Cosleeping has become a controversial practice these days, but I hope that doesn’t keep you from keeping your baby just as close as you want. Next to mama is the natural place for babies, regardless of the current fads in parenting. This page gives you an overview of information about cosleeping and points you towards a lot of other great resources so you can dive in and learn as much as you want. Let me know if there’s more information you’re looking for that I can include here!
Benefits of Cosleeping
- Babies sleep better and enjoy going to sleep more.
- Mothers sleep better.
- Breastfeeding is easier, rates are higher, and duration is longer with cosleeping.
- Cosleeping fosters independence in older babies and children.
- Cosleeping has positive effects on the child’s overall emotional health.
- Cosleeping is parenting. Many parents prefer to keep relating to their children during sleep.
- For much more in-depth information on the benefits of cosleeping, read Seven Benefits of CoSleeping at peaceful parenting, Five Benefits to Cosleeping Past Infancy at Natural Parents Network, and Benefits of Co-Sleeping from PhD in Parenting.
How to Cosleep Safely
- Don’t smoke or allow smoking in the house or go to bed wearing perfume or other scented products.
- Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs/medications that might deepen sleep or inhibit waking. For the same reason, be mindful of exhaustion.
- Make sure the person sleeping with the baby is in tune with the baby’s presence. The safest cosleeping partner is the breastfeeding mama.
- Don’t have heavy or fluffy bedding near the baby, especially in the early months.
- Don’t lay the baby on soft surfaces like squishy mattresses or waterbeds.
- Watch out for spaces where the baby could fall and get stuck, like spaces between the mattress and the wall or headboard.
- Don’t leave the baby alone in a bed.
- Here’s a checklist of cosleeping safety suggestions from Elizabeth Pantley.
- Three in a Bed. - “Joseph and Alice were born in this bed and here they slept, filling the space with fluttering movements, infant squeaks, and an angelic aroma. They suckled me to sleep every night, stimulating my sleep hormones as they fed from my breast. For a while after each weaning, I wondered how I would ever get to sleep without them by my side.”
- Bed of Roses - “Cosleeping is a skill that when mastered can minimize the inevitable exhaustion. As with any skill, it takes time and practice to get the hang of it, and talking to other masters in the field—that is, other parents with cosleeping experience—can give the tired parent creative ways around the common roadblocks to happy family bedding. I interviewed parents around the world to find out how they had overcome the nine most common obstacles.”
- Cosleeping: Real Men Sleep with Their Kids - “My son is asleep downstairs, in my bed. He’s been sleeping in my bed every night for over two years. This is where he should sleep. This is where all my children will sleep. I can’t imagine it any other way.”
Research on Cosleeping
I’ve previously written (and will quote here) about the research of Dr James McKenna from the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at the University of Notre Dame. The Sleep Lab is a research and teaching laboratory that researches the safety, physiological, and psychological consequences of parent-child sleep choices. Digging into their published articles is a goldmine, but you can learn a lot just by checking out their website:
- “Mother-infant cosleeping with breastfeeding is humankind’s oldest and most successful sleeping arrangement.” The Western practices of formula-feeding and moving sleeping babies away from their parents and off of their backs is responsible for the SIDS epidemic. Likewise, mothers suffocating their babies while sleeping is also a Western problem that requires more explanation than simply blaming bedsharing alone.
- Infants require continual proximity and contact with a caregiver’s body for their nutritional needs (breastfeeding) and also to promote proper functioning of their body temperature, immune system, heart rate, breathing, organ development, and central nervous system as well as their psychological and emotional development. For older children, cosleeping contributes to their “independence, social competence, feeling of high self esteem, strong sexual identities, good comportment…in school, [and] ability to handle stress…”
- “Sleeping through the night” is a completely emotionally, socially, and biologically inappropriate activity for babies. McKenna calls it “scientifically bogus”. Babies should wake frequently in the night to breastfeed, staying in the kind of “lighter sleep” for which they are designed.
- A breastfeeding mother is more physiologically and mentally in tune to her baby’s movements and sounds than a formula-feeding mother, and the breastfeeding baby is more physiologically tuned to her. The baby and mother in a breastfeeding dyad spend more time in “lighter sleep” that makes them more responsive to one another. Almost all bedsharing deaths involve non-breastfeeding babies.
- Bedsharing deaths are overwhelmingly associated with other independent risk factors, notably: baby placed on ou stomach in an adult bed with no supervision, lack of breastfeeding, baby placed on top of a pillow, maternal smoking, and drug and alcohol use. This was shown in the Milwaukee report, as well, where an average of four risk factors were present.
- One is the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. Some parents are not confident about cosleeping safely and want an option to keep baby close while also keeping baby separate. The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper is the most highly recommended product for this purpose. Your baby can be right next to you and can be easily drawn closer for breastfeeding but also has a separate surface to sleep on.
- Another item I strongly recommend is a waterproof mattress pad for your bed. Babies are messy. Really, liquid-ly messy in so many ways!
- Since blankets are not recommended for babies, a sleep sack is an easy way to keep your baby securely at the right temperature.
This resource page on cosleeping will grow over time, as I find more useful information and links to add.
What other information about cosleeping would you like to know or what other information would you add to this page?