Being a new parent is never easy for anyone. Apart from the obvious need to take care of a newborn child, your sleep can significantly be affected.
Co-sleeping with an infant can be a divisive topic. Some parents swear by it, and others won’t even consider it.
Whether or not you decide to try co-sleeping comes down to your parenting preferences. Let’s take a look at how different parents view the subject, as well as comparing the benefits and drawbacks.
What is co-sleeping?
First up, we need to understand what co-sleeping is. There are two kinds of it, room sharing and bed sharing.
Some people might say that sharing a room with your child is not considered co-sleeping, but it technically is.
Room sharing involves your child sleeping in the same room as you and your partner. Your bub sleeps in their own bed or cot, and the parents sleep in their own bed.
The sidecar arrangement is another way to co-sleep with the baby sleeping in their own bed. The sidecar arrangement has one side of the bassinet or cot railings removed, and that side is directly beside your bed. This is the safer way to co-sleep.
Bed-sharing is the most common and well-known form of co-sleeping. As mentioned earlier, it's a very divisive matter, and there are always strong opinions on either end.
The idea of bed-sharing is very straightforward - a child or an infant sharing and sleeping on the same bed as with their parents.
The benefits of co-sleeping
Despite being a controversial subject matter, co-sleeping remains popular today due to the advantages it brings for parents and their infant. Listed below are some of the reasons why some parents advocate for co-sleeping (bed-sharing) with their children.
Bed-sharing can be convenient
Most parents will be waking up throughout the night to attend to their crying baby. if the child is in their own room or in a separate bed, you'd need to get out of bed so you can attend to their needs.
When co-sleeping with your child, your young one is always within arm's reach, making it easier to soothe or breastfeed in the middle of the night.
Mothers who co-sleep with their newborns report that they sleep better and longer due to less sleep disruptions.
It encourages you to breastfeed
Fed is best, and while breastfeeding isn’t the only way to feed your newborn, it’s great for those who are able to.
Co-sleeping beside your child allows you to breastfeed easily, without having to completely disrupt your sleep. This creates a healthy pattern of allowing your child to breastfeed when they need it, which can be every 2-3 hours.
The physiological connection between mother and child
There is always a natural physiological connection between a mother and her newborn. Spending nine months inside a mother's womb, the mother's breathing and heartbeats are familiar tunes to a newborn child.
Being in the same bed or cradling your child as you sleep gives them the comfort of hearing a familiar beat or breathing pattern, which allows the baby to sleep more comfortably.
Studies have also shown that the physiological connection reduces stress for both mum and child. The skin to skin contact helps further enhance this connection.
Sharing a bed has positive psychological effects
A child sleeping in their parent's bed allows relationships to foster between the child and their parents. The extra time spent together, even when sleeping creates a tight bond and closeness with each other.
It is also evident in some studies that parents who co-sleep with their children allow them to create and foster better emotional relationships.
Apart from the psychological connection, the reduced disruption of getting out of bed at night allows parents to wake up feeling a little more refreshed and with a clearer mind the next morning.
What are the drawbacks of co-sleeping?
While there are many benefits of sharing a bed with your child, there are also risks and potential complications. Here are some of the reasons why some parents refuse to share a bed with their newborns.
The risk of SIDS and other complications
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns parents against co-sleeping with their children due to the potential risk of sudden infant death syndrome, more commonly known as SIDS.
SIDS is often defined as the sudden, unexplained death of infants under 12 months of age. Some risk factors include overheating, sleeping pronated (on their belly), having a mother who smoked late in the pregnancy and having late or no prenatal care.
Another risk factor that can occur is the accidental suffocation of a child. Bedding for adults is not designed for infants to sleep on, and bedding that is too soft can restrict an infant's airways, leading to a lack of oxygen.
Lastly, the risk of injuring the child is also present, especially when the parents often move and toss around in bed. This risk is enhanced when parents sleep in smaller beds as there is potential for the child to fall off from the bed if they are near the edge.
A key to good sleep is creating a sleeping environment conducive to a restful, undisrupted sleep. Sleeping with a child in the same bed could lead to constantly being alert and aware of your baby next to you.
Having an infant in an adult bed makes you more conscious about your sleeping arrangements, your position in bed, on your movements which takes away your freedom when sleeping.
Not that it's a bad thing to have a strong bond between a parent and their newborn, but being too close to your little ones can create an excessive dependence between you and your child.
Babies sleeping in the family bed at night may find that as their sleeping space instead of their cot or bassinet, which can be problematic during the daytime. Newborns require significantly more sleep than adults. They may not sleep well if it is not in the family bed and not beside their parents.
Infants can easily experience separation anxiety and over-dependence on their parents that they co-sleep with, which can be troublesome in the long run.
What are the alternatives to co-sleeping?
Should you really desire to share a bed with your newborn, ensure that you do everything you can to reduce the risks associated with bed-sharing.
Some parents still keep a bassinet nearby and move the sleeping baby in the middle of the night. In contrast, some parents prefer having their kids, especially older children, to sleep in their own rooms. When accessible, other parents choose to acquire the service of caregivers to watch over their infants. This allows them to have a good night's sleep.
So what is best?
There's no absolute answer on whether you should be co-sleeping with your children or not; it is something that is decided within the family. If there's any way to find out whether you should bed-share or to simply share a room with your child, it's by trying it out on your own and seeing what works best for you.