In this post I am going to share some of the benefits and dangers of bed-sharing, why we made the decision to do so, and ways to make co-sleeping safe and comfortable.
* I will use Co-Sleeping and Bed-Sharing interchangeably
1. Mom can regulate her baby's temperature
Studies show that mothers are able to internally regulate their homeostatic body temperature in order to lower or raise their child's temperature. In non-Big Bang Theory- terms, if your baby is too warm, a mother can lower her body temperature to cool the baby down and vice versa. Sleeping next to your baby is a wonderful way to regulate their body temperature.
2. Breastfeeding is easier due to your proximity to your child.
I can feed Oliver at night without even opening my eyes! No joke, one night I woke up and Oliver was eating and I don't even remember offering it to him. I'm pretty sure he reached over and took food without asking...
3. Body heat prevents the need for blankets.
Oliver and I radiate heat between us as we sleep. This keeps us both warm and makes blankets unnecessary.
4. Baby spends less time in the dangerous reaches of deep sleep.
This may seem counterintuitive to a good night's sleep, however, one of the leading causes of SIDS is a baby being TOO deep asleep to know that they are in danger. A recent study published in the journal of Pediatrics indicates that babies that sleep next to their mothers spend more time in light sleep due to the movement and smell of their mother and thus are more likely to be woken by any danger to their air passages (1)
5. Increased milk supply.
Other studies show that an increase in milk production is a direct result of extended close proximity to one's baby (2). I can definitely attest to this. Poor Oliver's pajamas were covered in milk one day from an over supply of goods!
6. Mom sleeps better.
I swear, I sleep better when Oliver is in bed with me then when he is in his crib. Mostly because I don't have to worry that he is safe. When he sleeps in his crib, I find myself waking up worried and not being able to sleep until I check on him. Secondly, if he does wake up at night hungry or needing comfort, getting out of bed and picking him up causes both of us to become more fully awake. When I can just hug him and feed him while keeping my eyes closed, it is much easier to fall back asleep.
* There are also studies showing psychological benefits for babies that bed-share, but I have not read up on that issue. You can look here (3) and here (4) for more info on these studies.
1. Not sleeping with pillows or blankets.
Especially when Oliver was really little, I never had blankets or pillows near him. Subsequently, that meant I couldn't use them either! For someone that loves snuggling under covers, I'm not a huge fan of that part.
2. You can't cuddle to sleep with your husband.
I can't remember that last time I cuddled my husband in bed! Either Oliver is in-between us, or there simply isn't enough room in the bed to get comfortable.
3. Your may have trouble sleeping.
This one hasn't bothered me because I can fall back to sleep in a second if Oliver wakes me up. My husband, however, has a hard time falling asleep, and can't sleep if Oliver is moving and making noises. We have lost him to the couch a few times!
4. Baby may have trouble transitioning to their own bed
This is the one that has been the hardest for me. It took a long time to ween Oliver from sleeping with his mama. We started trying to move him to his bed around 7 months and are finally doing it successfully (if not yet for the entire night) at 11.5 months. He still comes to bed with us for about 3-4 hours during the night because I need my sleep! I think with the next child I would end bed-sharing earlier than we did with our first.
1. NEVER bed-share if you have been smoking or drinking.
The smoke on a parent's breath at that close proximity can shrink a baby's airways and cause them to suffocate. Alcohol, will impure your judgement making you less aware of your baby's wear a bouts and safety.
2. Don't sleep with heavy blankets or pillows when bed-sharing.
If I use a blanket it is thin and tucked tightly around my legs. Normally, I just dress warmly and get warm from my cuddles.
3. Have a barrier to prevent baby from falling off of the bed.
I pull Oliver's pack-n-play up to the edge of our bed to prevent him from rolling off. The siding is mesh so he can't suffocate on the railing. This also allows me to easily place him in there if he is kicking and not allow me to sleep.
4. Don't Bed-Share if you are a heavy sleeper.
I definitely wouldn't recommend bed-sharing for heavy sleepers. The most important thing about bed-sharing is knowing where your child is and responding to their cues throughout the night. My husband and I are both VERY light sleepers. If Oliver were to cry or wiggle I would be awake right away.
5. Sleep with your baby's feet in your chest and their head pointed away from your body.
Especially when Oliver was small, I never had his head next to my chest. I wanted his air passageways as isolated as possible. I would cuddles his feet and legs while his face rested in an area of the bed free of any suffocation hazards.
6. Don't Allow pets or other children to sleep in the bed as well.
7. Make sure baby is on their back rather than nestled in your body on their side or on their stomach.
I know that his is a lot of information, so kudos if you made it this far! If you have any questions about bed-sharing or co-sleeping feel free to leave me a message or email me (you can find my email in the connect tab above).
If you want more information, I recommend this article by the Laleche League and this Paper from the Journal of the World Health Organization.
Pediatrics 1997a; 100:841-49.
2. Widstrom, A. et al. Short term effects of early suckling and touch of the nipple on maternal behaviour. Early Human Development 1990; 21:153-63.
3. Brazy, J.E. Effects of crying on cerebral blood volume and cytochrome aa3. The Journal of Pediatrics 1988; 112:457-61.
4. Anderson, G.C. Touch and the kangaroo care method. In T.M. Field (ed.), Touch in Early Development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum,1995; 33-51.