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My wife and I have heard quite a bit about the benefits of co-sleeping with our children (i.e. having them sleep in the same bed as us.) However, we only know one couple who has actually done so. Has anyone tried this, and know of some of the benefits (and maybe pitfalls) of doing so?

asked 22 Dec '09, 21:19

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Matthew Jones
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edited 04 Jan '10, 05:27

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Lin
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+1 for a great question!

We are the only mammals that push our babies out of the "nest" at birth

My partner and I decided against co-sleeping before our baby was born and choose instead to have her in her cot in our room. But once she arrived, I started sneaking her into the bed in the mornings for cuddles, which we loved! Then she went though a clingy stage when she was 4.5 months old and would only settle at night if she was cuddled up to me in our bed, she slept with us for about a month. Now, I settle her in our bed and then slowly move her to her cot when she falls asleep (tsk tsk, I know... bad habit) - she's fine there until morning and will resettle herself if she wakes during the night. For now, this arrangement works well for us. I'd love to have our baby sleep with us 100% of the time, but my partner doesn't sleep well when she's in our bed and it's important to only co-sleep if BOTH of you are comfortable with it.

There are many benefits of cosleeping:

  1. makes night time feeds a whole lot easier
  2. promotes longer breastfeeding
  3. your child will feel safe and secure next to you
  4. makes for great bonding with your baby (I love it!!)
  5. children who sleep with their parents are more independent than their peers. They perform better in school, having higher self-esteem and fewer health problems - Jennifer Coburn (The Compleat Mother)

There's a school of thought that says that co-sleeping increases the risk of SIDS, however, according to McKenna's research on co-sleeping, babies who sleep alone are at a significantly increased risk of SIDS. He has also found that:

Mothers and babies who sleep together are extremely attuned to one another, even while sleep, and infants learn safe sleep habits, such as moving through various sleep-states and breathing patterns when sharing sleep. And, mothers who sleep with their infants have been shown to be keenly aware of their child's breathing and temperature throughout the night and are able to quickly respond to any significant changes.

If you choose to co-sleep there are some very important guidelines you should follow to minimise the risk of SIDS especially with a very young baby (referenced from author Elizabeth Pantley in this article. It was Meg from this site who first pointed me to Pantley - Meg's a big fan!):

  1. make sure there are no crevices that your baby can become wedged in (like gaps between mattress and frame or wall)
  2. choose a firm, flat and smooth mattress - no pillow tops or waterbeds
  3. make certain that your fitted sheets stay secure and cannot be pulled loose
  4. infants should be placed between their mother and the wall or guardrail. Fathers, siblings, and grandparents don't have the same instinctual awareness of a baby's location as mothers do
  5. your little one should be able to awaken you with a minimum of movement or noise. If you find that you are such a deep sleeper that you only wake when your baby lets out a loud cry, you should seriously consider moving baby out of your bed, perhaps in to a cradle or crib near your bedside
  6. do not ever sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, have used any drugs or medications, are an especially sound sleeper or if you are suffering from sleep deprivation and find it difficult to awaken
  7. do not sleep with your baby if you are a large person, as a parent's excess weight has been determined to pose a risk to baby in a co-sleeping situation
  8. to prevent risk from suffocation, remove all pillows and blankets during the early months (our baby sleeps in her baby sleeping bag when she is in our bed with us, without our quilt)
  9. dress baby appropriately, and be weary of overheating
  10. do not wear any nightclothes with strings or long ribbons. Don't wear jewellery to bed, and if your hair is long, put it up (our baby cuddles up to me and pulls my hair when she wakes!)
  11. do not allow pets to sleep in bed with your baby

When choosing whether co-sleeping is right for you, always remember this:

Every family has different night time needs. There is no single best arrangement that works for all babies and parents. Even within a family, there may be several "right" options to choose from. The key is to find the solution that feels right to everyone in your family.

