Co-sleeping with your baby or child is a controversial topic in many parenting tips forums. Some moms are all for it, claiming it is the healthiest option for everyone. Others feel it is dangerous for babies and a bane to marital relations. As with most parenting issues, there are both pros and cons to co-sleeping. With research studies coming down on both sides, it’s hard to figure out who “wins” the debate and offers the best parenting tips!
First, though, let me tell you a little story. As many of you know, my son was born premature. He came home from the hospital weighing a whopping 4 lbs. He had to grow into preemie clothes! He was also hooked up to a portable monitor to alert me if he stopped breathing. Co-sleeping was not an option I felt comfortable with. I was terrified I’d roll over onto my tiny baby. The blood pressure medication I took to get my BP back under control after dealing with preeclampsia made me so sleepy and listless. So co-sleeping was not something I was comfortable with. Still, I can see the validity of both the pros and the cons of co-sleeping with your baby.
Since I wanted to hear both sides, we asked our fans & friends on Facebook to give us their take on the subject. Check out their responses!
Pros of Co-Sleeping with Your Baby
Parenting tips experts often cite numerous pros of co-sleeping to support their side. I have to admit, they present an excellent case!
- Co-sleeping with your baby may encourage breastfeeding, or at least make it easier. Since your baby’s food source is YOU, you don’t have to leave the bed to prepare feedings in the middle of the night.
- May help new moms get some extra much-needed sleep. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, by co-sleeping you can shave at least five minutes off nightly feedings by skipping the trip to the nursery and trying to get your baby back to sleep in his crib after a feeding. That extra time really adds up!
- Encourages bonding. Sleeping with your baby, especially if you work outside the home, may help you bond better by giving you more quality time at night.
- Anthropological studies support co-sleeping. Did you know sleeping away from your baby is primarily a Western hemisphere trend? Throughout much of ancient history, moms slept with their newborns both to keep them safe and to help with feeding. According to a study performed at the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at Northwestern University, it makes evolutionary sense to co-sleep with your baby.
- Co-sleeping doesn’t mean sleeping in the same bed. This article from Current Pediatric Reviews on Safe Infant Sleep rhetoric really put things into a new perspective for me. While most of us think of co-sleeping as actually putting your baby in your bed with you, that’s not the “true” meaning of it. Basically, co-sleeping involves sleeping in close sensory proximity to your child. You could put your baby in a basinet next to your bed and still achieve the same benefits.
- Could prevent childhood obesity? We wrote about a study that found that letting your child sleep with you may actually prevent childhood obesity. Check out that article for more details.
Cons of Co-Sleeping with Your Baby
- Could increase the risk of SIDS. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns parents that co-sleeping with newborns and babies under age 2 can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The reason: our mattresses are not really designed for babies.
- Can put a strain on a marriage. As if having a baby doesn’t put enough strain on marital relations, sleeping with your baby can make sex with your partner particular awkward.
- Decreases the quality of your sleep. While sleeping with your baby may help you get a few extra “zzzs,” the overall quality of your sleep may be greatly diminished if you are subconsciously worrying about rolling over on your baby!
- Discourages independence in your child. Honestly, I’ve never understood this one (and remember, I was on the CON side to begin with!). Some opponents of co-sleeping feel that it discourages self-soothing behaviors and overall independence. I have always encouraged independent thinking in my son, so there are clearly ways to compensate for any “damage” co-sleeping may do in this regard.
Safer co-sleeping with your baby
If you decide that co-sleeping is for you, it’s important to realize that it’s not as simple as just plopping your baby in the middle of your bed and going to sleep. Check out these safety tips for co-sleeping with your baby.
- Get a firm mattress. That soft, plush mattress that you just sink right into isn’t safe for your baby. You’ll have to sacrifice a bit of comfort if you prefer those types of mattresses. Think about crib mattresses. They’re pretty firm with very little give. Look for a mattress that mimics that level of safety.
- Don’t co-sleep with newborns and older children. Sorry, but a “family bed” just isn’t safe when you’re combining a newborn baby with, say, a toddler. Your toddler doesn’t know to watch out for the baby and may end up kicking or rolling over on her during the night.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take certain medications. Smoking and drinking alters your sleep pattern, which can make you more likely to roll on your baby. Certain medications that induce deep sleep are also dangerous.
- Consider “room sharing” rather than “bed sharing.” As pointed out above, you can achieve the same benefits of bed-sharing by having your baby in a basinet next to your bed. You can even put the crib in your room if you prefer.
- Get rid of the blankets. KidsHealth by Nemours recommends stripping the bed of blankets, comforters and other items that pose a threat to your baby. If you wouldn’t put it in the crib, don’t put it on your bed when co-sleeping with your baby. Time to invest in thicker jammies!
Co-sleeping with your baby can be a beneficial sleep arrangement for both parents and babies. Like all parenting tips, though, it’s really up to you to decide what works out best for your family. Letting your baby sleep in his own room isn’t going to cause any lifelong damage. If you’re not comfortable with co-sleeping for any reason, don’t let anyone try to tell you that you’re “hurting” your baby. Millions of adults slept in their own beds and rooms as infants and didn’t grow up to become serial killers.
What are your thoughts on co-sleeping with your baby? Do you think the benefits outweigh the cons?