There are many articles online that give you conflicting information about the advantages of co-sleeping, as well as some unsettling material and blogs that are completely against it. Co-sleeping may be a contentious topic.
With so much information available, it’s simple to become perplexed or misinformed about co-sleeping. It is a strategy that works for some families but not for others.
But knowing all the information can help you decide whether to try co-sleeping with your infant and see if it can improve your sleeping patterns. We’ve compiled a summary of the benefits and drawbacks of co-sleeping so you can decide whether this sleeping arrangement is appropriate for your new family.
What Is Co-sleeping?
Whether it is called co-sleeping, sleep sharing, or the family bed, it is a sleep practice where parents sleep with their babies or kids either in the same bed or same room. Dr William Sears, a well-known paediatrician and author of many parenting books, defines co-sleeping as sleeping within arm’s reach of the baby.
There is a difference in how well the practice of co-sleeping is accepted across cultures. Western culture largely has frowned on the arrangement, whereas co-sleeping seems to be the norm in other developing countries, be it due to space constraints or other causes.
For mums and dads who can’t decide if they should co-sleep with their little ones, here are a few pros and cons of co-sleeping.
Why Co-sleeping Can Be Beneficial for Parents and Their Kids
1. It provides comfort to your baby
Co-sleeping is popular among parents who claim it promotes a baby’s development and reduces their infant’s screaming or other signs of distress. A baby’s anxiety can be decreased by putting the baby in a crib adjacent to the bed, or even in the same bed, which will result in better sleep and fewer disrupted sleep patterns.
Co-sleeping avoids this by having the baby in the same room so they automatically feel their parent’s presence and are comforted much easier. While putting a baby to sleep can be stressful and many parents have experienced the feeling of waiting on the nursery floor for their little one to fall asleep, co-sleeping.
Infants who co-sleep go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. You may actually prevent the baby from crying profusely to wake you up, because you are very much in tune with your child next to you. You will be able to soothe or feed them before it gets to that stage.
2. It gives the feeling of security to your child
Some youngsters begin to exhibit separation anxiety as early as six to seven months of age. They might scream when you leave the room, resist other family members’ hugs, or even come off as “clingy.” Every baby will experience this stage of growth to some extent; it is completely normal.
Babies begin to comprehend that individuals exist even when they are not physically there at this age. It’s known as “object persistence.” Co-sleeping is frequently a technique to comfort a newborn through the night and send the message that their parents have not abandoned them for good. This stage will pass.
If your child is in another room, you can monitor them, but they won’t know where you are going because they can’t see you. You can reach out to your child as soon as they begin to feel concerned or scared by just being in the same room as them and within arm’s reach.
This stops the infant from becoming overly agitated and wailing, which frequently wakes up the entire home. Even though it might be frustrating and especially challenging if you are not getting enough sleep, the phase typically only lasts until the child is two years old. Even though without much sleep, that may seem very far away.
3. Breastfeeding will be easier
A breastfeeding mother may experience physical and mental exhaustion if she wakes up four to five times during the night. You will be on your feet far more frequently if you also have to get out of bed, move to the next room, and console your child.
You won’t even need to fully get out of bed because your kid will be within arm’s reach if you co-sleep. It promotes breastfeeding by making night feedings easier. Baby will just nuzzle in when it’s time to feed, making going back to sleep much easier.
This can ensure that your baby gets what they want fast and effortlessly and that you can fall asleep again afterwards. There is a significant distinction between getting out of bed and moving around and being warm and cosy under your blankets.
4. You will not get up and down that much during the night (more sleep!)
You will still be awakened in the middle of the night by your child, who may require a diaper change, milk, or simply a snuggle and some comfort, even if you are not breastfeeding. When you co-sleep, you can pick up your infant without having to leave the bed and go into another room. The baby’s first murmurs and cries will awaken you so that you can attend to them before they become full-fledged cries.
Parents who co-sleep report feeling better rested. There is no need for you to get up to calm down baby when she cries. No stumbling in the dark or tripping over objects in half sleepy mode. Plus, there are no arguments as to who should go to calm the baby.
5. Better for skin-to-skin contact
One of the most crucial things for your baby’s development, according to experts, is skin-to-skin contact with you. All newborns enjoy cuddling, but skin-to-skin contact can make it easier for your baby to nurse, avoid hypoglycemia and other neonatal issues, and support brain growth.
Skin-to-skin contact is essential for preterm neonates to stabilise. The advantages of skin-to-skin contact were almost unintentionally discovered in 1979 when doctors at a hospital in Colombia ran out of incubators for premature infants.
