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15 Things Parents Should Know About the Co-Sleeping Debate

When David Brinkley made a post on Facebook about how he loves his wife and he is completely okay with her co-sleeping with his children he opened himself and his wife up to the debate about whether or not parents should co-sleep with their children. *Sigh* Let the sanctimommies and all the trolls of the internet lose.

Some people, who clearly fall on one side of the debate, criticized the family because the practice can be dangerous, or shamed the mother for putting her kids before her marriage, while other people praised David because he was willing to let his wife co-sleep and be a mother. Clearly people still don't understand co-sleeping still.

According to David’s post, the Brinkley’s co-sleep because it makes their children feel safe, and since the adults know their kids won’t always want to cuddle they want to take every chance they can get to do so. But there are other reasons for co-sleeping. For example, some people choose to do it because they can’t afford a different sleeping area for their baby, they’re breastfeeding, or they simply want more sleep.

It seems that there still needs to be education about safe co-sleeping practices and exactly what co-sleeping is and can mean for some families. In fact some families have gone so far to redefine the family bed. But no matter which side of the debate you fall on, whether you are for co-sleeping or completely and entirely against it, here are 15 things that you should know before you voice your opinion.

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14 Helps Baby Breathe

Bed-sharing also has the potential to help babies breathe more easily. Young children’s cardio-respiratory systems aren’t fully matured when they are born, so they sometimes struggle to breathe.

Actually one of the reasons some scientists believe babies wake up so frequently in the middle of the night is to reset their breathing. If they are in a deep sleep they are less likely to wake up if they stop breathing. However, babies who co-sleep spend more time sleeping lightly, which means they are more likely to wake up if they stop breathing.

It is thought that babies mimics their mother's breathing and that her heart beat sets the pace for their breathing. Yes babies breath more rapidly and their hearts beat more rapidly than a grown ups, but our slower pace helps them to calm and find rhythm.

13 Countries That Co-Sleep Have Lower SIDS Rates

One of the main reasons people are against co-sleeping is its association with SIDS, and other sleep-related deaths and injuries. However, many of those injuries occurred when the parents were sleeping with their babies on couches or in chairs and it was just brushed under the co-sleeping label with bed-sharing, and in countries where co-sleeping is considered to be the norm, like Japan, the rates of SIDS are also quite low.

In fact, Japan has the lowest rates of SIDS in the world. So there truly is something remarkable to this co-sleeping thing that we should be aware of and interested in. Studies have shown that when parents co-sleeping responsibly the baby's health increases and their immunity increases because their mothers are more likely to breastfeed and continue to do so as long as they find it easy to do.

12 Lowers Stress In Infants

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One benefit of co-sleeping is it lowers the baby’s stress levels. First of all, when parents co-sleep they are able to respond to an infant’s cries much faster than if they had to go to another room, which helps the baby calm down faster.

Secondly, bed-sharing is also less stressful for parents, because they don’t have to worry about not hearing the baby cry, or falling asleep in a chair and dropping the baby. Children are able to pick up on their parents’ emotions, so if mom and dad are less stressed, the baby will also be less stressed.

This may also be due to the fact that babies feel more secure and less tense when they have more access to their mothers and have their needs tended to more quickly than other babies.

11 Makes Breastfeeding Easier

Bedsharing makes breastfeeding easier. In some cases, the mother doesn’t even need to fully wake up to feed her hungry child. According to a study by Peter S. Blair, Jon Heron, Peter J. Fleming that appeared in Pediatrics, there is a direct relationship between whether or not a mother bed-shares and how long they breastfeed.

Those who did sleep in the same bed as their children were significantly more likely to continue to breastfeed. It may have something to do with the ability to get more sleep at night because the baby is so close, and it may have something to do with not having to leave the comfort of their own bed.

Some parents continue to bedshare with their kids and even go so far to create multi level beds in one room to continue good sleeping habits, increase the amount of time spent breastfeeding at night and simplify their lives.

10 Important Differences Between Types Of Co-Sleeping

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When you hear the term co-sleeping, you probably picture a mom and her kids snuggled up together in the mother’s bed, but bed-sharing is only one-way people co-sleep. Another form of co-sleeping is chair-sleeping, which as the name suggests is when you sleep with your child on a chair or couch.

Finally, there’s room-sharing, which means the baby is sleeping in the same room as the parents, but in their own crib or bassinet. Some families have even gone so far as to put all family members' beds in one room together.

The reason definitions matter is because each of those three forms of co-sleeping fall somewhere different on the scale between always recommended and avoid at all costs. Room-sharing is encouraged, chair-sleeping is never safe, and bed-sharing falls in the middle.

9 Bed-Sharing Is A Good Thing If You’re Sleepy

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In 2016 the American Association of Pediatrics updated their recommendations for ways parents and medical professionals can protect infants from SIDS and other sleep-related deaths. And, under certain circumstances, bed-sharing made the list.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeding my baby in the middle of the night I am pretty tired. I have in fact fallen asleep while nursing before. In situations like this, where you are incredibly tired and at risk of falling asleep while you are holding your baby, the AAP recommends bed-sharing. It is far safer for the baby if you fall asleep on your bed than it would be if you fell asleep while sitting in a chair.

And you're more likely to breastfeed if you're in the same room as the baby. Think of it, would you rather get up out of a heavy sleep and stumble around in the dark into the nursery, or simply lift the baby out of their bed and in with you for a feed?

