- What is co-sleeping?
- At what age is co-sleeping safe?
- The terminology
- Should I co-sleep with my baby?
- The benefits of co-sleeping
- The benefits of co-sleeping while breastfeeding
- When should I stop co-sleeping?
- Cribs for co-sleeping
- What are the Co-sleeping risks?
- Co-sleeping safety
- Transitioning from co-sleeping to a crib
What Does Co-Sleeping Mean?
Co-sleeping means that you are within sensory range of your baby. Within sensory range means that you are close enough to your baby to recognize and respond to their needs or cues through touch, smell, and sound. Some sleep in the same bed, and others merely sleep in the same room.
At What Age Is Co-Sleeping Safe?
Cosleeping soon after birth is the norm, except in some Western cultures. Why? Because of the introduction of cribs/cots and how our houses are laid out.
So, should you be co-sleeping with a newborn? Babies were never designed to sleep in complete isolation, psychologically or biologically.
Your baby depends on you, day and night, to provide for their needs. So why do we tend to push them into becoming completely independent little beings long before they are ready for it?
Understanding the Different Terms
Here's a quick vocabulary overview to help you understand what each term means:
- Co-sleeping: The co-sleeping infant sleeps close to one or both parents, whether in the same bed or the same room, as opposed to the baby sleeping in a separate room.
- Bed Sharing: When the baby sleeps in the same bed as one or both parents, this is one way of co-sleeping.
- Co-sleeping with twins is called Co-Bedding: Typically referring to multiples (twins, trips, quads, etc.) sleeping in the same cot/crib/bed.
- Room-Sharing: The baby's cot/crib/bed is in their parent's room. In other words, same room, different surfaces. The other form of co-sleeping.
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Should I Co-sleep With My Baby?
Culture, socioeconomic status, religion, circumstances, psychological reasons, feeding methods, and the infant-parent bond you have with your children all play a massive role in whether or not co-sleeping will work for you.
There are many ways in which you can practice co-sleeping. You can do it all night or part of the night, in the same bed or the same room. Your attitude towards your sleeping arrangements will likely change as your baby grows and you get to know their needs and your needs better.
Co-sleeping does not necessarily mean that you and your child sleep in the same bed, all night, every night, from the day they are born until they are five years old.
Remember that no one, not even the experts, knows your baby and situation as well as you do. Do what works best for your family. Inform yourself, but then use your good judgment and follow your instincts. They are there for a reason.
'One study reported mothers getting more sleep and breast-feeding by co-sleeping than other arrangements. Parents also experience less exhaustion with such ease in feeding and comforting their child by simply reaching over to the child. As a result, co-sleeping also increases the responsiveness of parents to their child's needs' - Wikipedia
The Benefits of Co-sleeping
Many working parents love this, as it helps to make up for the time they spend away from their children during the day.
Many people will tell you that you are spoiling your baby or allowing them to manipulate you when you let them sleep with you in your room or, worse - your bed. But this is not true. You can NOT spoil a baby with love by providing for their needs! Never.
Some pretty amazing things happen between a mother and her baby who sleep close to each other.
Bodies Start Working in Sync.
Their movements, heartbeats, breathing, and touches all fall into perfect harmony without either one fully waking up.
The Mother and Her Baby Regulate Each Other's Breathing.
The carbon dioxide that the mother exhales will stimulate her baby to keep breathing, thus preventing apnea (periods in which a baby may stop breathing). This also results in fewer dips in a baby's blood oxygen level.
The mother and her baby will check on each other regularly by reaching out and touching the other without fully waking up. Nurturing touch is vital to a baby's survival. Co-sleeping provides this opportunity throughout the night as well.
The mother and baby sleep better when they know they are safe and close. A mother is more confident that she'll know when something is wrong with her baby because she's close enough to hear and sense any changes. She's not worried about the working order of a baby monitor; there's no need for one.
Benefits of Breastfeeding and Co-sleeping
- Breastfeeding is so much easier when you co-sleep with your baby!
- Does co-sleeping increase milk supply? Studies have shown that co-sleeping increases the frequency of feeds, which increases breast milk production and the duration of the breastfeeding period.
- Breastfeeding mothers who sleep close to their babies get more sleep than those who sleep in separate rooms.
- It creates a bond between mother and baby differently from other bonding activities.
Is Co-Sleeping Bad?
When a parent smokes, uses drugs, drinks alcohol, is on medication, is over-tired/exhausted, or is obese, they should not bed share as this increases the risk factors for SIDS, injury, and suffocation.
When Should I Stop Co-Sleeping?
Co-sleeping has great benefits but can have a detrimental effect on a couple's relationship, affecting their intimacy, especially if the baby is now a toddler. Also, when a mother becomes exhausted, it may signal the time to stop co-sleeping.
Co-sleeping has been linked with an increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and sleeping mishaps. But, many parents still choose to co-sleep because of all the benefits involved. There are ways to lessen the risk.
Some Factors That Increase the Co-sleeping Risks
- Smoking cigarettes.
- When your baby is ill.
- Being ill or overly exhausted
- The use of drugs, sedative medication, or alcohol.
- When your newborn is premature.
