Co-sleeping and Returning to Work

The following thread originally appeared on our Working Moms Group about how to transition from a bed-sharing situation with your little one and returning to work.. Be sure to check out more general advice from PSP members about co-sleeping here!

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Original Poster:


 "I am currently at home with my 4 month-old baby and while he doesn't sleep through the night, we sleep quite well together and I usually wake up well rested when sharing my bed with him. I am starting to get concerned, however, about how our current arrangement will work after I return to my job in January. Does anyone on this list share a bed with a baby and get up every morning at the same time to go to work in an office and have advice? Did anyone transition a baby from the bed to the crib before returning to work and have thoughts on the best way to do it? I am really torn between full time bedsharing or co-sleeping and moving the baby to a crib and eventually out of my room. I imagine that if I do move him to a crib in another room, it will take some time to transition so I am trying to think ahead so I don't have to deal with this when I go back to work. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!"





Bed-sharing can make sleeping easier:

 “If it works for you now, stick with it until it doesn't. My daughter shared our bed until she was about fifteen months old, and I went back to work full time when she was around 4 months. At fifteen months she made clear she wanted to stay in her own bed and not join our bed at night. Only then did I truly understand the sleep deprivation all my friends experienced. Man does it suck to get out of bed when your kid needs help resting! Sharing a bed is soooo much better for getting enough sleep, especially when you're breastfeeding. Also when I went back to work, I think that special time together at night really helped sustain both of us and "fill us up" with snuggles to counter the time away during the day.”

“I found bedsharing to be the path of least resistance as a working mom--I was much better rested than when I tried to sleep apart simply because it requires so much less waking, especially when breastfeeding. I never found getting up in the morning to be a problem, and I enjoyed the extra sunggles that I missed during the day. Bedsharing has challenges, and I didn't always love it, but sleep is challenging for a lot of parents, whether or not they bedshare, especially while children are teething (which lasts until around the second birthday!). I wouldn't think of it so much in terms of whether or not you want to be doing it as a working parent because I don't think working makes bedsharing harder, but do think about how long you're going to be bedsharing. I think you're right that you'll probably want to transition out before you go back to work if you can't see wanting to do it indefinitely. After 6-8 months, the transition gets harder and harder until, umm, four or five years old (or, uh, 11: Just a rueful heads up.”

“I agree with the post - taking work out of the equation, would would you prefer? I coslept with my oldest, even when I went back to work. With her, bedsharing was a way to ensure I got the most amount of rest and I enjoyed the extra night time snuggles.  With my youngest, he slept well in his crib until recently, when he would sneak in every night (he's 2).  I think unless it's really disrupting your sleep, work shouldn't be a factor on whether you continue to bedshare.”


Bed-sharing helps ease night feedings:

“Also a vote for bed sharing if it's working for you. I'd say that if you need to change the situation in the future you will find a way. I got pretty annoyed when our pediatrician tried to imply that there was a magic age by which I would have to stop co-sleeping or be willing to do it forever. All kids are different, but our son switched to his own bed around 20 months pretty seamlessly (mostly because he was ready) - a lot easier than forcing the issue before he was verbal IMO. Everyone will have their own experience with how difficult it was or wasn't on this and many other issues - I figure you never know what will be a nightmare or what will be simple until the moment comes, so my attitude has been don't change something if it's working for you."

"Also cosleeping and breastfeeding took the pressure off the initial bottle strike when my son started daycare. I could basically sleep through night feeding and not worry so much about him consuming nothing all day, and it kept my supply up for pumping.”




Bed-sharing might not work for the other parent:  

“I bed share with my 3.5 year old son and I work full time. He has never slept in a crib or his now toddler bed. I have found it what works for us. As a result my husband usually doesn't sleep with us because he claims our son moves to much. I go to bed at the same time as my son and try to let him sleep in as I sneak out for work. I find it easier to leave while he sleeps because he doesn't like to see me go. We talk about him sleeping on his own but he claims it is scary. Just do what works for you. I have spoken with many working moms who co sleep. We are away for many hours at least we get that time together.”


