Maternity Glow Presents ...

The Ultimate Guide to Co-Sleeping

​Are you thinking about co-sleeping with your baby?

Are you wondering what the possible benefits, risks, and best-practices are?

Then you're come to the right place.​

How and where you child sleeps can be a very personal choice that a lot of moms feel uncomfortable sharing.

Co-sleeping can cause many moms to hide this information from their friends and doctor, so it is important to learn the correct way to co-sleep to keep your baby safe.

Co-sleeping is a choice many families make, but it is only when it is not done safely that it becomes dangerous.

What is Co-Sleeping?

Co-sleeping, also known as sleep-sharing or the family bed, is defined as sharing your bed regularly with your child and not sleeping in separate beds.

This is actually more common than one would think.

It is unknown precisely how many families co-sleep in the United States, but the number does seem to be growing.

One national studies places about 13 percent of families as co-sleeping that has since grown in recent years.

Even families that don’t regularly co-sleep may still allow co-sleeping occasionally depending on the circumstances.

Types of Co-Sleeping

There are several different versions of co-sleeping.

The basic idea of co-sleeping is sleeping closely to your child whether that is in the same bed or the same room. These can include:

  • Family Bed or Bed-sharing. This is where the child sleeps in the same bed as the parent(s)
  • Sidecar. This involves attaching a crib securely to the mother’s side of the bed. Basically, there are three sides of the original crib left up while the side next to the mother is either removed or just lowered so the mother has easy access to the baby. You can also purchase a specific sidecar or co-sleeper crib for this purpose.
  • Same Room but Different Beds. This could include a crib or bassinet that is closely placed next to the parent(s) bed or somewhere in that room. For an older child, this could mean having a bed or cot set up on the floor by the parents’ bed.
  • Child Sleep in Parent’s Bed As Needed. This involves the baby or child sleeping in the parent’s bed only when needed. This can happen with the child starting out in their own bed, but finishing the night in their parent’s bed at waking during the night.

Co-Sleeping Benefits

Not every family will choose co-sleeping depending on their lifestyle or childrearing beliefs, but for those that do there are many advantages including:

  • You will get more sleep (if your baby is not sleep trained).
  • Babies will also get more sleep since she is right next to mom when she starts to wake to nurse, she can breastfeed and is soothed back to sleep before she ever wakes up completely.
  • It is easier to breastfeed during the night when your baby is close by.
  • You can maintain your milk supply easier by breastfeeding at night.
  • SIDS is reduced by as much as 50% when you sleep in the same room as your baby.
  • When you can night nurse, you can also extend the benefits of child-spacing effects from breastfeeding.
  • No separation anxiety at night time.
  • Less hassles at bedtime.
  • There is nothing like waking up to your smiling child.

Is Co-Sleeping Right for My Family?

Whether or not you decide to co-sleep is completely up to you and your family.

What may work for your family may not work for everyone. Always make sure you keep your child's health and safety as the most important consideration when making this decision.

Some people are too afraid of the dangers of learning about co-sleeping to do it safely.

Others love the coziness of co-sleeping while some hate having a child in their bed squirming around so they can’t sleep.

Sometimes it’s the child’s preference with some preferring to sleep on their own and others sleeping better alongside their mom.

Some other considerations:

Bonding Time

Bonding time can be especially hard to find these days with everyone as busy as there are.

Finding some time to just snuggle in bed can be a great way to bond when you have a busy schedule.

Fathers can also find co-sleeping as a good time to bond since they often spend less time with the baby than a nursing mother.

Night Feedings

When it comes time to feed your baby, whether you nurse or bottle feed, co-sleeping makes feeding your baby a lot easier.

Since your baby is so close to you, it is easy to get comfortable nursing, you’re your baby cam latch on, and then you can doze off again.

Bottle feeding is also easier if you have a bottle ready to go in the fridge, you just feed the baby when she wakes up and then doze off again once she is finished.

There are some that say it is harder to wean your little one when you are co-sleeping, and it can be more difficult to sleep train.

There are also others that feel that babies wake up more often being so close to their mother as they breastfeeding babies especially will smell their mother’s milk and wake up to feed more often than they really need to.​

Relationships

There are parents that find that co-sleeping can make it difficult for them to have some alone time and it can put quite a damper on your sex life.

Other parents find that it makes them more creative about finding alone time and you may need to plan out alone time with your spouse.

General Co-Sleeping Safety Guidelines

Anywhere the baby uses to sleep should be made safe including cribs, any nap surfaces, and the family bed.