8 The AAP Has Safety Guidelines For Co-Sleeping

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Well for room-sharing anyway. They highly recommend room-sharing as a way to lessen a child's risk of dying from SIDS. To sleep safely with your baby this way you want to make sure that the baby’s mattress is firm, there are no bumper pads in the crib, the baby is using a wearable blanket or sleepsack to stay warm, and the crib or bassinet close enough to your bed that you can see your baby.

There are even special beds that you can buy that attach onto the main bed, making it even easier to access the baby and increase the amount of sleep that mom and baby get each night. I would think that alone would be reason alone enough to buy one of those or room in with the baby.

Even just placing the baby's crib in your room makes a huge difference for you when it comes to taking care of the baby's needs.

7 Bed-Sharing Safely

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If you are going to bed-share there are ways to make it safer. For instance, it’s better if you remove items like pillows or blankets that can fall on your child’s head, avoid doing drugs, drinking or smoking before going to bed, only have one child in the bed with you, and use a co-sleeper.

A co-sleeper is a unit that is kind of like a bassinet, except it attaches to the side of an adult bed and one wall is lower than the rest (there are also co-sleeper that go in the middle of an adult bed, but there are no studies or guidelines for them). While the AAP doesn’t have any guidelines about co-sleepers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission does.

Because of its similarities to a bassinet, the CPSC requires bedside co-sleepers to meet the same standards as bassinets. Another idea is using a baby box for your newborn. They can fit in the parent's bed and make the baby easily accessible.

6 Dads Needn’t Be Banished

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Another assumption about co-sleeping is that the mom is putting her needs and those of her children ahead of her spouse’s needs and ahead of their relationship because there will never be a chance for them to be intimate, especially if he has to sleep on the couch.

This isn’t true. Chances are the husband had some say in whether or not the family sleeps together, he might also sleep in the family bed, and the kid is so young it’s not like they’re going to notice or understand what’s going on anyway. Besides, if the baby’s parents ever want to have sex and they’re worried about waking the baby, there are always other rooms.

And, there are also other times to be intimate. No one said that the baby had to be there, awake and watching. Intimacy will maybe take a backseat with a newborn for a little while, but with some effort and work, you'll get back there.

5 Co-Sleepers Aren’t Unicorns

If you consider co-sleeping to include room-sharing, it’s incredibly common. But even if you only go by bed-sharing it’s probably more common that you think. Some researchers estimate that in the United States almost 70 per cent of parents have co-slept with their children at one time or another, and that a quarter of families always sleep in the same bed as their babies.

Another study found that close to 80 per cent of breastfeeding mothers co-sleep at least some of the time. They also point out that those numbers may be higher, but that some families simply don’t want to own up to their bed-sharing practices for fear of the backlash.

It's too bad that bed sharing and co-sleeping have such negative connotations, because many families would benefit from this one simple thing.

4 It’s Not Spoiling The Baby

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According to James McKenna, a professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame and director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, co-sleeping isn’t spoiling your baby. For starters, it’s actually impossible to spoil a baby; they simply have needs which need to be met. Secondly, babies are wired to settle down when they are next to their mothers.

One reason for they calm down next to their mother is they can smell her milk (if she’s breastfeeding). So co-sleeping allows them to have their mother and that source of comfort close.

In the early days before the baby gains their sight, they depend on their other sense to compensate and keep them safe. So if you ever wondered why babies cries are shrill, it's all designed to motivate the parents into relieving the baby's discomfort to make the baby stop crying. Same thing with their strong sense of smell. The only way to feel really comfortable is to smell mom since they can't see her clearly for weeks.

3 The Baby Will Leave The Bed

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Another common reason people are against co-sleeping is the belief that once a child settles down into their parents’ bed, they will never leave it and they will never learn how to be independent. However, this is also not true. In fact, several studies have shown how children who slept in their parents' beds when they were younger are more independent and less afraid than children who never did.

Think of how much sense that makes, because they were reinforced with positive reinforcement and confidence by having the comfort of their parents around at one time when fears can set in and make children frightened and uneasy.

And, unless they’re from a family that has a giant family bed where everyone sleeps together, the co-sleeping babies will eventually sleep in their own rooms. Probably sooner than you might think.

2 Moms Get Less Sleep

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One common reason people say that they co-sleep is because they get more sleep that way. This actually isn’t true. Although, if they believe they are getting more sleep maybe it doesn’t matter. A study from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that moms who co-slept with their children didn’t sleep as well as mothers who did not.

These mothers woke up more frequently and were awake for longer periods of time. One important thing to note is that for this study, co-sleeping also included moms who practiced room-sharing, but didn’t actually sleep in the same bed as their child.

There are subtle difference between keeping the baby in bed with mom and dad compared to just having the baby room in with mom and dad. It should be studied more in depth with the differences noted to see just how  much of a difference it does make.

1 There Are Dangers

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The reason the AAP doesn’t wholehearted recommend bed-sharing is because there are dangers involved with it. For example, someone could roll on the baby, or even a stray arm might fall on her face causing her to suffocate. Another risk would be the blankets or pillows smothering her.

And those are definitely legitimate risks, considering over the past 3 years 180 babies have died co-sleeping with their parents.

She could also overheat because of all the warm bodies and blankets around her. She could fall off the bed, or be dropped by a groggy parent who’s sitting up and forgot that they were holding her. Or she could get stuck between the mattress and bed frame or wall.

That's why using baby boxes, side cribs and other co-sleeping tools are good ideas, because they're designed to keep babies safe.

Sources: The Bump, Ask Dr. Sears, Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics

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