So you can’t think of any Co-Sleeping Benefits and are afraid of the risks people talk about?
Well picture this, your child often wakes up at night, one of you must get up and go to the nursery to calm down, breastfeed or carry around?
Do you have a bad feeling about letting your child sleep alone in their room?
Is it because everyone is saying that you should do it that way? and there aren’t any co-sleeping benefits.
But why should one banish small children to their room? Although they are better when they are close to their mother? And isn’t it the same for adults?
Most of us prefer to sleep near our partner, don’t we?
So why should we withhold from our children what we need for ourselves to be able to relax and fall asleep?
Co-Sleeping Benefits and Why is it Important?
- 1 What is Co-Sleeping?
- 2 7 Reasons Against Co-Sleeping:
- 3 Co-Sleeping Benefits From The Evolution’s Viewpoint
- 4 Co-Sleeping And The Biological Need
- 5 Why Is Co-Sleeping Beneficial For Children?
- 6 Co-Sleeping Benefits For The Parents
- 7 Dr James J. McKenna, PhD
- 8 How Co-Sleeping Benefits Babies And Parents
- 9 Is Co-Sleeping Actually Safe And Beneficial?
- 10 14 Things Not To Do When Co-Sleeping
- 11 Conclusion
- 12 Co-Sleeping FAQs
What is Co-Sleeping?
Sleeping together, also known as Co-sleeping and Bedsharing. It is the safest, most comfortable and most needs-oriented solution for a baby. But parents can also enjoy this model.
With co-sleeping, babies sleep near their parent/s. In a narrower sense, this means that infants sleep with their parents in bed.
This arrangement is then called a family bed. Most of the time, the mother and child have direct physical contact.
Another variant is to attach an extra bed that is next to the parent’s bed. A side part of the bed rail can fold down so that direct parent-child contact is possible here too.
7 Reasons Against Co-Sleeping:
I tried to collect reasons that are against the idea of Co-Sleeping or Bed Sharing:
- The fear of “pampering” the child. Which is, training him into the habit of sleeping in the parents’ bedroom and not being able to break it off again.
- Being afraid of an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- The fear of hurting the child while they sleep.
- You may worry that intimacy with your partner could suffer as a result.
- You hope that the child could sleep in peace in their room.
- The hope that the parents could have better sleep without the child in bed.
- Pressure from family and friends to let the child sleep on their own.
Is that familiar to you? Are there any other reasons? Then I would appreciate a comment under the article!
Co-Sleeping Benefits From The Evolution’s Viewpoint
Let us look at co-sleeping benefits from the perspective of evolutionary behavioural research. Babies have the most comfortable sleep near their parents.
For the past 100,000 years, leaving your children to sleep alone has been a deadly danger. Babies still feel this way nowadays, even in safe homes, and express their fear by crying.
Mammals also only sleep if they do not feel threatened. It is the same with children. Not only do you need to be full and tired to find your sleep, but you also need to be warm and fearless.
Children need a feeling of safety and security to be able to sleep well. Hence, nothing else is better than being close to their beloved parents.
Co-Sleeping And The Biological Need
From a biological point of view, in early human history, there was a lot to be safe from. It was certain death for children to fall asleep without the protection of adults.
At that time, adults would never have let their children spend the night by themselves. The harsh weather conditions on the little ones without any protection is dangerous. The risk of wild animals dragging away or eating would be too high.
For children to sleep well, they don’t need music boxes and lullabies. But close contact with people they trust and the feeling of being safe.
Even in the modern world, where letting children sleep on their own is becoming normal. Newborn babies are still in the thinking process of the past.
No living being is born more immature than the human child – compared to other mammals and other primates.
They don’t know that mum and dad are right in the next room, nor that they are in a safe environment protected by walls.
They get scared when they don’t know their trusted people are around. They’d often have the feeling that their lives are in danger. They don’t understand why mom and dad leave them alone.