Bed-sharing might not work for the baby:

“Funny enough my husband and I were having a similar discussion this morning. Our little one (5 months) sleeps in our room in a mini crib next to our bed, and sometimes in bed with us. He usually wakes up twice during the night and I will nurse him for 5 mins or so and either put him back in the crib or keep him in bed with us. It was a similar situation with our older one and I kept delaying moving him out into his own room, but finally did at 9 months (after I had been back at work for several months already) bc I found that we were really disturbing his sleep and that he actually slept through the night just fine once we moved him into his own room in his own full sized crib.
So now I am back to delaying it with our little one bc part of me likes the night time snuggling and all of that, and I don't feel ready to give that up yet/force him to sleep away from us, but part of me also feels like his sleep and by extension my sleep will be better when I move him out. I don't think working or not working has much to do with it necessarily, but I would say that once you are back at work, if you decide you want to make the change later on, its nice to do it over a 3 day weekend or something so that you have a couple nights to mess around with trying something new when you don't have to go to work the next day.”

"We were bed sharing with our 18 month old and are now training him (again) to a crib in our room. He slept through the night in the crib at 4 months without our trying very hard. He came back into our bed with a series of colds and bronchiolitis, so I could really hear his breathing/ feel the fevers/ etc. When he was well I realized I just wanted him near all the time, especially after having spent so much time away at work during the day.
While bed-sharing his naps at daycare are easy, he falls asleep on his own in a rocker and sleeps a solid 90 mins or more. But at home with us on weekends, we took a "family nap"(which is really just an excuse for hubby and I to stop with the chores and work to rest). He could sleep alone for naps in his crib, though would sometimes need some extra help to settle down by taking a walk in the stroller (or at least starting his nap there and being moved to the crib).
We are now moving his out of our bed because I feel like it's the right time and have seen he sleeps more deeply/ soundly on his own."


Bed-sharing might not work for you:

“This question brought back memories! I went back to work in January after my daughter was born in October. She co-slept and all of us slept pretty well, although I felt it was a more vigilant, and thus perhaps less quality, sleep for me. I was convinced I needed to get her out of the bed before I went back to work for whatever reason I can't remember and it ended up in a disastrous night of attempted cry it out.
Ultimately she was sleeping through the night consistently about a month and a half later so we tried cry it out again just to get her into her own crib. We did that because I knew at that time it would mean better sleep for both of us, but that was deeply personal. She was not waking up in the night anymore but was starting to move around a lot more and when she bumped into us it woke her and it woke us. The cry it out took two nights and since then she sleeps in her own crib in her own room and is almost two. We have a very snuggly bedtime routine but she goes to bed at 8 and us at 10 or 11 and for as two working parents that helps us get stuff done at night too.
This is a deeply personal and familial decision! Whatever works for everyone and feels right is the way to go. As people have pointed out, you and your family's comfort, joy, and peace of mind are so invaluable that whatever you do to maintain them will pay in spades elsewhere, including at work. Best of luck!”

“We shared and used a cosleeper during infancy but our child, and we too, found sleeping apart was better for a good night of sleep. Times when we have brought her into bed with us, she tosses and turns then wants only to play.”

“I'm envious of all you mommies who can make bed-sharing work. I also want to echo that you should do whatever is working and tweak it as you go down the road. I couldn't make bed-sharing work. The only person who seemed to sleep was my partner who seems to sleep through anything. Neither me nor my baby slept when we were in the bed together. Very rarely have I been able to bring her to bed with me. BUT I continued to night nurse for 16 months. For me it was better if I could get 4-5 hour stretches of sleep and get up and nurse her in the middle of the night and then go back to bed than to be waking up every 20 min or worse not sleep at all. You just gotta do what you gotta do. I love reading all the creative things people have done despite what we may have been told was the "right" way to do something.
We always had a stellar bedtime routine. My daughter got a toddler bed at 22 months and loves it, loves showing it off to people and putting her animals in it and telling them "night night love you." She turns two next week and I stay in her room with her until she falls asleep. She doesn't always sleep through the night so if she wakes up now I usually go sleep in her room on a couch.
Not to get too new age-y about it, but I think you and your baby decide together what your needs are. Don't force anything that doesn't feel natural to you! Also be prepared for things to change as soon as you think you've got it figured out.”




