Many parents may choose to co-sleep with their toddler. For some, they’ve been doing this since they were a baby, for others it’s a choice to be close to their little one and sometimes it’s not even a choice you’ve made, but your toddler! But is sharing a bed with your tot actually safe? We caught up with Erica Hargaden, Child Sleep Consultant & Founder of Babogue, to answer all your questions about co-sleeping with a toddler.
Is it safe to co sleep with your toddler?
According to the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and the NHS your baby should be put to sleep in the same room as you in a separate cot or Moses basket until they are six months old. This arrangement has the lowest chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Once they’ve reached this age, your baby can sleep with you, as long as you ensure measures are in place to do this safely. This too applies to your toddler.
What are the benefits to co-sleeping with your toddler?
“In many cultures, co-sleeping with toddlers is very much considered the family sleep norm,” says Erica. “It is considered to have many benefits for young children, such as increasing the bond between child and parent. Often parents' time is limited during the day and this time sleeping together can create an opportunity to give your child that sense of safety and security that they desire. It can also diminish bedtime challenges that can arise with toddlers. They simply do not want their parents to leave them at the point of going to sleep and for them to sleep well, parents stay and co-sleep with their little ones.”
How can you safely co-sleep with your toddler?
Erica says safety is the most important thing when it comes to co-sleeping with your toddler.
Below is a simple checklist she has put together for parents to consider to ensure the environment is safe for your toddler. “If you cannot tick every box, it may be the case that you will have to reconsider your co-sleeping arrangements,” she says.
• Ensure that the sleep environment offered is firm, flat and smooth, making sure that there is enough space for everyone.
• Use fitted rather than flat sheets. Avoid loose bedding as it can be a suffocation risk for small children. It is also recommended to remove pillows and other blankets for the same reasons.
• Use bed rails to reduce the risk of the child falling out of the bed onto the floor.
• Ensure there are no gaps. Small children can get stuck or wedged in even the smallest of gaps, so if your furniture is up against walls, make sure to take a look to ensure that all gaps are dealt with.
• Ensure you childproof your room. Little children can wander at night. We suggest using a stair gate on the door of your room and certainly at the top of your stairs to minimize safety risks overnight.
• Avoid co-sleeping if you have consumed alcohol or any sedative-style medications.
• It is best to keep pets out of the sleep environment if you are choosing to co-sleep with your toddler.
How can you encourage your toddler to sleep alone?
If co-sleeping with your toddler is no longer working out for you, don’t worry, moving your little one back to their own toddler bed is possible, however, Erica advises making the transition gradually.
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“A first step can be to room share with your toddler in their new sleep environment for a period of time until they are used to this new consistent place of sleep,” says Erica. “From there you can transition from room sharing with them. However, this should be taken very slowly. Remember sleeping with you is all that your little one has known and to sleep independently will be a big step for them. In line with this, you will need to create a positive and consistent bedtime routine.”
Erica’s suggests trying the following:
• Start by brushing your toddler's teeth and washing their face and hands.
• Move to your toddler's room, which is dimmed down to lamplight, and change them into their PJs.
• Read two books in a quiet and loving way with the child sitting on your knee.
• Once finished reading, transfer your toddler to their cot or toddler bed say your goodnights.
“When consistency is applied, your child will get to know the routine and will thrive knowing what to expect,” says Erica.