” Are you a first-time mom wondering what challenges you have to face now? ”
You had been through a lot during your pregnancy - sleepless nights, morning sickness, mood swings and much more. Now that your baby is in your arms what challenges could be there?
A major challenge that most moms have to face initially is whether to co-sleep with the baby or not? A lot of parents often ask a pediatrician what age is co-sleeping safe? Let's check out more about co-sleeping, they myths, truths and the official guidelines. It will help you decide if you should co-sleep with your new-born or let him have his space in the crib.
Charlie Rose, Editor
What is Co-sleeping?
Co-sleeping is when a parent sleeps in close physical or social contact with the child. This is often referred as bed-sharing, but co-sleeping is more than just sharing your bed.
In case of bed-sharing, you choose to sleep with the baby in the same bed.
However, if you decide to sleep in the same room with different beds, that is also co-sleeping. Room sharing is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
There has always been a debate whether it is good or bad to share a bed with the baby. While it has been a general practice in the East, it has never been appreciated in the West. And they have their reasons for the same.
Types of Co-Sleeping
When the baby sleeps with parents in the family bed or when any of the parents sleep with the baby in the same bed.
It is when you securely attach a crib to one side of your bed. The three sides of the crib left intact while the open side allows easy access for mom and baby to one another.
Different beds in the same room
You can also choose to add a crib, bassinet, co-sleeper (see some great co sleepers on momandbabylab ) or a specially designed bed just next to your bed in the same room. For toddlers, a mattress on the floor is also a good option.
- Babies who co-sleep eventually breastfeed for longer. It is because they are always closer to moms at night, thus have easy access to the breastmilk.
- Co-sleeping with mom can increase the immunity in the baby since the baby feels safer, has a better sleep as well as more supply of breastmilk.
- Similarly, moms who co-sleep have a lower level of stress hormones and they have a better sleep since they aren't required to get up in the midnight to check the baby. She knows the baby is safe and sleeping quietly.And when it needs the milk, she doesn't have to get out of the bed.
- Reduces the nighttime separation anxiety. Thus parents also sleep calm and improve the bonding with baby.
- It was also stated that room-sharing co-sleeping dramatically reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- If you co-sleep with your infant or toddler, you will experience better emotional bonding that stays longer. This improves the emotional health of both parents and child since it makes a child more secure and comfortable.
- Children who co-sleep with parents become well-adjusted in the long run.
- Babies breathe rapidly, and their cardio-respiratory system is not matured. So they often struggle breathing during the night. However, if a baby sleeps with his mother, the slow-paced breathing cycle of her would help him to find the rhythm.
Why Is Co-sleeping Considered Unsafe?
Co-sleeping is common in non-western culture, and it has been observed that it dramatically reduces the risk of infant deaths.
However, there are many serious safety risks because of which it is considered unsafe in countries like the USA. Since bed-sharing could cause suffocation, strangulation and even SIDS, both American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommend no bed-sharing. However, AAP does suggest that room-sharing practice is safe when considered the safety guidelines as it reduces the risk of SIDS to 50%.
The reasons could be anything such as:
- The quality of the mattress is not suitable for babies. It might be too soft and traps heat, might have allergens, or the mattress is worn out to a degree where it is not suitable for the new-born.
- Babies may get suffocated from a soft mattress, memory foam or soft bedding such as blankets, quilts or pillows. They may get trapped between the mattress and headboard, wall or anything else.
- They may get trapped between the mattress and headboard, wall or anything else.
- Besides the safety risks, by co-sleeping, babies could associate their sleep cycle with that of parents. This can be problematic when parents aren't ready to sleep, during the naptime or when parents are at work.
General Guideline for Safe Co-Sleeping
Abiding by specific rules, you can make co-sleeping not only safe but an enjoyable experience for yourself and the baby.
- Avoid sharing a bed with babies under 5 months. You can use a crib or a bassinet instead.
- Dress your baby in minimal clothing to reduce the risk of overheating.
- Always place the new-born baby on his/her back to sleep.
- Never place a baby to sleep alone in an adult bed.
- Ensure the sleep surface is firm. Avoid putting a baby in a waterbed mattress, beanbag, sheepskin or any soft bed. Also, the bed should not have any cutouts or openings that could trap the baby.
- The bedding should be tightly fitted and no pillow, stuffed animals or soft blankets should be placed anywhere near the baby
- The mattress should be tightly fitted to the headboard and the footboard. Ensure there is no space that could lead to any type of entrapment.
- Do not sleep with baby if you smoke or ingest alcohol/sedatives/drugs.
- Do not co-sleep with a baby if you are tired.
- Never cover the baby's face or head when sleeping.
- Don't sleep with a baby on your chest.
- Keep your bed away from draperies or blinds.
- Don't sleep on sofa, recliners, couch or armchair with a baby.
- Never let older sibling sleep with babies.
- Do not swaddle a baby. He may overheat since babies can't move the cover quickly to alarm you of his condition.
Co-Sleeping with New Born
Co-sleeping looks like the most natural way to sleep with your newborn as it lets you make a strong bond with him, you can feed him on demand throughout the night and there is no separation anxiety.
However, if you are a deep sleeper or on medication, do not co-sleep with the newborn as you may roll on him, increase his body temperature with your body heat or blanket or even suffocate him.
In this case, a crib next to your bed is the safest place for the baby. This kind of co-sleeping would wave-off the potential hazards of bed-sharing as well as make it easy for baby to transit in her own space after 6 months.
Co-Sleeping with Toddlers
If you have been co-sleeping with your baby, it is the time to move the baby to his own space, more preferably a separate room.
It is because at this age the habits firmly entrenched and the separation and adaption of new sleeping habits get difficult.
If you still want to co-sleep with a baby, instill bed-space boundaries. Give a separate space to the toddler or better to place a separate bed in the same room for him.
Co-Sleeping with Kids Over Age of 5
While there aren't many physical hazards, co-sleeping at this stage could impact the psychology of your child.
Since they are not at preteen yet away from a toddler, babies at this stage find it difficult to adjust. Kids who co-sleep after 5 or 7 develops a generalized anxiety where they are fearful of being alone. They gradually become less self-reliant.
Co-sleeping into later years passively affects the internal locus of self-controlling and ultimately putting the child on the risk of low self-esteem.
If you still co-sleep with your child, it is time to take action and be prepared for resistance.
- Make a ritual and follow it religiously. For example, make sure that everyone sleeps in their own bed every night.
- Gradually remove the parental comfort and presence at bedtimes by using a behavioral retraining model.
- Develop self-soothing practice in children. You can use relaxation tape for children or help them develop the habit of nighttime reading.
- You can seek professional help if needed.
Co-sleeping has its own pros and cons. And the decision of sleeping with a baby is all yours depending on your baby's age and other factors such as any health condition or space issue.
Alike other parenting decisions, co-sleeping has its own set of dos and donts. If you find it difficult to decide, look for an expert advice who could best suggest you after considering your ad baby's overall situation.