When the babies stop screaming, it is not because they’ve calmed down. It is because they’ve given up from exhaustion and fell asleep.
Sometimes they lie awake and still in bed. The parent-child bond can suffer a lot in the long term and the child can lose trust in his or her caregivers.
Why Is Co-Sleeping Beneficial For Children?
Children need physical contact with their parents. Unborn babies are in perfect harmony with their mother.
You feel their warmth, their breath, their heartbeat. All this has a calming effect on the baby. Even in the belly, the little ones develop the same sleep rhythm as their mother.
If you put the baby in a separate bed right after birth, they lack this sense of security. Everything is alien and they feel alone.
Babies and children feel safe in the family bed. Parents can usually calm them down before they are awake.
For a child, if parents leave them to sleep on their own, they are abandoning their child. Hence, the closeness and insurance of a familiar body are essential for babies.
Also, babies have stomachs the size of a tennis ball. So, they need to breastfeed at night to provide nutrients for their nocturnal growth.
Co-Sleeping Benefits For The Parents
Life with a child can be stressful. That is why parents need restful sleep and of course time for themselves. During the day there are only a few occasional moments of peace. So the evening and night hours become precious time windows.
Co-sleeping benefits everyone and it helps to recover together after difficult days. If you sleep in the same family bed, night-time breastfeeding is also made easier. So neither child nor mother wakes up.
Anyone awake for less than 15 seconds (whether old or young) falls asleep again immediately. Even if no breastfeeding is due, a child calms down as soon as a mom feels, smells and hears it.
If you sleep in a shared family bed, you won’t sacrifice your deep sleep. When a baby is crying at night, you don’t have to get up to lull your anxious baby back to sleep or to breastfeed it.
Mothers who have to dash into the nursery to check on the kid always ends up wide awake.
The mother’s sleep rhythm adapts to the rhythm of her baby immediately after birth. In the course of evolution, her body has developed in such an amazing way. She protects her offspring at night, warms her and without waking up, feels if everything is okay.
If dad was able to take his time during the puerperium, it often works for him too! Besides, co-sleeping benefits and strengthens the parent-child bond incredibly.
Dr James J. McKenna, PhD
Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame shares on co-sleeping benefits and why has it gotten a bad rep:
“In sum, overwhelmingly, bedsharing deaths are associated with at least one independent risk factor associated with an infant dying.
These include an infant being placed prone (on its stomach) and placed in an adult bed without supervision, or no breastfeeding, or other children in the bed, or infants being placed in an adult bed on top of a pillow, or who bedshare even though their mothers smoked during the pregnancy therein compromising potentially the infants ability to arouse (to terminate too little oxygen, or to terminate an apnea).
Drug use and alcohol have historically been associated with poor outcomes for bedsharing babies so if drugs and/or alcohol are present, please don’t bedshare.”
Dr. James McKenna also notes that:
It has never been proven, nor shown, nor is it even probable, that sleeping with your baby has any kind of negative long-term effects when the relationships between those involved are healthy.
Instead, experts are finding that co sleeping can help develop positive qualities, such as more comfort with physical affection, more confidence in one’s own sexual gender identity, a more positive and optimistic attitude about life, or more innovativeness as a toddler and an increased ability to be alone.
How Co-Sleeping Benefits Babies And Parents
Co-Sleeping is beneficial for babies and children to build their basic trust.
When parents and children both want to sleep together in a family bed – that is fine. It is nothing that would stand in the way of the child’s development or that would hinder it in any way. So, it is well known, the development of premature babies is way better when they can sleep close to their mother.
Their heartbeat, breathing, temperature regulation and oxygen supply are more stable this way. But they also thrive, grow better, and develop faster. They reach many “milestones” in their early stages of development.
Babies like to feel their parent’s presence at night when they sleep.
This allows them to go out into a turbulent life with more confidence and stability. There is much to suggest that the mother is a kind of maturation support for the child at her side. Which allows the immature human child to develop his physical functions more quickly.