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They wrapped the infants in blankets and placed them on their mothers’ stomachs in an effort to keep them warm. Amazingly, compared to infants in incubators, these babies flourished and were able to leave the hospital sooner. Newborns’ brains desire sensory input, and this interaction can aid in the child’s emotional and social growth.
When you share a bed, you are closer and better able to provide this type of contact occasionally during the night. This will increase the time your baby spends with you and deepen your relationship.
6. It contributes to the fast recovery of mums from giving birth
According to research, co-sleeping helps both prevent and hasten the recovery of mums who experience postnatal depression, which is considered to affect more than one in ten new mothers. Any mother, whether having her first child or not, can experience trauma during childbirth, which is a life-changing event.
You might not have the picture-perfect delivery you had imagined if your child had a particularly challenging birth. Co-sleeping is not a guaranteed “cure” for postpartum depression, so you should always speak with your doctor or health visitor if you think you may be experiencing symptoms.
Additionally, emergency caesareans and other medical procedures may make it nearly impossible for you to get out of bed. If your baby is in another room, then you find yourself walking around a lot more. This could rip stitches and make healing wounds worse. You may minimise your activity, obtain the rest you require, and ensure your baby is comforted by keeping them close by.
7. It gives bonding time with your baby if you don’t see them during the day
As many parents are aware, it isn’t always feasible to quit your job in order to stay at home with your infant. This implies that you can return to work after taking a maternity or paternity leave and spend eight to 12 hours each day away from home. Most people find this to be distressing, and it may eventually impair your relationship with your infant.
Even though you and your baby are both asleep, co-sleeping can help your baby feel close to you. It is very helpful to build a bond between parents and kids. This additional time with your child can be extremely beneficial, as one in five mothers are said to find it difficult to form close relationships with their kids.
8. Stops constant crying
Prolonged nighttime screaming can be unpleasant for everyone if you have additional children or a partner who works long hours, especially when sleep regression is occurring. Some specialists believe it’s dangerous to let a newborn cry, and the noise alone can completely disturb the home.
A baby must cry out louder to grab your attention if they are in another room. It will be difficult to hear the telltale indicators that your kid is beginning to stir down the hallway, even if you are the lightest sleeper in the world. Co-sleeping reduces the need for your infant to cry out loudly to catch your attention because you’ll be close by and able to comfort them more quickly.
9. It gives a deeper sense of love and trust
Some mothers claim that by spending up to 12 hours in the same room as their baby, whether he is asleep or not, you are enhancing his sense of security and affection. It can take some time to develop the sense of bonding that every mother has with their child because not all mothers link with their babies right away.
This connection can deepen into love through co-sleeping. According to one mother, she initially had a “strong need” to sleep in the same room as her child, and even today, six months later, she still enjoys doing so.
Why Co-sleeping May Not Be Such a Good Idea for Your Family?
1. It raises the chance of SIDS
You may have to be extra careful not to suffocate your baby with the blanket. Safety is the main reason why kids may not be allowed to co-sleep.
One of the most unsettling and frightful elements of being a new parent is the possibility of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS is defined as a baby’s death for which there is no apparent cause or explanation.
2. Drinking alcohol and co-sleeping is risky
Co-sleeping is distinct from “bed sharing,” which involves literally putting your infant in the same bed as you and your partner. The risks of actually sleeping in the same bed as your infant are higher, and drinking alcohol is a strict no-no.
Co-sleeping poses greater hazards and issues when one parent has used alcohol, according to numerous research. By the time they are three months old, around 50% of all babies in the UK and 30% of all babies in the US have slept in a “sharing bed,” therefore it is clear that this practise is highly prevalent.
3. It causes sleeping problems for older siblings who are sharing the bed
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Co-sleeping, though not impossible, can be very difficult with more than 2 kids. If there is an infant and a toddler, you have to make sure they are separated in the bed.
One issue with co-sleeping is that your second kid may be born before your first is ready to go to their own bed. This can cause a variety of issues because an older child may roll over and wake up more slowly than a parent would.
Moving your first child can be quite challenging, and having both kids and both parents sleep in the same bed is not an option for parents who need space to stretch out and sleep! Your first child may be awakened by a second child sharing your bed, which will make them exhausted all day.
4. Your baby may have issues if there is hair or thread left on the sheets.
Whether you co-sleep or not, babies are susceptible to a frightening condition known as “hair tourniquet.” As the infant wriggles, a hair strand can become wrapped around a finger or toe and become tighter and tighter, finally cutting off the baby’s blood supply. By braiding and tying your hair back while you sleep, you can lessen the chance that it will get caught around your infant when you are cosleeping.
