Co-sleeping with your baby is more common than you would think. If you are a parent searching for the ideal sleeping solution when it comes to your baby, co-sleeping is the answer.
Co-sleeping is simply sleeping in the same bed as your child or infant but it can also include putting your child to sleep in the same room where you sleep but in a separate bed. It is often assumed that there is only one way to co-sleep, but there are several ways in which parents can practice co-sleeping. Regardless, the benefits to co-sleeping with baby are numerous no matter how you go about it
My son & I share a room together. Sometimes when he wakes up and cries for me I will get up, give him his binkie and he will go back to sleep. Sometimes I will bring him in bed with me, but my bed is only twin sized so when we both sleep in it, it’s a very tight squeeze with me teetering off the edge!
It is common for newborn babies to confuse days from nights. Most babies can sleep so soundly all through the day and become wakeful or restless during the night. Keeping your baby close to you during the day with noise and lights around can help him/her remain alert. Keeping the baby close during the night while meeting his/her needs in a dim and quiet environment can help them rest more during the night.
Babies also sleep more soundly if they feel safe and that you are close by. Infants are designed to nurse often, particularly at night. Finding the right night and day pattern and combining it with co-sleeping means that the baby can rest properly between feeds allowing you to get some rest as well.
Your newborn falling into a deep sleep can sound like a good thing but it is not the kind of sleep they are supposed to have. It was found that co-sleeping babies were aroused frequently when they slept close to their mothers. Such babies may not wake fully, but they will be in a lighter sleep, which is considered safer for newborns. Self-rousing can help newborns utilize their self-preservation intuition to wake up when they sense any danger like something obstructing their airway, being too cold, or overheating. This ability to self-rouse can decrease the risk of SIDS.
Babies require feeding soothing, and changing during the night and if the baby is nearby, the mom can do all this without getting out of bed and thus maintaining a state of rest. If the baby were in another room, you would need to be fully alert and awake to do all this while making sure the baby goes back to sleep. When you can meet your baby’s needs by just rolling over, then both of you will be able to get more rest.
Mothers are also wired for closeness and not just babies alone. Research shows that new mothers do not get better sleep if their babies sleep in the hospital nursery during the night. Co-sleeping might not guarantee sounder sleep for every mother but most have reported sleeping better with the knowledge that their babies are close by and safe. Mothers release oxytocin hormone when they are close to their children. This hormone helps to improve the quality of sleep and it is beneficial for breastfeeding.
When you feed on-demand, it helps you keep up an adequate supply of milk. Production of breast milk is a process of supply and demand. Babies eat frequently during the night and co-sleeping helps the mother and baby meet this requirement. The way the body releases it’s hormones means that most mothers report producing the most milk during early morning hours. Co sleeping also helps the mother and baby to synchronize milk supply and hunger even during the night. Frequent nighttime feeds can also help mother prevent painful engorgement from long periods in between nighttime feeds.
A secure attachment between you and your baby is an emotional one that leaves him or her feeling cared for and secure. This attachment makes the child feel secure in the fact that their caregiver will always come to meet their needs. Children who have fostered a secure attachment usually respond to situations appropriately and show less distress when the mother leaves. They are also happy when the mother returns. Co-sleeping helps to promote attachment because closeness between a mother and her baby helps with the release of oxytocin (the love hormone). Oxytocin plays a significant role in attachment and bonding.
Your baby will fuss less and sleep better when he/she feels secure and knows you are close by. Mothers who co-sleep are better at noticing early signs of hunger and they can meet the baby’s needs before they start crying. When you co-sleep, there is less effort in trying to get your child to settle down before putting them down. This translates into less crying.
There are three ( 3 ) separate categories of co sleepers. There is the devoted co sleepers, the short-term co sleepers, and the “we didn’t plan for it to be this way” co sleeper.
