My son and I have been co-sleeping since he was newborn. As a toddler, he has gone through small bouts of sleeping in his own bed but, for the most part, he sleeps in bed with me. When my son was an infant, this was not something that I would openly share because I knew that sleeping co-sleeping was perceived as dangerous, particularly in the U.S. But after several months, I started noticing something – a lot of moms were (are) co-sleeping.
I won't dispute that there are definitely circumstances under which co-sleeping should not take place (which I will address later in this post) but there is a lot of misinformation about co-sleeping. I'm not trying to convince anyone that co-sleeping is "right" or that it's for everyone, I just want parents to know that it can be done safely and co-sleeping parents should not be shamed for their decision.
So, what exactly, is the truth about co-sleeping?
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Co-Sleeping is not the same as bed sharing.
Co-sleeping is often used to reference parent and child sleeping in the same bed but that is not necessarily what co-sleeping is.. Co-sleeping is sleeping in close proximity of the child (close enough to touch) but it does not have to be on the same surface. For the first month of my son’s life, this is what we did. I had the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper and I slept as close as possible to my son without him being in my bed. It wasn't until he was about a month or so that we transitioned to bed sharing. Which, is exactly how it sounds like – sharing a bed.
Co-Sleeping can help babies breathe better.
When baby and mom sleep close, their breathing patterns will sync up. This is especially helpful in the newborn stage when the baby’s sleep pattern is irregular. In a sense, the baby is still learning to breathe and being close to mom while sleeping helps with this process.
Co-Sleeping babies spend less time in deep sleep.
Now, this may sound like a negative thing but when it comes to concerns such as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) this is actually a good thing. One of the concerns with SIDS is the lack of sleep arousal but when sleeping next to mom, mom and baby have what Dr. Sears calls synchronous arousal. This means when one stirs, coughs, etc. the other does as well. Again, this is a huge benefit in preventing SIDS. In fact, sleeping in the same room decreases the chance of SIDS by up to 50%.
Co-Sleeping may actually help baby to sleep better than sleeping in a room alone.
My son had terrible separation anxiety starting at about 6 months. I used to joke, “it’s like he thinks I’m gone forever”. Well, guess what. He probably did. Babies don’t have the reasoning that says, “she’ll be right back” or “she’s just sleeping in her own room”. Babies also don’t have the out of sight out of mind ability that we do. When a baby under one wakes during the night and mom is not there he panics. When a baby wakes in the same room he is more likely to fall right back to sleep.
Again, I am not trying to convince anyone that they “should” co-sleep, I am just addressing the fact that co-sleeping is not bad. There are many benefits, in addition to the ones I’ve shared in this post. That being said, it is important that parents who decide to co-sleep do so safely.
5 Tips for Safe Co-Sleeping:
Parents should never bring a child in the bed when they have been drinking or under the influence of drugs. Period.
Parents that smoke should not co-sleep/bed share.
Moms that smoked during pregnancy should not bed share.
It is not recommended that formula fed babies bed share.
Make sure sheets are tightly pulled, baby’s area is free of pillows & blankets and the bed does not have any gaps for baby to fall through.
Check out this article for more tips on safe co-sleeping/bed sharing.
If you would like more information on co-sleeping I recommend checking out the articles and books listed below. Bed sharing has been a wonderful experience for my son and I… and I am not ashamed to say it!