I never thought I'd sleep train my baby, but months of sleep deprivation finally caught up with me and started sending spider cracks through my marriage. No, I didn't want my baby to cry — even for a few minutes. But oh, how I needed her to sleep through the night, or at least for a few more hours at a time, especially since she room shared with us. But can you sleep train if your baby shares a room with you?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2016 Safe Sleep Recommendations, you're encouraged to share a room with your baby for at least six months, and ideally for a full year. But the plot thickens. As it turns out, babies that share rooms with their parents don't sleep as well, and as a result, parents sometimes turn to unsafe practices, such as placing unapproved objects (like a lovie) in the crib. In June 2017, the AAP called for more research on room sharing because of its potential impact on infant (and adult) sleep.
Sleep consultant Christine Stevens, of Sleepy Tots Consulting, usually recommends sharing a room for six months, and no longer. However, she understands that every family is unique. In an interview with Romper she says, "I always tell parents it's a completely personal preference . . . You have to look at the dynamics in the household. If you have dad getting up at 5:00 and taking a shower, is that waking baby up in the morning?"
I can tell you that room sharing didn't interfere with sleep training at my house. Why? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infants need 12 hours of sleep per night, and several more hours of nap time throughout the day. Most sleep trainers suggest putting your little one to be early — our consultant recommended we get our 8-month-old daughter into bed no later than 6:30. As a result, we did most of our sleep training — a version of the Ferber Method — from the living room, while eating mountains of comfort food. When she cried, we'd put down the macaroni and cheese, hopping up to soothe her at predetermined intervals. It felt like torture at the time, but our baby learned to fall asleep without us. Today, she (more or less) sleeps through the night. More sleep = less grump, and sunny days ahead.
On the rare occasions when our daughter wakes between sleep cycles, room sharing does present some difficulties. When I wake to small baby cries, I find my husband's arm stretched across my stomach, like a seatbelt. He's trying to prevent me from crashing into our old habits of soothing her immediately, which gives her no chance to practice falling asleep on her own. Nine times out of 10, the snoring resumes. So as long as you have the willpower to be consistent, room sharing and sleep training can make fine bedfellows. However, if your old habits die hard, consider moving the baby to another room, even temporarily. Remember, the key to sleep training is consistency. The Baby Sleep Site warned that room sharing might extend how long it takes to fully sleep train your baby. If you don't have a spare room in the house, the article suggested moving the crib to a far corner, or even setting up a coat rack to give your baby the illusion of privacy.
I found sleep training difficult, and often painful. For me, room sharing provided some solace during the harrowing two weeks my husband and I sleep trained our daughter. The knowledge I'd still hear her steady breathing in the room we share after she finally fell asleep (and I'd demolished another pan of lasagna), helped soothe me to sleep each night.