It's very important to eliminate your need or desire to satisfy anyone else's perception of what you should be doing. In other words, no matter what your in-laws, your neighbours, your paediatrician, or your favourite author says about sleeping arrangements, the only "right" answer is the one that works for the people living in your home

link

answered 22 Dec '09, 22:45

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Lin
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edited 22 Dec '09, 23:12

Great answer, wish I could upvote more than once!

(23 Dec '09, 00:24) runaros

+1 for the well thought out answer with support!

(23 Dec '09, 00:38) Fun2Dream

+1 Lovely answer :)

(23 Dec '09, 15:16) Emi

I like number 6: "if you are suffering from sleep deprivation" - what parent isn't?!

(30 Dec '09, 08:49) Paul Stephenson

well, as of this week, we've ditched the settling-in-our-bed-then-moving-to-the-cot method... our baby is much happier sleeping with us overnight, so we've put up a bed rail and our bed now has 3 bears in it overnight, and hubby isn't scared of rolling onto her anymore as our baby sleeps between me and the bedrail! happy days for all!

(04 Jan '10, 04:54) Lin

MY EYES. Great answer, +1 and accepted. Thanks!

(04 Jan '10, 06:34) Matthew Jones
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

Yes, we've done it with all of ours to various extents. Unicef produce this leaflet on safe bedsharing.

Biggest benefits I can think of:

  1. Breastfeeding is likely to be more successful, in that it will continue for longer (google Helen Ball and cosleeping for data on that)
  2. Adults will have less disturbed nights (cosleeping mothers tend to feed their babies without becoming fully conscious, see Helen Ball again)
  3. Most parents admit that they end up with their babies or children in their beds at some times, you may as well have your bedroom arranged for it, and it will be more comfortable for everyone.

If you have space, instead of having to squeeze an extra body into your bed, take the side off the cot and put it right next to your bed, so you have a sort of annexe (make sure that the baby can't get trapped between the two mattresses, stuff a rolled up blanket or similar in the gap and be certain that the cot and bed can't drift apart). It makes it much more comfortable.

link

answered 22 Dec '09, 22:09

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Meg Stephenson
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We cosleep with an Arm's Reach Cosleeper. We have found many of Meg Stephenson's benefits to be true.

(22 Dec '09, 22:46) Fun2Dream

+1 for the tip on taking the side off the cot - we've been thinking of doing that for awhile now!

(22 Dec '09, 22:58) Lin

+1 Really nice answer too.

(23 Dec '09, 15:18) Emi

We co-sleep with our baby. I have found it essential for me so that I can get some sleep. Our 7.5 month old still likes to nurse several times a night - some nights every 2 hours. When he is sleeping in bed with me, I usually wake up when he starts showing his early hunger signs. He starts with sucking his thumb, then trying to eat his whole hand, then tossing and turning looking for milk, and finally he will wake up crying. When we are co-sleeping, I feed him when he shows the early hunger signs while we are both half asleep. Most of the time, we both fall back asleep while he is nursing. If I wait until he is crying before feeding him, then he wants to get up for an hour or more in the middle of the night which means neither of us get to sleep.

If he was sleeping in his own bed over night, I'd have to actually get out of bed to feed him several times a night which would mean I would become more awake and may not fall back alseep as easily. Also, he might have to get all the way to crying before I noticed he was hungry and then I'd be up for an hour or more in the middle of the night.

Here are the logistics of our co-sleeping situation:

  • Our son has his own crib in our room. I put him to bed in his crib when it is his bedtime.

  • He usually wants to nurse around 11pm. At that time, I take him into bed with me and nurse him and go to sleep.

  • I bought a bed rail for my side of the bed. Our son sleeps between me and the bed rail.

  • With co-sleeping and dream-feeds, our son sleeps from about 6pm to 7am every night.

I absolutely love co-sleeping. My little guy likes to slide over to me while he is asleep so that we are snuggling. I wake up every morning to his smiling face and his fingers poking my cheek. It is extreemly endearing.

