expression and identity exploration at the toddler stage. You may discover a color or an animal your child likes that you didn’t even know about, for example!

  • Your child may feel more comfortable about trying to sleep alone when he or she has been involved in helping decorate the room, too. There are a lot of good benefits that can come from letting your child have a separate room experience by this stage of his or her life.

5. Many families start to think about having another child by this point, and two children co sleeping in the same bed with two adults is not a safe or practical experience. 

This may not pertain to you and your family situation, and if it doesn’t, feel free to skip to the next point. However, if you feel like you may be ready to start planning for another child by the time your baby reaches a few years of age, then you’ll need to consider the co sleeping arrangement before that time comes.

  • Understand that two children of different ages cannot co sleep safely in the same family bed when one of them is still in the baby stage. It’s very unsafe and unrealistic to expect this arrangement to go well simply because your older child and your younger child may not be responsible for their own actions while they’re sleeping. This is also a sure way to make your family bed much too crowded and eventually push someone out of it.

  • In situations like this one, spouses may end up split into two separate beds or even two separate rooms so that one can co sleep with one child and the other can co sleep with the second child. This may work for the very early stages of your second child’s life but it is an arrangement that’s going to get old fast. It may put a lot of strain on your relationship with your partner, especially if this continues for several months or even years.

  • If you do plan to have another child once your first child reaches the toddler stage, start transitioning your little one to a separate room well before the new baby arrives. This will make the entire experience easier emotionally and even physically for everyone involved.

6. By this point, you and your partner may be feeling the strain of less intimacy in your relationship and you may feel as though it’s time to get back to having some privacy in the bedroom. 

Co sleeping with a baby in the room may not be so bad, especially since neither one of you may feel very “in the mood” when you’re dealing with raising a young child. However, by the time your baby’s first birthday rolls around, your sleep schedules should have regulated a little bit and you should both be feeling like you’re getting back to some kind of a normal lifestyle. When that happens, it may be time to bring back the intimacy you’ve been giving up for a while.

  • Some partners don’t have a problem being intimate with a young baby in the room, but by the time your baby is a year old or older, your little one is going to be a lot more aware of what’s going on around him or her. The chances of your baby remembering something like that may be slim to none, but it still may be too awkward for you and your partner to be intimate with an older child sitting up in a crib nearby!

  • Be sure you’re checking in with your partner regularly about this as well. Don’t assume that he or she is fine with the arrangement just because you aren’t hearing any active complaining. It’s always important to have regular discussions between the two of you to ensure that co sleeping is still working out for both of you on an even level.

On Older Kids

Once your child starts to school regularly—including kindergarten—he or she can be considered an older child. The potential dangers of co-sleeping with an older child are considerably different than those with younger kids.

7. The longer you wait to transition your child from co sleeping, the more your child may become anxious about the upcoming separation. 

When your little one is a baby, he or she may just have a few fussy nights before adjusting to the idea of sleeping in a separate bedroom. And as a toddler, it may take a week or two, but your child will still soon forget that he or she ever had any other sleeping arrangement options. However, when your little one has reached five years of age or even older, memories have been formed and separation anxiety may be very strong when the time comes to transition to another room.

  • If you wait until your child is ready to go to kindergarten, the anxiety he or she may feel about going to school for the first time may be compounded by separation anxiety when bedtime rolls around, too. If you’ve been unable to transition your child to a separate bedroom before school starts, wait a couple of months before you make this change so that your child has time to adjust to the idea of being in school before you add another potential area of stress.

  • As your child becomes more anxious about sleeping in another room, he or she may want to cling to co sleeping for even longer. This can eventually lead to your child continuing to sleep in the bed with you well into the grade school years, which may cause more problems later on. Although it may seem like tough love, it’s often a good idea to stop co sleeping with your child before the age of five if at all possible.

8. Older children will be invited to sleepovers or camping trips and may not be able to sleep well (or at all) if you’re not there.

 As kids get older, they may not always end up sleeping at home. This is normal and an important part of growing up, but children who are used to co sleeping with you and your partner may not have a very good experience with sleeping away from home if they’ve become very attached to their sleeping arrangements. They may become nervous or scared and may even end up calling you to come and pick them up in the middle of the night from a sleepover that isn’t going the way they wanted it to.

  • In some extreme situations, this may even keep your child from being able to sleep over with family members, such as at Grandma’s house. Your extended family may not totally understand this problem and may feel a little insulted that your child isn’t able to sleep at their houses without panicking or being sad or scared. There are a lot of situations in which your child may need to sleep away from you as he or she gets older, so it’s important to set your little one up for success with this as early as possible.

  • Peer pressure and bullying may factor into this problem later on, too. If your child admits that the reason he or she can’t sleep away from home is because of co sleeping, then there may be some backlash from your child’s friends. You may even find that they tell their parents, and their parents might have something to say to you about the situation as well. This is perhaps an extreme circumstance, but it has happened and it’s always something you should keep in mind when considering your co sleeping options later in your child’s life.

  • Your child may not want to continue to co sleep after something like this happens but may feel too nervous to bring it up with you, especially if he or she perceives that you’re happier with co sleeping than you would be without it. Because of this, it’s always crucial to ensure that your child can have an open conversation with you about the sleeping arrangements and that you respond well if your little one lets you know that he or she is ready for a separate room.

