Pros and Cons of Co-Sleeping

Safe Bed Sharing Enables Breastfeeding & Attachment

Co-sleeping is an important part of attachment parenting. However, a family bed is not for everyone.

There are two sides to the co-sleeping issue. The benefits of safe co-sleeping help form healthy, attached parent/child relationships. Yet, for some families, co-sleeping can prove inconvenient and even dangerous.

The Benefits of Co-Sleeping

Co-sleeping has many benefits. Some are:

Facilitates Night Time Breastfeeding

Mothers that exclusively breastfeed know that young infants need to nurse about every two hours. A feeding can last anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. Babies tend to fall asleep when nursing snuggled up next to their mother. Unfortunately, when the mother tries to move the baby after the nursing session is over, the baby often wakes up. This can lead to sleepless nights as the mother tries to get the baby back to sleep.

Co-sleeping helps the mother and baby get more sleep. The baby does not need to be moved to a crib or bassinet after feeding and the mother does not need to get out of bed each time the baby needs to nurse.

Bed Sharing Fosters Security

Babies and children that co-sleep with their parents can feel more secure at night. They fall asleep in the loving arms of their mother and can sleep soundly without feelings of abandonment.

Regulates Breathing

According to Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician, and father, babies will typically regulate their breathing to match their mothers. A mother can also readily check on her baby at night to be sure that all is well. This is especially helpful when the baby is sick or not feeling well.

Reasons Not to Co-Sleep

Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone. Some reasons not to co-sleep are:

Some Mothers Lose Sleep

Some babies and toddlers are especially active while they sleep. This can interfere with the mother’s sleep. As an alternative to bed-sharing, mothers of active babies can sidecar the crib to the bed. This means that one side of the crib is removed and the crib is attached to the mother’s bed. Likewise, families can use an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper, which is a bassinet that is specially made to attach to the side of the parent’s bed.

Difficult Transition to Own Room Later

While some children transition to their own bed with no problem, others require some extra help. Many children that are used to bed-sharing will need a parent to lie next to them while they fall asleep in their own bed. Depending on the parent’s feelings, this may be a difficult transition. However, it is important to remember that most children that have co-slept are easily falling asleep on their own once they are school age.

Bed Sharing is Not Safe for Some Parents

Mothers and fathers that are obese, extremely sound sleepers or drug and alcohol users should not co-sleep with their infants and children. These things all increase the likelihood that a parent could roll over onto the baby or be unaware should the child’s face get covered with a blanket.

It’s important for parents to learn how to co-sleep safely with their infants.

  • During the newborn phase, it is safest if the mother is the only one sharing a bed with the infant. Mother’s are aware of their infant’s needs through the night, even when they are asleep.
  • Toddlers and other children should not be in the same bed as an infant.
  • Heavy blankets and comforters should be put away until the baby is older.
  • Mothers should dress warmly so that blankets are not needed. In the winter, the mother can wear long johns under her pajamas and dress the baby in a blanket sleeper.
  • Don’t overdress the baby. Remember that he will be snuggled against his mother’s warm body.
  • Pillows should be kept near the headboard and far away from the baby.
  • The sleeping surface should be firm, not soft. Waterbeds and feather-topped mattresses are not safe co-sleeping surfaces.

Bed-sharing can be a rewarding part of an attached parent/child relationship. Nighttime breastfeeding is easier for mothers who choose to co-sleep and babies will feel more secure. Parents should follow the co-sleeping safety guidelines and be aware when co-sleeping is not optimal for their family.