Updated: May 28
A common question I often hear as a sleep coach is whether you can sleep train a baby while room sharing with their parents, with room sharing being defined as a baby sleeping in his or her own crib, bassinet, pack and play, or other safe sleep surface approved for newborns while in the same room as their caregiver(s). Here I’ll answer all your questions about sleep training your baby while you are still room sharing with them!
Please note that room sharing does not include bedsharing with a baby, which is sharing a sleeping surface such as a bed, recliner, or couch, as this is associated with high risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
How long should caregivers room share?
While it’s a personal decision as to exactly how long parents should room share, there are some guidelines related to reducing risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP; 2022) recommends babies room share with their parents at least the first 6 months from birth to reduce the risk of SIDS. Many parents decide to room share until 1 year of age, and some continue to room share even longer due to personal reasons or space constraints.
A 2017 study by Paul and colleagues noted, however, that recommendations to room share beyond 6 months actually aren’t evidence-based for the prevention of SIDS, “given that 90% of these tragedies occur before the age of 6 months.” The study found that room sharing at ages 4 and 9 months is associated with “less nighttime sleep, shorter sleep stretches, and unsafe sleep practices previously associated with sleep-related death.”
Can Babies Who Room Share Be Sleep Trained?
Regardless of your choice for how long to room share, you may wish to help your baby learn how to fall asleep independently by using a sleep training method to ensure they get longer stretches of good quality sleep overnight. Since babies can be sleep trained from at least 4 months of age and older, many parents may decide to sleep train prior to moving their baby to his or her own room. When doing so, they often are curious whether they can do it while staying in their own room. The answer is a resounding, “YES!”. However, it can be more challenging, so in this post, I’ll share some tips and options for how to help make this option work for your family.
So now that we’ve established you’re ready to sleep train and you can do this without having your baby in their own room, what are some things to ensure your success in doing so?
Many of these recommendations aren’t specific to sleep training while room sharing, but should always be considered to set everyone up to succeed. Let’s look at some general tips for preparing to sleep train your baby before considering specifics of sleep training while room sharing.
General Tips for Preparing to Sleep Train
(whether baby is in his/her own room or in the same room as caregiver(s)
Baby’s Sleep Surface
Ensure your baby is in a safe sleep space with nothing but a firm mattress that is approved for the sleeping device you are using and a tightly fitted sheet
Baby’s Bedtime Clothing
Check that your baby is wearing temperature-appropriate layers that include an age-appropriate sleep sack that is not weighted
Note: if your baby is not showing signs of rolling yet, you can still swaddle, but be prepared to start transitioning them to arms out very soon! My favorite transition out of the swaddle is the Zippadee Zip, as it is super helpful for keeping any remaining startle reflex in check. If your baby is small, consider getting the Snuggle Strap to add to your Zippadee Zip.
Baby’s Sleep Environment
Room temperature should be between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit
Make sure nothing is within the baby's reach while in their sleep space, such as electrical cords/wires, curtains, etc.
The room should be completely dark, using blackout curtains, shades, or blinds
You can use black electrical tape to cover lights on electronics like humidifiers, baby monitors, or air purifiers
Have white or pink noise playing at 50 decibels where baby’s head is when lying on their sleep surface and make sure it stays on all night. The Hatch Rest+ has many great features that work well for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (and adults!) and is a great choice for a white noise machine. Other good choices are the Yogasleep by Dohm which has pink noise, which many people find more calming than white noise, and the SNOOZ, which also has an app, nightlight options, and many other features similar to the Hatch.
50 decibels is similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner, but if you like to be confident your pink or white noise isn’t too loud (or is loud enough!), download a few free apps on your phone to check!
Ensure baby is following age-appropriate wake windows and getting adequate sleep for daytime for their age to avoid overtiredness or undertiredness by bedtime
Start sleep training at baby’s bedtime following a day of good naps (however baby will take them) and a calm, relaxing bedtime routine
So in addition to knowing which sleep training method you’re going to use, these things are super helpful to making sure the right conditions are in place for safe and effective sleep training.
Next, let’s look at some recommendations for how to do this when your baby is still in your bedroom!
Tips for Sleep Training While Room Sharing
When possible, plan for caregiver(s) to sleep in another room for the first few nights of sleep training. This will help you to be consistent during any middle of the night wakings, which are SO hard when you’re sleep deprived already. It also makes it less likely the caregiver(s) will wake their baby by entering the room when they go to bed, when coughing or snoring during the night, or other potential noises that could wake the baby.
If it isn’t possible to leave the room for a few nights, try one or more of these suggestions:
Move baby’s crib as far from the caregiver’s bed as possible, especially if one of the caregivers is breast/chest feeding baby (as babies can smell breast milk up to 1-2 feet away)
Ensure the white noise machine is between baby and caregivers during the night to ensure caregiver noise doesn’t wake baby (and you’re less likely to wake every time baby moves in their sleep)
Add a room divider between caregiver(s) and baby’s sleep surface (especially if the room isn’t completely dark)
If your baby sleeps in a pack and play or travel crib, you can use the SlumberPod (which is also great when traveling!) to help keep it dark for baby and to minimize their ability to see you during the middle of the night.
When the baby wakes and it isn’t time for a nighttime feed, try to wait at least 5 minutes to see if the baby resettles on his or her own. It can be so hard to not try to immediately respond when we are in the same room, but many times babies do resettle within 5-10 minutes on their own if their needs are otherwise met
And lastly, adjust your expectations! Sleep training while room sharing is a bit more challenging than when your baby is in their own room, so knowing that it may mean a bit slower progress for your little one, which is totally okay!
As you can see, these tips aren’t much in addition to what you’d already do to set your baby up for sleep training success if they are in their own room for sleeping!
However, if you are having a hard time figuring out what an age-appropriate routine or schedule is for your baby, what sleep training method(s) might be the right fit for your family, or just need some expert advice as you make changes, know that help is only a click away! Feel free to request a free sleep assessment call with Charlsie at Quietude Sleep Consulting to see how she can help. Sleep training is almost never straightforward, so having an expert to troubleshoot with you can help ensure your little one (and your family) get the sleep they need as soon as possible.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2022). American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Safe Sleep Recommendations: Back is Best. Retrieved from: https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2022/american-academy-of-pediatrics-updates-safe-sleep-recommendations-back-is-best/#:~:text=AAP%20recommends%20that%20parents%20sleep,the%20baby%20receives%20routine%20immunizations.
Paul, I. M. et al. (2017). Mother-Infant Room-Sharing and Sleep Outcomes in the INSIGHT Study. Pediatrics, 140(1). Retrieved from: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article-abstract/140/1/e20170122/37986/Mother-Infant-Room-Sharing-and-Sleep-Outcomes-in?redirectedFrom=fulltext?autologincheck=redirected
As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from purchases made from Amazon.com when clicking a link on this page. Please note, the links provided are based on my professional and/or personal experience with a product and its quality, performance, and overall reputation regardless of any affiliate relationships.