Co-Slept children are emotionally more stable and independent earlier. They can cope better with separation times. Moreover, they have a healthy relationship with falling asleep and staying asleep.
The reduction in the risk of Sudden Child Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Babies have a more stable heartbeat and breathing rhythm when they sleep next to mothers. It also helps them keep their warmth throughout the night.
In the first few months, the baby is not yet able to regulate its warmth well. Hence, is at risk of cooling down, at least under climatic stress.
Research shows that infants sleeping in a separate bed have a lower body temperature.
When compared with breastfed babies sleeping in their mother’s bed.
Which shows, infants seem to use their mother’s body as a nutritious source of energy.
Co-Sleeping benefits also involve direct physical effects.
Studies in the sleep laboratory show this. Breastfed children who sleep with their mother breastfeed twice as often at night.
Which is almost three times as long as their peers who sleep separately from their mother.
James McKenna’s research shows further Co-Sleeping benefits.
Breastfed infants co-sleeping with their mother eat third more calories at night. Compared to babies sleeping in their separate bed! Thus, they suffer less from failure to thrive.
Breastfeeding at night is very important to keep milk production stable! Frequent breastfeeding at night prolongs milk production. Which also has a positive effect on the immune system.
A baby should always sleep with parents
Be it in the parents’ bed, in the baby bassinet or a separate baby cot. Depending on the needs of parents and baby. If the baby lies on their back for the first few weeks, it reduces the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This is according to the studies of various researchers all over the world.
The child will gradually become more agile and can turn and roll on its own. That is when parents can let the child sleep comfortably in their favorite position. Parents should take extra care to ensure a safe sleeping environment.
The baby should never be under a blanket shared by parents. The risk of kicking under the covers at night is too high. A baby sleeping bag is more suitable.
Mother and child develop identical sleep cycles
Co-Sleeping benefits mother and child to develop identical sleep cycles. This is more evident when the mother breastfeeds and sleep with her baby from the start.
So, the mother goes through more frequent REM phases (phases of light sleep).
Also, mother and child switch almost simultaneously from phases of light sleep to deep sleep and vice versa.
Video recordings observe interesting benefits of Co-Sleeping
It shows that even the movements of mother and child are subconsciously coordinated. Most of the mother-child couples observed lie face to face almost all night. Protective or “regulating” interventions by the mother are observed repeatedly.
For example, it is not uncommon for the mother to move her baby and that herself while she sleeps! Interestingly, she almost always lays the child on its back.
Most likely because breastfeeding is easier this way. And this position is also recognized as the safest sleeping position.
This way the child receives attention again and again. The mother knocks, pats, rocks, and hugs the baby, whispering and talking also occur.
Is Co-Sleeping Actually Safe And Beneficial?
In the last few decades, there have been constant discussions regarding safety. Wondering if it is dangerous for the baby to sleep in the same bed with the parents.
Most parents fear Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But does co-sleeping increase the risk?
This question is a very contentious issue among experts. Countless statements suggest that bed-sharing children have an increased risk of SIDS.
This is also confirmed by a much-cited study by SIDS researcher Robert Carpenter. According to critics, Carpenter based his calculations on incorrect assumptions and outdated data.
A recent study by British researcher Peter Blair shows the contrary. According to the study, sleeping in your parents’ bed is as safe as sleeping in your bed. But the considered cases are only those in which the child sleeps in bed with his parents and not on the couch.
There are now studies that show, co-sleeping can significantly reduce the risk of SIDS. This is mainly because the movements and sounds of the parents do not cause the children to fall into a deep sleep. This is when the likelihood of cardiac arrest is higher.
Research suspects that babies cannot control their breathing in younger age. Co-Sleeping counteracts this by supporting the baby’s breathing rhythm and a stable heartbeat.
Furthermore, studies have also observed that mothers instinctively turn their children around. This is to lay them on their backs when they roll over on their stomachs. This helps reduce the risk of SIDS, as the prone position increases the risk of sudden infant death.
