We weigh the pros and cons
Mothers whose newborns sleep through the night during the first six months are rare. Certain women wake up two, four, even six times during the night. For many others, particularly those who breastfeed, those first few months can feel like a never-ending day, punctuated with a few naps here and there. Consequently, a better night’s sleep and quality of life is reason enough to ignore those who discourage co-sleeping and the practice of sharing the parental bed with baby. While a very attractive proposition, should co-sleeping have a place in our beds?
Yes to co-sleeping!
What could be more comforting that a warm little body against yours? And what could be more reassuring for your baby than his mother’s steady breathing and familiar scent as it sleeps? Co-sleeping certainly has its benefits. Indeed, such proximity can improve both mother’s and baby’s sleep. What’s more, it promotes breastfeeding. Not having to get out of bed or even wake up, moms can breastfeed their baby all the while lying down. This argument is particularly meaningful when your little bundle of joy cries for milk every two hours.
Some things to consider
While it’s comforting and beneficial, unfortunately, co-sleeping has its share of risks. Indeed, there is the risk the infant could suffocate with a pillow or blanket, or risks being crushed by an exhausted and inattentive parent. A study conducted in the U.S. has even shown a correlation between co-sleeping and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (S.I.D.S.). However, such studies have not yet been conducted this side of the border.
And what about parents’ privacy? Inevitably, when co-sleeping is thrown into the mix, your and your partner’s sex life is turned upside down, and some parents can even blame this new sleeping arrangement for ensuing relationship issues.
So, what’s the verdict?
Of course, as with everything else, abstinence is the surest way to avoid any risks. The list of potential dangers can seem a lot longer than the list of benefits. But before you completely give up on the idea, here are a few solutions to help you enjoy what is the one of the most soothing and precious moment there is.
Since one of the major risks is suffocation, it is recommended that you prep your bed so that your baby will be safe from any danger. Your mattress should be firm and stripped of any pillows or blankets where your infant will sleep. You can go with individual blankets if your baby sleeps between both parents; a small sleeper is often enough to keep babies warm. And, don’t cover your baby too much, since, as medical professionals have suggested, hyperthermia can cause sudden death. Avoid cracks, bed edges and any other threats of a potential fall.
Alcohol, drugs, medication and any other product that may affect alertness should be avoided when sharing the bed with your baby. A moment of inattention can be fatal. You should also refrain from co-sleeping if you are extremely tired.
Regarding your sex life, baby’s presence in your bed may somewhat diminish your libido. Hence, be creative! Who says your sex life should be limited to getting it on between the sheets? Your home is full of places to get intimate.
No need to feel guilty!
Co-sleeping should be an opportunity for sharing and communion between parent and child, but if you are not comfortable with the idea, there are many other ways to get closer to and snuggle with your little one. Certain women still welcome their older children in bed, others have even upgraded to a larger-sized mattress to accommodate the entire family. In other homes, however, everyone retires to his or her own bed at the end of the day, no fussing or crying allowed.
The important thing is to go with your preference and your instincts. Neither sleeping arrangement is a sign of the degree to which parents love their child. And for those who opt for the family package, fear not: this habit won’t create a future dependent monster who will still be sleeping in your bed when he or she is 25! You will have plenty of time to prepare your baby for separation and complete autonomy.
As they say, the first months are for enjoying those little pleasures. Those that follow mainly serve to break bad habits.