Try a combination of both:

“We still bed share at 15 months and I returned to work at 4 months. I transitioned back to staying at home at a year, but those 8 months of bed sharing saved us our sanity a lot when it came to sleeping at night. What we did was teach her to fall asleep in her crib, then I brought her into our bed whenever she woke up after our bedtime.
Sometimes I regret choosing to bed share and think she would sleep better through the night if she wasn't used to helping herself to my boob all night. Other days I love waking up with her cuddly little self smiling at me.
She's super attached and showing no signs of wanting to sleep through the night in her crib yet. I'm pretty sure this will be the way things are until we wean entirely.
Do what works for you. Bed sharing had no negative effects on my work life. If I was careful, I could even get up and change into work clothes before she woke up in the morning.”

“We part-time bedshare with our daughter, who will be 3 next month. she's also still breastfeeding, and typically nurses before bed and early in the morning (I'm pretty sure this is why she will happily sleep until 8, unlike basically every other toddler I know).
Our family shares a single bedroom and always has. when she was a baby she had a crib in there. now we have the 'big bed' -- which is not all that big; it's just a double -- and a twin mattress on the floor next to it. we can slide the twin underneath the big bed to get it out of the way during the day. kiddo usually goes to sleep on her own in the little bed, but sometimes when I come into the bedroom, I find her in the big bed, which is fine. the little bed has room for an adult if needed!
For naps: our daughter is home two days a week with her grandmother (my mom), and on those days she usually naps on her little floor bed. sometimes my mom lies with her until she falls asleep, but not always. the rest of the time she naps at preschool and/or nanny share house. she's perfectly good at napping in a travel crib, on a cot, in someone else's bed, or in a stroller.
I love having my toddler sleep in bed with me, and I even still love night-nursing when it happens. it's definitely not for everyone, but I'll echo what others have said here -- ever since I went back to work (when she was 11 weeks old :( sigh) it's been an important time for us. without that time and closeness at night it would be a lot harder to feel like I get enough time with her. I'm sure it would be easier in some ways if she slept all night long in her own bedroom, and my husband and I had OUR own bedroom. but I'm pretty sure she's going to be my only baby, so I'm in no hurry to get rid of her, you know?”




If you are going to transition to sleeping separately, do it quickly:

“I raised two babies in complete opposite ways with regard to sleeping (one co-sleeping for over a year, the other cry it out hard core at 3 months) and since I know that different ways can bring different kinds of benefits and mom-happiness, I say if you take work out of the picture, what do you want? If you're sick of bed sharing I say start the transition a week or two before going back. But if you really like the status quo, why would that necessarily have to change when you go back to work? With my first he tended to sleep later than me so I snuck out of our bed before him and took a shower etc and then we had some cuddles before I left for the office. It's totally doable! By my second I wanted nothing to do with kids in my bed, so I never did it, and that was awesome too, in its own way. My advice on that route would be to do it as quickly as possible to minimize the amount of days you'll be sleep deprived right before work. If you can't stomach the cry it out thing or don't want to risk losing too much sleep during a long gradual transition, just enjoy your little snuggle buddy in bed! Lots of time to sort it out later when you're ready.”


Related Reading on PSP:

Read rcommendations for moving an infant out of his/her parents' bed to his/her own crib here.

Be sure to check out more general advice from PSP members about co-sleeping here.