I am going to introduce the subject of co-sleeping. This is not an in-depth show, but rather just an introduction.
Co–sleeping is sometimes also called sleep-sharing.) Room-sharing and bed-sharing are types of co–sleeping: Room-sharing: This is when parents have a crib in the room with them, a bassinet or portable crib near the bed, a separate crib attached to the bed, or a similar arrangement.
Bed-sharing is just one of the ways that a family might co-sleep, but it is frequently practiced by breastfeeding mothers. One of the biggest issues when it comes to bed-sharing is safety. Some sources publicize bed-sharing as an unsafe practice, no matter how it’s done, but there are ways to sleep safely while bed-sharing if you follow guidelines for safe sleep surfaces and safe sleep sharing.
According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, in their Clinical Protocol #6: Guideline on Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding:
There is currently not enough evidence to support routine recommendations against co-sleeping. Parents should be educated about risks and benefits of co-sleeping and unsafe co-sleeping practices and should be allowed to make their own informed decision.
he ISIS Infant Sleep Information Source website notes:
The most recent studies have shown that most bed-sharing deaths happen when an adult sleeping with a baby has been smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs (illegal or over-the-counter medicines) that make them sleep deeply.
Sometimes people fall asleep with their babies accidentally or without meaning to. This can be very dangerous, especially if it happens on a couch/sofa where a baby can get wedged or trapped between the adult and the cushions.
Co-sleeping essentially means sleeping in close proximity to your child. It may be in the same bed or just in the same room. Some ways of co-sleeping that different families use are
- Bed-sharing/Family Bed:
Parent(s) sleep in the same bed with the child.
- Sidecar arrangement:
Securely attach a crib to one side of the parents’ bed, next to the mother. Three sides of the baby’s crib are left intact, but the side next to the parents’ bed is lowered or removed so that mother and baby have easy access to one another. Commercial cosleeper/sidecar cribs are also available.
- Different beds in the same room:
This might include having baby’s bassinet or crib within arm reach of the parents (easier at night) or just in the same room; or preparing a pallet or bed for an older child on the floor next to, or at the foot of, the parents’ bed.
- Child welcomed into parents’ bed as needed:
The baby/child has her own bedroom, but is welcomed into the parents’ bed at any time. In many families, children start their overnight hours in a separate bed or room, but are welcomed into the parents’ bed after a night waking.
Advantages of co-sleeping
Co-sleeping is not the best fit for every family, but it can have many advantages:
- Parents often get more sleep.
- Babies often get more sleep. Baby stirs and almost wakes up when she needs to nurse, but since she is right beside mom, mom can breastfeed or soothe her back to sleep before she fully wakes up.
- Breastfeeding during the night is easier when baby is nearby.
- Breastfeeding at night helps to maintain your milk supply.
- Sleeping in the same room as your baby reduces the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% [AAP].
- Night nursing also tends to prolong the child-spacing effects of breastfeeding.
- No nighttime separation anxiety.
- Fewer bedtime hassles.
- It’s lovely to wake up next to a smiling baby!
Creating a safe sleep area for your baby
Any sleep surface that baby uses (including cribs, nap surfaces, or adult beds) should be made safe for baby:
General Safety Guidelines for Bed-sharing
If baby is sharing sleep with another person:
- Very small premature or low birth-weight babies appear to be at greater risk when bed-sharing, but benefit greatly from co-sleeping nearby but on a separate surface (more).
- Do not sleep with baby if you are currently a smoker or if you smoked during pregnancy – this greatly increases SIDS risk (more)
- Do not sleep on the same surface as your baby if you are overly tired or have ingested alcohol/sedatives/drugs (or any substance that makes you less aware) (more).
- Baby appears to be safest when sleeping beside his/her breastfeeding mother. (More info here for non-breastfeeding parents)
- Older siblings or other children should not sleep with babies under a year old.
- Do not swaddle your baby when bed-sharing. Baby may overheat (which is a risk factor for SIDS) and a swaddled baby is not able to effectively move covers from the face or use arms and legs to alert an adult who is too close (more).
- Other potential hazards: very long hair should be tied up so that it does not become wrapped around baby’s neck; a parent who is an exceptionally deep sleeper or an extremely obese parent who has a problem feeling exactly how close baby is should consider having baby sleep nearby, but on a separate sleep surface (more).
Can co-sleeping cause psychological problems in my child?
People who are uncomfortable with the idea of co-sleeping often suggest that co-sleeping is “less healthy” than the child sleeping alone and will cause psychological damage to the child, cause baby to become too dependent on the parents, etc. Dr. James McKenna counters these suggestions:
This view represents a personal judgement of which anyone is entitled to make as long as it is not passed on as scientific fact.
It has never been proven, nor shown, nor is it even probable, that sleeping with your baby has any kind of negative long-term effects when the relationships between those involved are healthy. Instead, experts are finding that cosleeping can help develop positive qualities, such as more comfort with physical affection, more confidence in one’s own sexual gender identity, a more positive and optimistic attitude about life, or more innovativeness as a toddler and an increased ability to be alone.
Some books you might want to read are:
The Continuum Concept, by Jean Liedloff
Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping Paperback – January 1, 2007 by James J. McKenna
The Family Bed Paperback – January 1, 2001 by Tine Thevenin
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the NightApr 18, 2002 by Elizabeth Pantley and William Sears
Feel free to bring your thoughts and questions to the AABC group so we can chat more about this subject. Until the next show, bye bye.
Lori J. Isenstadt, IBCLC
Lori Jill Isenstadt, IBCLC is a huge breastfeeding supporter. She has spent much of her adult life working in the maternal health field. Once she became turned on to birth and became a childbirth educator, there was no stopping her love of working with families during their childbearing years. Lori became a Birth doula and a Postpartum doula and soon became a lactation consultant. She has been helping moms and babies with breastfeeding for over 25 years. Lori founded her private practice, All About Breastfeeding where she meets with moms one on one to help solve their breastfeeding challenges. She is an international speaker, book author and the host of the popular itunes podcast, All About Breastfeeding, the place where the girls hang out. You can reach Lori by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her via her website: allaboutbreastfeeding.biz/contact
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