Parents seem to be split on the pros and cons of co-sleeping, i.e. sharing a bed with your baby. Common practice up until the 19th century, it has now come back into fashion thanks to so-called “attachment parenting” – how times have changed. Despite the all-too-often stories covering tragedies brought on by bed sharing, many still endorse it if the practice is carried out correctly. So what’s right for you?
The pros of sharing a bed with your baby include:
– It encourages breastfeeding, as mother and baby will be in close proximity to one another. Baby may even be able to nurse while mum is sleeping
– Allows for everyone’s rhythms and sleep cycles to get in synch early on
– Reduces the time needed to get baby back to sleep when they wake during the night
– Encourages bonding and allows parents who don’t see their babies during the day to regain a sense of intimacy
Of course, the cons can be quite serious:
– Co-sleeping under certain conditions – such as when the parent has been drinking, or uses a heavy duvet – can dramatically increase the chances of a baby dying from SIDS
– Besides immediate health concerns, there is also a chance that the child will be reluctant to move to their own cot or bed when they reach a certain age
– Active wiggling limbs on their part and over-attentiveness on your part could actually result in less sleep for parent and child than if they were in their own cot
– There will also be fewer opportunities for adult intimacy – or even just conversation – when you and your partner are sharing your bed with a little one, which can lead to added stress
So what’s the best way forward?
Ultimately, you need to decide what’s best for you, and if you decide to give co-sleeping a go here are some handy tips to ensure it goes smoothly:
– Sleep with light sheets – not a heavy duvet – and don’t lay your baby either on or between pillows
– Never leave the baby alone in your bed, even while you pop to the loo; they can fall out or get tangled up in your sheets in no time
– Make sure your mattress is firm, and that there is no gap between the bed and your walls which they could fall between
– Avoid co-sleeping if you are extremely tired or a naturally heavy sleeper, are obese, have been drinking or have taken drugs, or if either partner is a smoker
– Also avoid if your baby was born prematurely, is underweight or is nursing a fever
– Make sure your baby is warm but not hot, and sleep them on their back from when they are born
According to statistics, most cases of co-sleeping SIDS occur when one or more of the above recommendations are not followed, and there are plenty of reports of parents who have shared a bed with their baby before moving them to their own bed with no problems at all. If you take a bit of time and care, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy months of co-sleeping as a loving family – though of course we can’t guarantee how often a little one will disturb the peace!
What do you think of the co-sleeping debate? Let us know in the comments below.