Co-Sleeping Safely - How to Reduce the Risks
- Always have a newborn baby sleeping on their back, not their tummy or side.
- Ensure the mattress is clean and solid, with no underlays or cushions.
- If you are at higher risk, you could use a crib for co-sleeping or a co-sleeping bassinet. These cribs have one side open, so your baby is still right next to you and at the same level as the bed, but not on the bed with you.
- Do not swaddle your baby if you are co-sleeping.
- If you have long hair, tie it up and remove any jewelry that may pose a strangulation risk.
- Keep covers and pillows away from your baby's face. Using a separate baby sleeping bag is an excellent way to keep your baby warm to avoid using other blankets.
- Avoid using bulky quilts on your bed.
- Safe co-sleeping positions: The baby should be sleeping away from the wall to prevent trapping them against the wall and bed. Consider placing your mattress on the floor so that if your baby rolls, they won't fall out of bed. Never put your baby between two people or next to any pets.
Transitioning From Co-sleeping to the Crib
Make small changes over several nights. This will help to get your baby transitioned to a crib gradually. Instead of holding your baby to fall asleep, you could put her in the crib and pat her until she falls asleep. After this, you can stand in the doorway and provide verbal assurance of your presence. It only takes a few days of consistency.
They are weaning while co-sleeping will be much easier if your baby sleeps in their own space. However, keep in mind that weaning is not recommended if your baby is younger than one year, and night weaning will drop your breast milk supply. It is best to wait until your baby naturally sleeps through the night before trying to move your baby to another room. Unless your pediatrician says otherwise, babies under four weeks are usually woken at least every 3 hours for feedings.
Remember, your child will likely not want to sleep close to you for the rest of their life. It's a season you get to cherish and enjoy for a short time in relation to the rest of your lives.
Closeness Through Co-Sleeping (Anonymous)
I have often wondered how a single child could be this happy and independent. It might well be in the co-sleeping arrangement we have had since her birth.
My daughter is 8. She is independent, happy, and can spend hours playing on her own. We check on each other so every now and then. She'll skip along to give dad and me a hug or kiss when she feels the urge.
She has slept with us all her life. Now that she is too big and we can no longer sleep in the same bed, her bed is in our room. Once in a while, she'll want to sleep with daddy. I then get into her bed.
What joy, what bliss to sometimes wake up and hear her peaceful breathing and my husband's happy snoring. Wow - it is fantastic and precious.
She has her own room, plays there, and expresses her character and all she is in that space. Yet, tonight when all is quiet and we all seek rest, she is nurtured, knowing that we are a breath away.
She can stay in our space as long as she needs, for she is lent to us for such a short season.
Co-sleeping is meant to be.
I Cherished Co-Sleeping, by Yvonne (USA)
From the moment my daughter was born, we co-slept! I quickly learned it would be the only way this sleep-deprived mommy could get any rest. I hardly remember my daughter using her crib, I suppose, except for times I needed to shower or use the potty :-)
When my daughter was born on August 30, 2009, after the nurses cleaned her up, she was put in my arms and immediately breastfed as if she had waited nine months to show me that she craved a bond with me. All the nurses were astonished! My daughter displayed a natural ability to suck.
My favorite thing about co-sleeping was the times she would reach for me with the reassurance that I was still beside her.
I would have to add that co-sleeping settled my fears about SIDS! That time of the infant is a season, exhausting and rewarding. I couldn't part with my baby for her safety in love.
Co-Sleep with Babe, by Sherree (Australia)
My husband and I co-sleep with babe #1, and she is the most outgoing, confident girl - she is two now and has always slept through the night from the day we brought her into our bed! We're slowly getting her into her own bed as babe #2 is here and two months old, and we will be doing the same thing with him.
Yes, it is a bummer, and hubby and I have no time together, but this is only a short time and essential for our little ones.
We will get to have our time all over again once they're both kicked out of bed and happy, confident little people.
Re: Attachment parenting and Cosleeping, by Paula
Hi, I agree with you! I feel that it is a necessary part of their development, and it makes it so much easier for a mom that is exclusively breastfeeding.
I breastfed my little girl for two years, and in those two years, we co-slept with her too. She is now three and sleeps in her bedroom with no problems.
I would not give up that particular time we had together for anything.
Baby Won't Sleep Alone, by Courtney (Bullhead City, AZ)
My baby is nine months now, and we started transitioning him to his crib; he's doing great up until bedtime - then he wakes and refuses to sleep anywhere but with me in my bed.
I don't know what to do since we all share a room, and anytime I try to let him "cry it out," it wakes my older son, and then I have two upset babies - no fun.
Re: Co-sleeping How To, by Natt (South Africa)
You know this sounds very familiar! I'm so glad for my sake; this time is over for me! Hee Hee
Joking aside, what helped me keep sane was a Christmas bed! Yes, it sounds to some that I am making the problem worse by allowing co-sleeping in bed, but at the time, it worked to keep me sane, especially while exclusively breastfeeding my youngest.
So what is a Christmas bed? For those that don't know...I took all three mattresses in my house and made one big bed for all four of us on the floor; mommy, daddy, and the two little ones. We slept like this until I stopped breastfeeding my two-year-old. Now they both sleep in their bedrooms; they are now 6 and 3 years old.