As a new parent, one of the most pressing issues that you will have to deal with is where your baby should sleep. Should you keep the baby in the same room as you? Or should you put the baby in a separate room? Co-sleeping is a popular trend these days, but is it safe for your baby? In this article, we will discuss co-sleeping, its benefits, risks, and safety tips for parents.
What is Co-Sleeping?
Co-sleeping is the practice of sharing a sleeping surface with your baby. It can be done in different ways: bed-sharing, room-sharing, or using a co-sleeper. Bed-sharing is when the baby sleeps on the same surface as the parent. While room-sharing is when the baby sleeps in the same room as the parent but in a separate crib. A co-sleeper is a small bassinet-like bed that attaches to the side of the parent’s bed.
Types of Co-Sleeping
A. Room-Sharing Co-Sleeping
B. Bed Sharing Co-Sleeping
C. Side-Car Cribs Co-Sleeping
The Drawbacks of Co-Sleeping
While sharing a bed with family members may seem like a cozy and intimate option for some. Lynelle Schneeberg, Psy.D., director of the behavioral sleep program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, warns that it can lead to a variety of problems in the long run. Dr. Schneeberg stresses the importance of promoting independent sleep habits in children, which ultimately outweigh any perceived benefits of co-sleeping. Additionally, the risks associated with co-sleeping can extend beyond physical safety, as noted by Dr. Schneeberg.
Your kids may develop a sleep crutch
Having a parent around at bedtime all the time can create a strong association in your child’s mind that they need that presence to fall asleep. This is called a “sleep onset association,” and it can become a crutch or prop that they rely on. Dr. Schneeberg advises that children should learn how to fall asleep without the immediate presence of a parent.
Your kids may display anxious behaviors
Sometimes, children may become accustomed to certain actions, such as back rubbing, patting, or being held, as a way to fall asleep. The actions can create a reliance, which people refer to as a “sleep crutch.”Children who depend on these actions to fall asleep might also display behaviors that could resemble anxiety since they may attempt to persuade their parents to stay with them at bedtime. However, this may simply be a result of their dependence on these actions to fall asleep.
One bedtime doesn’t fit all
Dr. Scheeberg stated that caretakers and older siblings often adjust their typical routines and choose to go to bed earlier in order to accommodate the sleeping needs of younger children in family units where sleeping arrangements are shared. This is because children of different ages have different sleep requirements. This scenario has the potential to become exasperating for all parties involved.
Your sleep quality may suffer
Dr. Schneedberg states that children’s restlessness and active sleeping habits can disturb their parents’ sleep by kicking or thrashing around. She has seen many families where one parent, typically the father, ends up sleeping in a different room due to this disruption. The parent who sleeps with the children often becomes exhausted either because of the children’s restless sleep or because of their needs after waking up.
Your relationship may suffer
Many couples with children may find that the only time they have to be alone together is in the evenings. However, if they are sharing a bed with their children, this can make it difficult to find intimacy and connection with their partner. Co-sleeping can limit the amount of physical space and privacy that couples have, which may make it challenging to engage in intimate activities.
It increases the risk of SIDS and suffocation
It is imperative to keep in mind that co-sleeping can heighten the possibility of sudden infant death syndrome. This is due to the likelihood of parents or other objects, such as pillows or blankets, unintentionally rolling onto the baby during the night. This could potentially result in severe harm, suffocation, or even fatality. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that co-sleeping poses a particularly grave threat if the infant is under 4 months old, was born prematurely, or has a low birth weight. Furthermore, if someone in the bed smokes, consumes alcohol, or uses drugs, or if the co-sleeping surface is plush and covered with bedding, it worsens the danger.
Benefits of Co-Sleeping
Numerous caregivers, including self-identified attachment parents and others, espouse the benefits of co-sleeping or shared sleeping arrangements for infants. Such arrangements can take the form of sharing a bed, utilizing a co-sleeper, or placing the baby’s bed in close proximity to the caregiver’s own sleeping quarters.
- Advocates of co-sleeping, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), point to research suggesting that when parents take sleep safety precautions, sleeping in the same room as their child can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While the AAP does not endorse bed-sharing, they do recommend other forms of co-sleeping.
- In addition to the potential safety benefits, co-sleeping may also have other advantages. Infants who co-sleep may fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, which could lead to better sleep for both the baby and the parents.
- Co-sleeping can also make nighttime feedings easier and more accessible for breastfeeding mothers.
- Mothers who co-sleep may also report feeling more rested. Some research suggests that co-sleeping can help strengthen the emotional bond between parents and their children.
- Physiological benefits of co-sleeping may include synchronizing the baby’s breathing with the adult’s and helping regulate their body temperature.
- Finally, co-sleeping may have psychological benefits as well, including enhancing parental emotional regulation and fostering feelings of closeness between parent and child. And reducing stress levels for babies.
Safety Tips for Co-Sleeping
It is of utmost importance to acknowledge that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not advocate bed-sharing. They recommend that infants slumber in their own sleeping quarters, within close proximity to their guardians. It is crucial for parents to practice safe sleeping habits for their babies because the stark and heartbreaking truth is that sleep-related deaths claim the lives of 3,500 infants each year.
To assist you in creating a safe co-sleeping environment, the AAP has outlined the following guidelines:
- First and foremost, avoid sleeping with your infant on furniture that has soft and cushy surfaces, such as couches or armchairs. These types of furniture can heighten the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation due to entrapment.
- You must ensure that objects such as blankets, pillows, sheets, or any other soft items do not obstruct your baby’s breathing. A secure co-sleeping position would be away from any bedding.
- If you happen to doze off while feeding your infant, immediately place them on their back, preferably on a separate surface for sleep, once you awaken.
- When it comes to co-sleeping with your infant, the AAP task force is unable to determine if bedside sleepers or in-bed sleepers are safe.
To further reinforce these guidelines, Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., FAAP, a member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report, stresses the importance of these tips. “If there is even the slightest chance that you might fall asleep while feeding your baby. Do so on your bed, rather than a cushioned chair or sofa. In the event that you do drift off, be sure to move your baby to their own sleeping quarters as soon as you wake up.” She advises.
Dr. Feldman-Winter emphasizes that it is crucial to ensure that there are no pillows, sheets, blankets, or any other objects that could potentially obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.
Co-sleeping can provide many benefits for parents and babies, such as promoting bonding, convenience, and better sleep. However, it also poses risks, such as suffocation and SIDS. To ensure the safety of your baby. It is important to follow the recommended safety tips, such as using a co-sleeper, avoiding bed-sharing, and avoiding alcohol and drug use.
The practice of co-sleeping has long been associated with an increased risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). However, research suggests that the risk of SUDI is even higher in certain circumstances. Such as when parents are extremely fatigued or unwell. These factors may further exacerbate the potential dangers of co-sleeping. And should be taken into careful consideration by all parents and caregivers.
Co-sleeping with children during their school-aged years has been linked to several negative sleep outcomes. These include difficulty falling asleep, decreased overall sleep time, increased daytime sleepiness, resistance to going to bed at night, more frequent awakenings during the night, and higher levels of anxiety about sleep.