Snuggling with your little one at bedtime can be tremendously comforting to both of you, but is co-sleeping with your toddler throughout the night safe for both of you? Learn more about co-sleeping benefits, risks, and when to stop.
Cozy cuddles while winding down for the night are great for both you and your toddler—so great, in fact, that some families opt to practice co-sleeping with their toddler. Whether your family co-sleeps because they enjoy the closeness and bonding it provides, or it’s a matter of convenience, there are plenty of benefits to the practice. However, there are also some risks. And learning when to stop co-sleeping is key.
What is Co-Sleeping?
Co-sleeping is when a baby or toddler sleeps in the same space as their caregiver—either in the same room or in the same bed. When sharing the same room, it’s called room sharing; when sharing the same bed, it’s called bed sharing.
According to the Safe Sleep for Your Toddler brochure produced by the Government of Canada, room sharing with your baby for the first six months of life is safe and lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS); bed sharing, on the other hand, is not safe and increases the risk of SIDS.1
With this in mind, the following co-sleeping points should be considered only when deciding whether or not you should co-sleep with your toddler—not an infant.
Toddler Co-sleepling Benefits & Risks
While there is plenty of information out there about co-sleeping and bed sharing with infants, much less research has been done on the co-sleeping risks and benefits for little ones over the age of one and their parents. One thing is clear so far: There do not seem to be increased risks of behavioral or learning problems in children who were co-sleepers as toddlers.2
Bed Sharing Benefits
Benefits of co-sleeping with your toddler include:3
Bonding. Whether you’re home all day with your toddler, or you have an erratic schedule, laying down together at bedtime is a great opportunity to bond. Holding and cuddling increases your little one’s sense of safety and security, too.
Bed Sharing Risks
While there don’t seem to be any physical or developmental risks for your little one associated with co-sleeping as a toddler, there are some drawbacks. The potentially negative aspects of co-sleeping include:4
Poor quality of sleep. Tossing and turning and nighttime acrobatics are common for toddlers—which means your new bed companion may keep you up with their slumber gymnastics.5
Mental health consequences for parents A 2017 study showed that moms who co-sleep with toddlers who are either known to have or are believed to have sleep problems reported increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress.6
Reduced privacy. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent who needs a break or you simply want a quiet moment with your spouse, having your toddler in the family bed can make getting some bedtime privacy nearly impossible.
When & How to Stop Co-sleeping
Start slow and transition gradually. Going from sharing a bed to sleeping in separate rooms will be upsetting for your toddler. Instead, establish—and stick to—steps for a transition. Consult your pediatrician, consider a sleep coach, and be patient.
Establish a bedtime routine for your little one. While you transition, keep the routine leading up to bedtime as consistent as possible. Not just timing, but putting on PJs, getting clean, blankies or stuffed cuddle toys for comfort—as much consistency as possible while the place of sleep changes.
Shift from sharing a bed to sharing a room. Start slowly by shifting from sharing a bed to sharing a room—this might be putting a crib or toddler bed in your room, or you staying on the floor of the room you’d like them to begin sleeping in.
Transition with sleepovers. While sticking to your bedtime routine, try to bake in some fun with your boundaries. Frame you visiting their new bed and bedroom as a fun sleepover—a treat.
Co-sleeping with your toddler can be a comforting addition to day-to-day life as they grow and change. Learn more about bedtime routines and more with the Enfagrow A+ Toddler Milestones collection of articles and videos.