So far, I haven't really encountered any pitfalls to co-sleeping. However, our baby is getting so big that we are thinking about upgrading our bed to a king sized bed so that there is enough room for my husband, son and I to sleep comfortably.

link

answered 23 Dec '09, 23:35

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cat_g
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edited 27 Dec '09, 01:28

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mkcoehoorn
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+1 for the snuggles - it truly warms your heart... sometimes I just kiss and watch our baby in the morning whilst she is sleeping next to me and wonder at how beautiful she is

(27 Dec '09, 12:31) Lin

If you're looking for books to read on the matter, I really like Dr. Sears "The Baby Book", and also "The Attachment Parenting Book".

link

answered 23 Dec '09, 00:40

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Fun2Dream
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+1 I'm a big fan of Dr. Sears!

(23 Dec '09, 06:26) cat_g

+1 I just bought both those books!! thanks for the recommendation!

(04 Jan '10, 05:59) Lin

I co-slept with my colicky baby only because I had to - it was the ONLY way she would go to sleep.

Because my husband and I were not altogether comfortable with the idea, we laid a concave changing pad vertically, in between our pillows, so that baby was nestled safely between us, with no risk of us rolling over onto her, nor baby getting close to our blankets/covers.

Plus this way, she was 6+ inches higher than we were, on a mattress she could not roll off of (concave). It worked out perfectly for us, although it was never our original plan.

That was almost 6 years ago, and since then, I've seen almost identical "co-sleeping" mattresses for sale at safety stores, so we were on to something!

I don't know how to embed images on these sites, but here is a link to our change pad.

link

answered 29 Dec '09, 05:24

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YMCbuzz
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With the experience of co-sleeping with all of our three kids, I'd highly recommend it. Here's why :

  • better quality of sleep for all of you
  • all of you will feel safer when you know the baby is close to you and he is sleeping tight
  • promotes breastfeeding

In my experience, there are no pitfalls.

link

answered 02 Jan '10, 14:08

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twaltari
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I would like to recommend the following articles that include many good points and evidence.

Who Wants to Sleep Alone? - an article by Peggy O'Mara, editor and publisher of Mothering

Breastfeeding & Bedsharing Still Useful (and Important) after All These Years by James McKenna

The Complexity of Parent-Child Cosleeping: Researching Cultural Beliefs by Kathleen Dyer Ramos

Infant-Parent Co-Sleepingin an Evolutionary Perspective: Implications of Understanding Infant Sleep Development and the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - a PDF article by McKenna

More research articles and presentations by McKenna

Jean Liedloff's book The Continuum Concept (check also the website) and Meredits Small's book Our Babies, Ourselves. How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent also have lots of insights and information on this topic especially from historical, cultural and evolutionary perspective.

link

answered 06 Jan '10, 12:56

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HW
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Can I turn the question the other way? Why shouldn't you?

I think it is instructive to explore the reasons why you think you shouldn't, because at least some of them will be hokey:

  • What will people say?
  • Worries about forming 'bad habits'
  • Worries about sex life (is bed the only possible place?)
  • Worries about paedophilia (again, does bed==sex?)

To be honest, when we started out, I was 'anti', but it seemed the only way for anyone to get any sleep. Now, even with the oldest approaching 5, we will lie down next to her in her bed while she goes to sleep. She doesn't need it to get to sleep, but it is a quality time together, where she confides some of the important parts of her day, and gets a bit of one-on-one TLC which is difficult to get when her little sister is around.

link

answered 07 Jan '10, 06:36

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Benjol
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I am thinking that one downside would be that it will negatively affect the couple's sexual life.

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answered 29 Dec '09, 11:21

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xdanielgs
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edited 29 Dec '09, 18:17

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Tammy ♦♦
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actually, taking it to another room can spice things up!

(02 Jan '10, 06:17) Lin
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Asked: 22 Dec '09, 21:19

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Last updated: 07 Jan '10, 06:36