However, the above only applies if the baby sleeps in an extra bed in the parents’ bedroom. So to be clear, the baby is co-sleeping but not bed-sharing.
14 Things Not To Do When Co-Sleeping
If the child sleeps in the parents’ bed, you should note the following:
- The mattress should not be too soft and should not have any gaps. It is better not to have two mattresses for the family bed. Instead, one large, full-length mattresses are more suitable.
- The bed sheet must be fully stretched tight so that the child cannot wrap themself in it.
- Avoid using extra pillows, blankets, and cuddly toys.
- The temperature in the bedroom should be between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius. It is warmer in a family bed than in a cot alone. So, don’t dress your baby too warmly
- Make sure that your child cannot fall out of bed or become trapped.
- The bed should be large enough for all family members to have enough space. Do not use a single bed.
- Water beds are not suitable for co-sleeping.
- If you are a smoker, your baby should not sleep next to you. Your exhaled air contains nicotine and pollutant residues.
- If you suffer from obesity or sleep apnea, the child should sleep in a separate bed.
- Do not consume sedatives, drugs, alcohol, or any other consciousness impairing substance.
- Make sure your baby does not sleep on his chest (prone position).
- Parents should try to use as little fragrance as possible because babies have a very fine sense of smell. This applies to the detergent, but also creams, lotions and perfumes. The more natural the smell, the more it promotes the parent-child bond.
- Siblings and pets do not belong in the family bed and should sleep in a different room.
- A family bed only makes sense if all family members can sleep well. Don’t try to force it on your family.
Co-Sleeping benefits through many variants. At the beginning there might be three of you sleeping in a double bed, later you will put a bed next to it. Or one of you sleeps part of the night in the nursery.
Choose the variant that is currently best for you and your child. Be creative and always listen to your intuition!
Babies and children belong with their parents at night. They sleep best in the vicinity and security of their reference person. The parent-child bond is further strengthened via co-sleeping.
Co-Slept children step into life more confidently. Co-Sleeping benefits are for all family members, the nights in the family bed are more relaxing and everyone starts a new day well-rested!
How long should children sleep in a family bed?
In some families, older children still sleep in their parents’ bed. There are no strict guidelines on how long children should sleep in or on their parents’ bed. Each family should decide for themselves how long they want to keep the co-sleeping arrangement.
As a rule, at the age of three to four, children decide on their own that they want to sleep in their own room. However, do not force your child into solitary sleeping if they don’t want to.
How can I stop co-sleeping?
If after a while your child decides to sleep in their own room, there is no way you should cling. Respect this decision and help your child become independent.
Explain to your child that they can come to co-sleep or bed-share with you at any time if they feel anxious at night.
My child does not fall asleep alone. What can I do?
Many parents have problems getting their child to bed in the evening.
If the child cannot fall asleep on their own, be sure to put the child in bed when they are tired but still awake.
In this way, your child gets to know their surroundings better so that they no longer have to be afraid at night.
Falling asleep rituals, such as reading aloud or cuddling, can also help to make it easier for your child to fall asleep.
What is Re-Co-sleeping?
Re-Co-Sleeping is, when children, want to go back to Co-Sleeping after sleeping on their own. This usually happens when the children suddenly develop fears and anxiety. And are thus, looking for safety and security in parent’s bed.
As long as it is only a temporary phase, re-co-sleeping is completely harmless.
- Maximizing the chances of Safe Infant Sleep in the Solitary and Cosleeping (Specifically, Bed-sharing)
- Huffington Post Interview with James McKenna
- Babies Need Their Mothers Beside Them
- Sleep with Me: A Trans-cultural Look at the Power and Protection of Sharing a Bed
- Go Ahead—Sleep With Your Kids
- Safe Infant Sleep: Expert Answers to Your Cosleeping Questions
- Women Who Bedshare More Frequently