My son and I co-sleep. Actually, we bed share (more on that later). This is a fact that I didn’t use to talk about openly. Yes, there was a little hesitation to open myself up to all of the “opinions” but, more so, because I know that there are legitimate concerns about it. But after months of trying to hide it like I hid the emergency formula (you can read about that in Confessions of a Breastfeeding Mom), I started noticing something – a lot of moms co-sleep, at least sometimes. Like me, though, many don’t willingly offer that information. Specifically in the U.S., sleeping with a small child is not culturally acceptable.
And yet… many of us do it. But, wait, aren’t we the culture? Something is amiss.
I am not writing this post to declare that all parents should co-sleep. What I hope to do here is shed a little light for parents that are considering co-sleeping, are co-sleeping and maybe even those who shame others for doing it because there is a lot of misinformation and fear surrounding the topic.
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Co-Sleeping doesn’t have to mean sleeping in the same bed.
Co-sleeping is often used to reference parent and child sleeping in the same bed but co-sleeping doesn’t necessarily have to be that. Co-sleeping is sleeping in close proximity of the child (close enough to touch) but not 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. Then we transitioned to bed sharing. Which, is exactly how it sounds – sharing a bed.
Co-Sleeping can help baby 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, 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 (my go to guy!) 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.
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, ever.
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 would 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!