Remember these following guidelines when putting your baby down to sleep:

  • Always place your baby on her back to sleep.
  • Your baby should have a firm sleep surface. Never put a baby on a waterbed mattress, beanbag, sheepskin, or pillow.
  • All bedding should fit tightly on the mattress.
  • The mattress should also be a tight fit with the footboard and headboard or the sides of the crib.
  • No loose pillows, soft blankets, or stuffed animals near your baby’s face.
  • No space between the wall and the mattress.
  • Never have the baby sleep on a futon, recliner, couch, sofa, or other surface with crevices.
  • Low birth weight or small premature babies tend to have a greater risk when co-sleeping. However, they also greatly benefit from sleeping near you on a separate, but safe, surface.
  • If you are a smoker, or you smoked during you pregnancy, do not co-sleep with your baby as this is one of the risks that increases the likelihood of SIDS.
  • If you are overly tired or have consumed drugs, sedatives, or alcohol, do not co-sleep with your baby.
  • When sleeping next to their breastfeeding mother, babies tend to be the safest.
  • Do not have older children sleep with the baby when she is under a year old.
  • When co-sleeping, do not swaddle your baby as she may overheat. This is another SIDS risk factor, plus the baby cannot move pillow or blankets away from her face or alert you if you become too close to her.
  • Tie up any long hair in case it can become wrapped around your baby’s neck.
  • Deep sleepers or very obese parents who are unable to tell exactly how close they are to their baby should not sleep on the same surface, but have the baby sleep somewhere close by.
  • Never leave your baby alone in an adult bed as it was not created with the safety of baby in mind. If you are putting the baby down for a nap, use the crib or bassinet.
  • Remember the “back to sleep” is the best method, no matter where your baby sleeps. This is the best practice to lower your baby’s risk of SIDS.
  • Never smoke around your baby, no matter if you co-sleep or not. Studies have shown that babies who co-sleep with a smoking parent have a higher risk of SIDS.
  • Also, remember to childproof the room you co-sleep in the event he gets out of bed while you sleep.
  • Never sleep in clothing with ribbons or long strings or wear jewelry when you co-sleep.
  • Keep all pets out of the family bed.
  • Use only a flat, smooth mattress for your baby to sleep on. Never put your baby to sleep on a waterbed, couch, egg-crate mattress, or other surface that is not firm. Remember, the rule is firm and flat.
  • The best place to put your mattress is on the floor, just in case your baby does fall off, she won’t have that far to go. Also, put pillows and rugs around the mattress to cushion her fall.
  • A bed rail is also a good option if your mattress is not on the floor. A mesh rails is preferred as slat can trap your little one’s head.
  • Also check daily for any gaps in your mattress and the wall that your little one could potentially fall into. Tightly rolled towels should be used to fill the gaps between the mattress and the wall or the headboard and footboards.
  • Make sure your footboard and headboard do not have slats that are more than 2 3/8 inches apart or that have any cutouts that trap your little one’s head.
  • Remove any potential hazards from the baby like cords from lamps and window blinds.
  • Make sure the bedding allows you baby to breath freely so there are no blankets, comforters, pillows, or other bedding around her face.
  • Fitted sheets should be place securely on the mattress so they aren’t pulled loose.
  • Never use sheepskins of cushy mattress covers.
  • Dress your little one in layers like
  • For warmth, dress your baby in layers like sleeveless sleep sacks and footed pajamas. But, to avoid overheating, make sure she is dressed lighter than if she were sleeping alone.

Can Co-sleeping Cause Negative Effects?

Generally, one hears of negative effects from those that are not comfortable with the idea of co-sleeping.

Some even suggest that it isn’t healthy for children to sleep with their parent(s), that it can even cause psychological damage to the child in the long run, or it can cause the child to become too dependent on her parents.

It is actually pretty common around the world to find societies where children sleep with their parents for a few years.

This was a common practice with primitive cultures as well, and it is still a common practice among Japanese families. Western culture has been different encouraging parents to have separate sleeping arrangements from their parents, most often in their own rooms.

In spite of this difference from the rest of the world, there are still about 25% of families in America that co-sleep with their children.

The theory behind separate sleeping arrangements is to promote more independence for the child. Research actually suggests that greater independence is reached with co-sleeping which satisfies a child’s need for attention and human contact which also creates more confidence and self-esteem later in life.

Research also reports that those children that co-sleep have both better short term and long term benefits. This is a result of the calming presence of a baby’s parents nearby so that they cry less.

Also, babies that are crying from stress due to separation have released more cortisol, a stress hormone, when they are in distress. This chronic exposure to the stress hormone has adverse effects on proper immune functions.

On the other hand, children that co-sleep with their mothers tend to breastfeed twice as much as children that don’t co-sleep and that in turns increase their immune system functions.

There are also other studies that suggest better well-being and mental health in children that co-sleep. Children that have never slept with their parents were found to be more fearful than those that have co-slept with their parents and they were less able to handle stress, were less independent, and became more difficult to handle than their co-sleeping counterparts.

Another study found that adults that co-slept as children were more like to be satisfied with their life than those that hadn’t co-slept with their parents.

One other negative that is often heard is that breastfeeding while your baby is lying down can cause ear infections. This has never been proven, and it is not possible.

Think about it, when a baby nurses at any time, she is lying down whether you are or not when you are nursing her.

There have been no long-term negative effects associated with co-sleeping, but many positive benefits have been found including less fear, more creativity, physical affection, increased self-confidence, and a more positive attitude about life.

Wrapping Up

Remember that a child that feels cared for throughout both the day and night will have a constant feeling of love and support and will never have to deal with feelings of anger, fear, and abandonment.

When a child feels safe at night, they will grow up to be adults that can cope with the stresses of life better.

You aren’t spoiling a child by giving her a feeling of safety and love early in her life, but you are giving her the gift of self-esteem, security, and trust which she can use later in life to deal with all of life's challenges.

Kate Trout
 

Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place to learn all about practical parenting tips, baby care tricks, and healthy-living hacks for new and expecting moms.

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