Co-sleeping: should you do it and is it safe?
To co-sleep or not? This has become a widely debated topic over the years and many parents find it challenging to determine whether co-sleeping is best for their family and if it is safe.
When taking to the internet, you will likely find conflicting information as many professionals claim co-sleeping can be un-safe while others promote the practice. Additionally, friends and family usually have no problem offering up their opinions and thoughts with you based on their own experiences.
So how can you really know for sure that you are making the right decision when it comes to co-sleeping?
Thankfully, you get to make the choice and you can do so by learning the risks and the benefits and then deciding if it is a practice you want to adopt in your household.
What is co-sleeping?
This is a good place to start, as you might find various definitions of what co-sleeping actually means. Generally, the term co-sleeping is defined as-the practice of parent and child sharing a bed.
In American culture, independent sleeping is practiced more often, while in non-Western cultures it is not usually the norm for babies to sleep alone.
There are many benefits of co-sleeping to consider, especially while bonding during the first few months of life. However, not all families should practice co-sleeping if the environment and dynamic are not conducive to sharing a bed with your little.
Here are a few things you should consider…
1) Sleep environment- As mentioned above it is very important that the environment for co-sleeping is safe for a child and especially a newborn.
When assessing your sleep environment, you should make sure the following precautions are in place.
- According to Dr. Sears, a large bed is best for sleeping to ensure that adults and the child have adequate space for sleep. You should also make sure that your mattress is firm and the sheets are fitted with no extra pillows or blankets near the child.
- Placement of the child in your bed is equally as important. You should make sure she cannot roll off the bed and that she is not sleeping near an adult who might easily role onto her. If an adult in the bed is extremely obese, intoxicated, a smoker, or a very heavy sleeper, co-sleeping is likely not the best option.
- General recommendations for an environment that promotes sleep should also be considered. The temperature should be set between 70-72 degrees in the room and dark curtains are recommended.
For a full list of safety recommendations visit (https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/sleep-problems/sleep-safety/cosleeping-safely)
2) Discuss with your partner how long you are wanting to co-sleep. Often times, parents end up co-sleeping without really discussing what their goals or expectations are around sleep. Mom might feel comfortable with co-sleeping until the transition feels natural, while Dad might be eager to move the child in her own bed after a few months. It is important to have a discussion around when and what that transition will look like so that when the time comes both of you are on the same page.
3) Identify your reasons for wanting co-sleeping. Some parents have strong feelings around why they want to co-sleep and some adopt the practice simply to survive. Many women find it easier to breastfeed when co-sleeping and some enjoy the bonding that it brings. However, not all parents enjoy co-sleeping and some of them feel as though it is a habit they have a difficult time navigating. Co-sleeping can become a negative sleep association for some-a “crutch” that the child relies on in order to fall or stay asleep for every nap and nighttime sleep. If this feels like your situation, you can try placing a crib or bassinet in the room and gradually move the child to her own room to encourage independent sleep. But either way, you want to make sure that co-sleeping does not become something that prevents everyone from getting a restful night’s sleep.
Co-sleeping can be a wonderful experience when practiced safely and it is important that parents always use the safety precautions before co-sleeping. Many babies will transition nicely to a bed or crib and I generally recommend considering this transition prior to the child’s first birthday.
If you are not sure that co-sleeping is for you, you can always try sharing a room as a happy medium or encouraging independent sleeping from the start.
Ultimately you should make the decision that is best for your family. As with most parenting decisions, asses whether the benefits outweigh the risks and if you feel positive about your choice then go for it!