9. As your child gets bigger, the space in the family bed may become limited, leading to a bad night’s sleep for everyone involved. 

This may seem like common knowledge, but it’s something that some parents don’t really think about until their children are already too big to fit in the bed with them. As discussed in the previous section regarding sleeping with multiple children in the same bed, one parent or caregiver may end up being pushed out of the family bed as your child gets bigger. This can lead to potential conflicts and tension within the family and may cause more strain than is necessary.

  • If you, your partner and your child are no longer getting a good night’s sleep with the present co sleeping arrangements, this may mean it’s time to stop co sleeping. This is one of the most common problems faced by families who continue co sleeping into the older years.

10. Kids who co sleep for too long may become unable to self-soothe and may have no self-reliance abilities when something goes wrong in their lives. 

Eventually, sleeping in a separate room is part of what helps your child learn to handle problems that may arise. Of course, when your child is very young this mostly means being able to get back to sleep alone after a nightmare or sleep soundly through a lightning storm, but as your child ages he or she is going to face many more problems that will require the ability to self-rely to get through them.

  • When you help your child gently and successfully transition to a separate sleeping arrangement at an early stage, you’ll be setting your little one up to be better able to handle school issues, bullying, arguments with friends and much more. Your child will learn to calm down without running to you for everything throughout childhood, and even though you’ll remain a constant source of support and comfort, your child will learn to be self-sufficient more quickly when co sleeping is no longer a factor.

  • This is especially important for dealing with school life. Your child needs to be able to handle conflicts at school without relying on you to “save the day” every time—as much as you might want to be able to do that.

Please read this article on the potential dangers of co-sleeping with an older child for even deeper research we've done on the topic.

There may be some other potential problems you might encounter with your co sleeping experience, and since each situation is unique and different, this list may not have included everything you should be concerned with. However, it’s important to remember that there are also a lot more benefits than those listed in the previous section too. As with any other part of your experience with raising a child, don’t be afraid to try things under safe circumstances and see what works, what doesn’t, and what might be an area of concern to keep an eye on.

3 Positive Aspects of Co Sleeping

Along with talking about problems and negative outcomes, it's also important to take a moment to understand that co sleeping is a generally positive experience for parents and children alike. In some instances, it just doesn’t work out, but for the most part, everyone benefits from co sleeping at least for a short time. Whether you choose to try long-term or short-term co sleeping with your little one, remember that you’re probably going to get at least a couple of great benefits out of the arrangement, even if you ultimately decide it’s not for you.

1. Nighttime feeding is much easier when co sleeping with a baby. 

Whether you’re breastfeeding or giving bottles throughout the night, when your child wakes up wanting something to eat, you won’t have to go through nearly as many steps as you would if your child was in another room down the hall or even in another part of your house. All you’ll have to do is wake up, pick up your little one from close by, and begin feeding. You and your baby probably won’t even have to wake up completely for this when you get into a good routine.

2. Parents and children tend to get more sleep when co sleeping. 

You might think that having a baby in the bed or in the room with you will be more distracting and make it tougher to get your sleep, but actually, you’ll feel more confident and secure in your child’s safety throughout the night when you’re practicing safe co sleeping. You and your partner will sleep more soundly with fewer worries and your baby will sleep better knowing that his or her parents are just an arm’s length away.

3. When practiced safely, co sleeping can actually be much safer than separate rooms. 

It’s very important to focus on safe co sleeping habits for this to be true. However, in the right circumstances, co sleeping can actually reduce the risk of SIDS in younger children. It will also make it easier for you to tell if your child gets sick throughout the night and needs to be treated. Finally, safe co sleeping can help you keep an eye on your baby when he or she gets a little older and reaches the age of being able to get out of a toddler bed and potentially wander around the house throughout the night, too.

Now you know a little bit about the positives you can expect from co sleeping. But do the pros outweigh the cons? There may be fewer items on our list of positives, but remember that these are pretty big positives. The negative effects that you may have to deal with probably aren’t going to be as significant as the positive ones, but it’s up to you to decide whether or not you can deal with the problems in favor of getting the rewards.


So, now that you know all this, it’s time to make a decision for yourself. Is co sleeping bad for toddlers, babies or older kids? What’s the right decision for your family? Will you be able to transition your child from co sleeping to his or her own separate bed or room when the time is right, or will you have to be concerned with the risk of co sleeping for too long?

There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide if you should still co sleep or not. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that every child, every family, and every situation is different. Just because something works for someone you know, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. The reverse is also true.

The best thing you can do if you’re interested in co sleeping is to give it a try. You’ll never know for sure how it works for your family if you don’t. Just make sure that no matter which stage your child might have reached when you decide to try co sleeping, that you focus on safety first and foremost.

With the right safety information to help you get started, you can try co sleeping and form a solid opinion for your own family. Good luck and have fun!

Additional Research:

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Virginia R. Samuel
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About The Author

Virginia R. Samuel is a full-time working mother and the Editor in Chief of ABCKidsINC.  She has worked as a ghost writer for a variety of online sites as well as a research writer in the fields of breastfeeding and early childhood development, among other childcare-related subjects. Virginia presently loves her editorial work on ABCKidsINC, and hopes that the information and articles she has crafted over the years will be beneficial to other moms and dads who are just starting out on their parenting adventure.

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