The pros and cons of co-sleeping, or sharing a bed with your baby, have been well-documented, but the debate rages on.
We all want what is best for our kids. However, when it comes to raising them, parents typically use different methods. One of the most controversial topics regarding caring for our little ones is whether parents should share their beds with their baby, or if the baby should sleep in a crib of their own.
Some parents are firmly in favor of co-sleeping, while others are totally against it. But which is right, and is there a cut and dry answer to this question? One thing’s for sure, and that is that there is plenty to discuss in regards to the topic.
In this article on the pros and cons of co-sleeping, we will look at both sides of the coin, to help you decide if it will be right for you and your child.
Pros and Cons of Co-Sleeping Overview
Experts (and parents) who favor co-sleeping cite that it strengthens bonds and makes nursing easier. They also say that it increases cuddle time, and this is difficult to dispute. On the flip side, there are those who believe that the cons of co-sleeping outweigh the pros. They say that it discourages independence, increases sleep disturbances, and makes it harder for babies to learn to sleep on their own when the time comes.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP), babies should sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first six months, and preferably for twelve months. They do not, however, recommend sharing a bed. The reason for this is that the parents could roll over during the night trapping the baby beneath the covers and suffocating them.
Some studies have also shown that co-sleeping increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), particularly if the parents smoke, are heavy drinkers. Additionally, if the parents neglect to ensure that the bed is safe, the child could fall into the space between the bed and the wall and be injured or unable to breathe.
Recently, researchers also examined the incidence of nighttime wakings. They concluded that who share their bed, or even their room, with their infant tend to wake during the night far more frequently. Along with feeling tired, with interrupted sleep, parents can suffer from stress and even depression. The study showed that if both parents were happy with the sleeping arrangement, this was not usually a major issue.
On the plus side, new parents can find it comforting to have their baby beside them as this enables them to check on them at any time. It also makes feeding them easier, and it allows the parents to bond with their baby.
In the next section of this article, we will look at the main pros of co-sleeping.
Pros of Co-Sleeping
Following are the main pros of co-sleeping as seen by proponents.
One of the main pros of co-sleeping is that the parents won’t need to leave their bed to feed their baby during the night. Co-sleeping also encourages breastfeeding, with studies showing that infants who sleep with their parents are usually more often breastfed than those who sleep in another room. Mom’s who breastfeed in bed are also likely to do so for longer periods, increasing the health benefits for their child.
- Better sleep for baby
Babies often sleep longer when sharing a bed with their parents, and extra sleep can promote better development. With less disruption, babies tend to fall asleep faster after being fed. Sleeping in the same bed also helps nursing moms to sync sleep cycles with their child.
Sharing a bed is comforting to both mother and child. Some parents claim that co-sleeping has enabled them to build a stronger bond with their child. This is a major bonus to parents who rarely see their children during the day because of work or other appointments, enabling them to establish a sense of intimacy with their little ones.
- Closer monitoring
Sleeping in the same bed also allows parents to enjoy closer monitoring of their child. Having the baby close during the night also enables parents to notice if they are unwell or uncomfortable immediately, and act quickly.
- Security and Trust
Bed-sharing may help children to feel safer and closer to their parents. One of the reasons for this could be that it encourages skin-to-skin contact, which allows babies to thrive.
Cons of Co-Sleeping
Next, we will look at what those opposed to it believe to be the main cons of co-sleeping.
- Potential safety risks
Though uncommon, there have been instances when parents have been sleeping deeply and rolled onto their baby, unintentionally injuring them. This is a potential risk regardless for all, and the risk is greater if you and/or your partner is obese.
SIDS caused by suffocation or overheating is another possibility. In fact, a fear of SIDS is the number one reason people cite for being against sharing their bed with their baby.
Adult beds do not contain the safety features babies, and toddlers need to stay safe, either.
When three people share a bed, even if one is a tiny baby, everyone has less space. This can lead to a lack of space to fully stretch out, and therefore discomfort and interrupted sleep for all.
- Inferior sleep quality
Rearing children comes with a lot of demands, and getting adequate sleep is crucial to doing a good job. This can be difficult when sharing your bed with an infant, as most frequently toss and turn throughout the night. They also burp, have gas, and make other noises that could keep you awake.
- Crying it out
If you are trying to let your baby cry it out before they fall asleep, it is tougher to let them cry and do nothing when they are beside you, and the urge to pick them up may win.
- Intimacy with your partner
Sleeping beside a baby who awakens at night kicking and screaming takes a lot to get used to. To say it can put a dampener on passion is an understatement. Even a sleeping baby in your bed can affect your relationship with your partner to the extent that lovemaking becomes non-existent.
- Separation anxiety
Another of the potential cons of co-sleeping is that it can lead to separation problems when the child is old enough to move to the nursery.
Next, we will cover some safe co-sleeping guidelines.
Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines
As parents, you have the final say on whether or not you want to share your bed with your baby. If you decide to do so, following the safe co-sleeping guidelines below will minimize any risks.
Limit alcohol consumption and stay away from drugs
If you choose to co-sleep, don’t drink alcohol or take sleep-inducing medication before bedtime. Alcohol, illegal drugs, and some prescription drugs can cause deeper sleep which could prevent you from waking up if you roll on top of your baby. If you need to take medication that will make you sleepy and affect your judgment, ask your doctor if you can take it earlier in the day. A glass of wine a few hours before dinner should be okay, but know your limits.
Don’t co-sleep on a sofa or makeshift bed.
Co-sleeping in a regular bed comes with some risks. Sleeping on a sofa comes with even more risks. The reason for this is that most have corners and cushions that could trap and suffocate a baby.
Avoid crocheted bed covers
It’s easy for a baby’s tiny fingers and toes to become entangled in a bed cover with exposed threads, so avoid using one. Long hair and dangling jewelry can also be problematic when co-sleeping. If your hair is long, tie it back before you go to bed, and remove any jewelry that could pose a risk.
Do not allow your baby to co-sleep with their toddler sibling.
It’s unsafe for infants younger than 18 months to sleep in the same bed as a sibling. Toddlers and older children tend to move around and frequently turn over throughout the night. The weight of a larger child on a baby, even one who is light, can be enough to cause suffocation.
Try a co-sleeper crib
The safest way to co-sleep with your little one is to use a co-sleeper crib. A model I like and recommend is the Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper, which is suitable for newborns through to babies up to around five months of age weighing 20 pounds or less. (Click the previous link to read a review.)
Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Co-Sleeping
Much has been written about the pros and cons of co-sleeping. In my eyes, using a co-sleeping crib offers the best solution. They allow you to have your baby beside you all night, safe in their own space. You will be able to see, touch, and tend to your child easily, without accidentally rolling onto them. You won’t have to leave your bed to feed them, either, so there will be less disruption. This means that falling back to sleep after feeding will usually be easier for all concerned.
Regardless of which way you decide to go, if you follow the guidelines above everyone should be safe and happy.