To Co-Sleep or Not? Know the Real Deal When It Comes to Sleep and Your Baby

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A recent press release from a charity focused on educating parents for babies’ safe sleep has, once again, put co-sleeping right into the limelight. Co-sleeping is one ticking controversial time bomb – small anything regarding the matter could end up into a full-blown argument.

While many cultures around the world embrace co-sleeping, the western world is still at odds whether it’s one safe practice to do or not with majority of moms fearful of it. Who wouldn’t when well-known baby welfare organizations like the AAP [American Academy of Pediatrics] say co-sleeping with your baby is a great SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome] risk?

However, co-sleeping has its advantages. And as what the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine wrote in one of their clinical protocols, “there is currently not enough evidence to support routine recommendations against co-sleeping”. Parents are allowed to make their own informed decision about it provided that they are educated about the benefits and risks of co-sleeping as well as the unsafe co-sleeping practices that resulted to infant deaths.

What is Co-Sleeping?

When we say co-sleeping, most parents assume it is sharing bed and sleep with the baby. But bed-sharing is just one of the many ways to co-sleep; the latter’s not exclusive of the former. In essence, co-sleeping means to sleep in close proximity of your baby, meaning, you could either be sharing a bed or just be in the same room but on different sleeping surfaces. Below are some of the various co-sleeping arrangements families adopt:

Bed-sharing – sleeping with your baby on the same sleeping surface

Sidecar Arrangement – the baby’s crib is attached to the mother’s side of the bed. All sides of the crib remain intact except for one which is lowered or removed to make the mother accessible to the baby in case of breastfeeding. There are commercial side-car cribs available in the market.

Room Sharing – room sharing is essentially that – sharing the same room with your baby but he/she is placed on a different sleeping surface – his/her own crib or bassinet –within arms’ reach.

Busting Co-Sleeping/Bed-sharing Myths

Co-Sleeping is dangerous for your baby – SIDS is always a risk whether you co-sleep or not. Besides, co-sleeping doesn’t mean you have to share a bed with your little one. Leading authority on infants and sleep, Dr. James J. McKenna, strongly believes that sleeping close to your baby actually helps protect him/her.

“Infants and babies give off cues and signals that caregivers need to react and respond to. By sleeping next to baby, the mother is able to promote baby’s breathing stability…. There is no scientific validation that says co-sleeping is bad. Accidents, of course, happen, and there are risk factors, as with everything,” he says.

Co-sleeping is not healthy for the kids and may cause them to have psychological problems as they grow –People think that co-sleeping, especially bed-sharing, makes the children too dependent on their parents which will, in turn, psychologically damage them as they grow. This is not true! As a matter of fact, various studies have shown that adults and children who co-slept with their parents in infancy were more independent, were less fearful growing up, were better adjusted and satisfied with their sexual identities and had no trouble adjusting when alone.

“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,” Dr. McKenna points out.

Co-sleeping and bed-sharing can kill the romance – People who put the blame of their dwindling romance on their sleeping arrangement with their kids is in denial – they’re not facing the bigger guns, the real issues why the relationship is fast losing its fire.

As Dr. McKenna puts it: “Co-sleeping is an agreement you made before your baby comes. There is also no data to support the idea that baby co-sleeping will do this.”

Besides, many co-sleeping parents admit sleeping in the same room or on the same bed with their bundles of joy have made them more creative of when and where to have sex which, in a way, made coupling more adventurous and fun.

Co-Sleeping/Bed-Sharing Precautions

SIDS risk is greater when bed-sharing with an infant if:

  • Said infant is born premature and very small or has low birth-weight. However, they do benefit greatly if you let them sleep in the same room with you but on a different sleeping surface. This arrangement reduces the risk of SIDS occurring by up to 50%.
  • One or both parents are smokers [even when they don’t smoke in the bedroom] or if the mother smoked during the pregnancy. Smoking mothers during pregnancy lowers the baby’s ability to wake up to terminate an apnea or having too little oxygen while sleeping.
  • One or both parents have been drinking alcoholic drinks or taking drugs [illegal or not] that makes them less aware of their surroundings.

Other SIDS death factors include:

  • Putting babies in prone position/on their stomach. This position makes it difficult for them to breathe and their noses could be obstructed by the bed’s linens or pillows.
  • Swaddling babies. Swaddled babies are more prone to overheat. Swaddling also doesn’t give the babies the ability to move their arms and feet to swat away blankets and pillows that could get on their faces and in the way of breathing or alert an adult who is too close.
  • Having other children in the bed with the baby.
  • Parents are deep sleepers.
  • Putting babies on top of a pillow.
  • Having an obese parent who has a problem deducing exactly how close the baby is to his/her body.

Don’t!

Do not sleep with your baby cradled in a prone position on your stomach or chest while on the sofa or couch. This puts your little one in a great risk of being smothered between your body and the couch or between the crevices of the sofa or the couch itself.

Co-sleeping and bed-sharing is not an altogether bad practice. If you think it’s a suitable sleeping arrangement for you and your family; know the risks and practice safety.

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