The devoted co sleepers are couples ( and single moms ) who choose to have a “family bed” and include all members, even the dog sleeps at the foot of the bed. This is a certain type of philosophy and lifestyle because many people are influenced by the attachment parenting ideology which was popularized by William Sears and his wife Martha Sears. These folks decided that when they had a baby they were going to consciously decide to have the baby ( and later, the rest of the children ) sleep next to them, until they convey a desire to sleep in their own bed. Even if this took several years this was what William and Martha Sears were committed to.
Short term co sleepers are okay with having the baby with them the first few months, although they don’t realize that it is the first few months that are the riskiest time to bed share. The thing they like about it is the bonding, and the convenience of having their newborn right there next to them since they are breast feeding frequently anyway. As new parents are usually very anxious parents, they might feel less worried if baby is by their side. These parents might want to consider doing room sharing as an alternative. It satisfies the need for closeness and minimizes the risks.
The “we didn’t plan for it to be this way” co sleepers are also sometimes called reactive co sleepers. These are the reluctant parents who ended up sharing a bed with their baby either partly or all of the night, even though they did not intend to have it that way but was the only way they could get their little one to sleep or back to sleep when it was the middle of the night. This “short-term” solution ended up continuing where the parents could not figure out how to stop the behavior.
Whether you are trying to decide if long-term co sleeping is right for you or not, there is a variety of practical and emotional issues to consider. You have to think about your own childhood, your own nighttime fears, what were your feelings of closeness or isolation from your parents and how did it affect you.
Working mothers need to consider if they need that extra closeness at night because they feel some sort of guilt or afraid that they are somehow hurting the baby by being gone all day. I am not trying to imply that all parents co sleep because they feel guilty, but if you understand your own motives then you can better make a decision. You should ask yourself if physical closeness at nighttime is really the key to secure attachment with your child. As a mom I am not really convicted that it is a requirement. Most of our attachment, bonding and interaction happen during the day.
So like, you need to keep in mind that co sleeping is a LONG-TERM commitment, a practice which you will have to continue until your child chooses to their own bed. Sometimes this can take years. You also need to consider the mundane matters such as how light of a sleeper are you? Will a squirmy baby keep you up at night? Will you feel more anxious if your baby is sleeping next to you in bed or sleeping far away from you? Are you going to miss being able to watch TV in bed or read with the light on? You certainly won’t be able to just sit in bed and scroll your laptop lazily – I will tell you from FIRST hand experience, you will have little fingers all in your lap trying to play with the keyboard. Good luck with getting any work done or watching YouTube videos.
If you decide you want to co sleep and then change your mind a few months later on, it is going to be really hard to transition your baby from your bed to their own crib. It does get harder, however it is not impossible. What I DON’T SUGGEST is that you let your child sleep next to you for two years straight and then abruptly send him down the hall to their own bedroom. After all your baby has been thinking this whole time that your bed is their bed.
If you decide that you want to co sleep you should talk to your doctor about the benefits to co sleeping with baby and the most recent safety recommendations. Make sure that you do all you can to reduce the hazards.
Some experts say that you should use a firm, smooth mattress or a futon that is on the floor but away from all walls. You need snug, well fitted sheets that are not easily yanked off and you also cannot use any pillows or blankets in the first few months. Never use waterbeds or any other soft and flexible surface. Make sure there are no soft spots or little crevices in which the baby can get caught or smothered. S.I.D.S is rare but most of the time it IS preventable and that means you really have to consider EVERYTHING when you are going to bring your baby in bed with you.
Common sense but just in case: Do not sleep with your baby if you are obese, if you have in drinking or using drugs or strong medications or if you are a very heavy sleeper.
Be sure to read my next post: Safely Co Sleeping With Baby – to make sure you cover all the bases when it comes to having a family bed and sharing it with baby.
So what is your sleeping situation? Are you still trying to decide if you are going to let your baby sleep with you for good or do you think it is best that baby stay in their crib? Remember to weigh your own experiences in making the decision so you can feel good about your choice. Leave me a comment below on your experiences with co sleeping and if you are loving it or hating it.
Single Mama’s check out tips here with your new peanut
Also check out 50 ways to make a baby laugh