Co-sleeping is a controversial topic among new parents. It seems that everyone has an opinion on the topic. But what are the facts? Is it safe? What are the benefits and risks? Studies have been made and research consulted to uncover the truth about co-sleeping.
What is Co-Sleeping
Also referred to as shared sleeping, co-sleeping is the act of sharing your bed with your child. It is when one or both parents sleep with their newborn, infant, or young child. Some people include other types of sleeping as co-sleeping, which include:
- Sidecar crib: When the crib is attached to the side of the bed. Sometimes called a co-sleeper crib.
- Different beds in the same room: When the child’s crib is in the same room as the parents’ bed.
- Baby welcomed: The child is put to sleep in his own bed, but if needed, he can join his parents in their bed if he awakes at night.
Some people choose not to co-sleep with their infant for fear of the following risks:
- If the baby is not given an appropriate amount of space, she may be suffocated or strangled in a co-sleeping situation.
- Co-sleeping is not recommended for parents who take any heavy medications.
- It can be dangerous for a child to co-sleep with a parent that has an infectious health condition.
- It is also dangerous for infants of parents who smoke or abuse drugs or alcohol.
- Co-sleeping has been known to promote a dependency between child and parent that can be unhealthy for both parties.
- Some mothers find that sleeping with an infant in the bed can disrupt their own sleep patterns, making it difficult to get any sleep when most needed. Learning to sleep through a baby’s constant or sudden movements is difficult.
- An infant who grows up sleeping with her parents may develop difficulties or be unable to sleep alone.
- The child will have an even greater difficulty in dealing with situations such as the separation, divorce, or death of her parents.
- Due to the constant presence of a child in their bed, parents may be deprived of intimacy.
While there are risks associated with co-sleeping, there are also numerous benefits which some feel outweigh any risks involved.
- Research shows that babies are at a lower risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) when they sleep in the same room as their parents.
- While some new mothers experience difficulties sleeping next to their infant, most parents find the situation beneficial for themselves and the child. There is no need to awaken completely for middle of the night breastfeeding episodes – either for the mother or the child.
- Co-sleeping lessens the instances of nighttime separation anxiety.
- The baby or toddler will feel safe and secure next to his parents at night.
- When placed between parents, there is little chance that the infant will fall from the bed.
- Co-sleeping is believed to build confidence in the safe sleep environment.
- Parents will have less trouble with a bedtime ritual.
- Parents and children both experience easier sleeping as their sleep and wake patterns sync.
- A fussy baby will sleep more peacefully at night, waking less often when co-sleeping with his parents.
- It’s easier to monitor illness when the baby is sick.
- Co-sleeping promotes an improved relationship between parents and child.
- When co-sleeping, a baby is more apt to fall asleep faster and get back to sleep easier if she awakes in the night.
- Many parents find it a wonderful experience to fall asleep next to their sleeping baby and awaken to his smiling face.
- The added touch, smell, and sensations of sleeping next to the mother is good for the development of the child.
- Bed sharing is suitable for families with less space.
- Fathers are offered an additional bonding time with their infants through co-sleeping.
So is it better to co-sleep or to teach your infant to learn to sleep alone? That decision should be a personal one made by both parents together. However, if you wish to co-sleep, know that studies have shown that “there is no evidence that bed sharing is hazardous for infants of parents who do not smoke.”
Overall the study showed that certain circumstances do present hazards to the infant, including those under four months old, when sleeping with a large comforter, and when sleeping on a couch instead of a bed. However, overall, sharing a room with the parents has been proven to be linked with a lower risk for SIDS.