Co-sleeping with your baby
Co-sleeping is a very personal decision. Sleep Consultant, Katie Bartley, shares some important tips to consider before bringing baby to your bed.
As a sleep consultant and parent to three small children, I am often asked about co-sleeping. It is certainly a personal decision but one that I encourage parents to discuss and agree on together. Let’s first begin with what co-sleeping actually entails. Some believe it is having your children in the same room or in a bassinet attached to your bed. However, for the sake of this conversation I am referring to co-sleeping as having your child actually in your bed next to you through the night.
In the old days, parents co-slept out of necessity. This is still the case in many cultures around the world that simply do not have the space and resources that most Westerners do. However, in recent decades, more and more parents have intentionally chosen to co-sleep. The most sighted reason is attachment. Many parents believe that having their child closer to them through the night deepens their bond and helps them to develop a reciprocal trust and understanding between each other. It just provides them with more opportunity to physically and emotionally nurture their child and many parents also state that it gives them a great sense of peace as well. Another common reason parents decide to co-sleep is because of breastfeeding. Especially in the first few months, mothers that breastfeed are up frequently so it feels much easier to not fully wake up or to get out of bed. Co-sleeping allows for both mother and child to easily transition between feeding and sleeping. When I asked one friend to share her co-sleeping experience she sighted a beautiful Japanese belief that both parents are two separate ends of a riverbank and the child is the river flowing between them. Sounds pretty idyllic right?
But not everyone agrees. Have you seen the ad with a baby sleeping next to a huge meat cleaver that says “Your Baby Sleeping With You Can Be Just As Dangerous?” From fears of SIDS, suffocation or some sort of co-dependent abyss, many parents are terrified to even contemplate co-sleeping. Purely from a sleep consultant perspective it does make getting uninterrupted, restorative sleep somewhat difficult. Because even though you aren’t physically getting up you are likely waking more often, even subtly. Westerners in particular also sight the need for adults-only time as a deterrent. All valid points to consider. I have had many calls from teary husbands begging me to help them get their baby out of their bed. In most cases however, if done correctly and in agreement between partners, co-sleeping can be a perfectly suitable choice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend actual bed sharing. This is likely because so many parents do it incorrectly making it too much of a liability to condone. So let’s talk about the safest ways to co-sleep. Here are the most common things to remember.
Co-sleeping best practice tips
- Always place your baby on their back and adjacent to the mother on a firm mattress. Use guardrails or push the mattress flush with a wall to prevent the baby from rolling off the bed or getting caught in between the bed and the wall
- No loose blankets, cushy pillows, dangly jewellery or lingerie with string ties
- Do not ever drink alcohol, do drugs or smoke when sharing a bed with your child. Obese parents are also encouraged not to co-sleep
- Never co-sleep in a chair, sofa, recliner or futon. Only do so in a queen or king sized bed
Following the above guidelines, you can have a perfectly safe and satisfying co-sleeping experience. Or you can skip the co-sleeping and put your little one right into their own room. Choice is a beautiful thing, right? Regardless of the choice you make I wish you lots of wonderful sleep!