5. It ruins the bond between the mother and father.
Problems inside a partnership are one of the co-sleeping’s harmful impacts. When you initially return from the hospital, having sex is probably the last thing on your mind, but as time goes on, you might realise that having a baby in the room is not the best setting for having an active sex life.
For new parents, interruptions from a crying infant are not beneficial, and many people blame this for marital issues. Your patience may become less patient as a result of being sleep deprived, which may lead to tension and disagreements in your relationship. Eight hours of sleep every night can make a significant difference to your life as a whole, as one-third of couples claim to be divorcing due to sleep deprivation.
6. Can interfere with their sleep patterns in later life
Children who co-slept slept for a shorter period of time overall and woke up more frequently than other kids. Babies who had co-slept were shown to have greater chronic sleep issues.
7. The child runs the risk of rolling out of bed or getting wedged in cracks.
While co-sleeping might be safe, it can also be quite dangerous if your infant falls out of bed or gets wedged between anything, such as the bed and a wall. A newborn has to sleep on a hard surface to avoid being squished and harmed, making waterbeds particularly risky. To prevent gaps at any of the edges where your infant could fall, the mattress should always fit the bed frame tightly.
In order to prevent a baby from falling out of the bed, headboards should fit tightly against mattresses without any gaps. If your bed is near a wall, you might want to consider installing a bed guard designed for newborns on that side. You can also purchase bed rails and guards to prevent your child from rolling out of bed.
8. There may be higher risks if your baby is underweight or born prematurely.
Mothers of preterm or underweight infants are typically advised not to bed share at all. Parents should avoid sleeping with premature or small-for-gestational-age infants since they are more likely to die from SIDS.
Image source: iStock
Experts suggest keeping the baby in the same room but not having them share a bed. In order to enjoy the advantages of co-sleeping with the infant without the additional risk of sharing a bed, the baby can be in a cot or Moses basket adjacent to the parents’ bed.
9. Baby may overheat
A newborn can easily become overheated, and SIDS hazards include overheating. Although it is sweet to cuddle with your baby, they need to maintain a constant temperature throughout the night, and your body heat may be too much.
It is advised that you wear warm clothing to bed and skip the blanket. In this manner, your kid won’t be able to crawl out from under a blanket and overheat. Just make sure your clothing is comfortable for breastfeeding and avoid wearing anything with hanging threads because they could tangle around your child.
To prevent them from coming loose and falling onto your infant, make sure the linens on your bed are likewise pulled tightly over the mattress. Although a sheet is thin, it nevertheless has the potential to overheat your child during the night.
10. Your baby’s transition to a crib can be difficult
Some experts believe that by getting kids to co-sleep, you are making it more difficult for them to sleep alone.
It might be challenging to transition your infant from co-sleeping to their own room. It makes sense that because your kid is accustomed to having you nearby at all times of the day and night, when you start to move away from them, they would be puzzled and possibly even distressed. Although it is possible, doing so requires caution and patience, which can be irritating.
Co-sleeping in some cases could lead to separation anxiety or other fears of being lonely, making the child dependent.
11. Moving an older child can also be challenging.
According to recent surveys, 45% of parents let their 8 to 12-year-old kids sleep in their bed at night, which is clearly much longer than the two to three years that is recommended for co-sleeping.
While that statistic just includes kids who occasionally share a bed with their parents, 13% of kids of the same age do so nightly. Therefore, resolving this issue quickly will help everyone get a good night’s sleep and make coping with a toddler easier.
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Sleep Safety Precautions to Abide
Note that co-sleeping isn’t for every family, and it is imperative that parents follow several safety precautions. Parents who share a bed with their baby:
• Should not be under the influence of alcohol and drugs, including medications that affect their sleep.
• Should not co-sleep if they have sleep disorders.
• Should not co-sleep in a waterbed or with any soft bedding near the baby. It is best to use a queen or king sized mattress.
• Should not share a sleep space with their baby if they are extremely obese.
When To Stop Is Co-Sleeping?
For the first six to twelve months, safe sleep recommendations state that infants should sleep in the parents’ room on a special surface made for infants. We advise getting a baby who is under 12 months old back to sleeping in their own bed as soon as possible if you are cosleeping with them.
For co-sleeping parents, note that the risk of SIDs, or sudden unexplained infant death, diminishes over a period of 12 months. You can transition anytime you’re ready if you enjoy co-sleeping with your child and both of you are receiving a good night’s sleep.
However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that sleep associations become stronger with time. As a result, the longer you co-sleep, the more likely your infant or toddler will become accustomed to sleeping in your room, making it more difficult to transition them to their own bed. It would be ideal to make this shift as soon as possible if you are aware that co-sleeping is not your long-term strategy.
Updates by Matt Doctor
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