I am sure most of you have heard about safe sleep by now and may have even received a pamphlet or two when visiting the OBGYN or pediatrician. However, while many professionals no longer recommend co-sleeping because it can be dangerous, this does not mean it is inherently dangerous. As cited by medical expert, Dr. Sears, many cultures that traditionally practice co-sleeping have some of the lowest incidences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the world! (http://www.askdrsears.com/news/latest-news/dr-sears-addresses-recent-co-sleeping-concerns)
There are lots of benefits to co-sleeping including: more sleep for parents and child, more successful breastfeeding, better milk supply, less nighttime separation anxiety, a heightened awareness of babies breathing, sleep patterns and safety, and a longer duration between children (in part because nighttime feedings, help prolong the start of the menstrual cycle again).
Reasons to not co-sleep include: when a parent is a smoker, when a parent has been drinking, using other substances or has taken sedatives, or when a parent is obese or an extremely heavy sleeper.
Co-sleeping is loosely defined as having a child sleep in the same room as their parents. What that looks like, varies family to family. Usually, co-sleeping involves one of the following: a child sleeping in the same bed as their parent(s), attaching a crib sidecar style to the mother’s side of the bed (baby is in their own space but at arm’s length for nighttime security and breastfeeding ease), baby in their own bed in the parents’ bedroom, or a child has their own room but often comes into the family bed during the night when they feel the need.
If you do practice some form of co-sleeping or are interested in doing so, please take the following precautions:
- Use a firm mattress
- Make sure all bedding fits tightly to the mattress
- Make sure there are no pillows, stuffed animals or loose blankets in baby’s space
- Do not have baby sleep next to anyone except mother
- Make sure there are no crevices that baby can injure himself in between the mattress and headboard, mattress and wall or bed and attached crib.
When deciding on sleeping arrangements, the best one is one that is safe and ensures that everyone gets the best sleep possible. Happy parenting!
Rachel Reeves, M.S.W (Master's of Social Work) Doula, Childbirth Educator and Breastfeeding Counselor USA