This is a topic that I feel VERY strongly about. I feel that it is so important to have your baby nearby when you are sleeping, especially in those early months of baby's life.
Here are the SCIENTIFIC benefits to co-sleeping according to AskDrSears.com
Sleep more peacefully Research shows that co-sleeping infants virtually never startle during sleep and rarely cry during the night, compared to solo sleepers who startle repeatedly throughout the night and spend 4 times the number of minutes crying 1. Startling and crying releases adrenaline, which increases heart rate and blood pressure, interferes with restful sleep and leads to long term sleep anxiety.
Studies show that infants who sleep near to parents have more stable temperatures 2, regular heart rhythms, and fewer long pauses in breathing compared to babies who sleep alone 3. This means baby sleeps physiologically safer.
Decreases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Worldwide research shows that the SIDS rate is lowest (and even unheard of) in countries where co-sleeping is the norm, rather than the exception 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Babies who sleep either in or next to their parents’ bed have a fourfold decrease in the chance of SIDS 10. Co-sleeping babies actually spend more time sleeping on their back or side 1 which decreases the risk of SIDS. Further research shows that the carbon dioxide exhaled by a parent actually works to stimulate baby’s breathing 11.
Long term emotional health
Co-sleeping babies grow up with a higher self-esteem, less anxiety, become independent sooner, are better behaved in school 12, and are more comfortable with affection 13. They also have less psychiatric problems 14.
Safer than crib sleepingCo-sleeping is so beneficial to your baby and IS NOT dangerous when done correctly, yet the media is constantly attacking the practice. Here is a very important statistic for you to keep in mind the next time you read an article about the dangers of co-sleeping:
The Consumer Product Safety Commission published data that described infant fatalities in adult beds. These same data, however, showed more than 3 times as many crib related infant fatalities compared to adult bed accidents 15. Another recent large study concluded that bed sharing did NOT increase the risk of SIDS, unless the mom was a smoker or abused alcohol 16.
- McKenna, J., et al, "Experimental studies of infant-parent co-sleeping: Mutual physiological and behavioral influences and their relevance to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)." Early Human Development 38 (1994)187-201.
- C. Richard et al., “Sleeping Position, Orientation, and Proximity in Bedsharing Infants and Mothers,” Sleep 19 (1996): 667-684.
- Touch in Early Development, T. Field, ed. (Mahway, New Jersey: Lawrence Earlbaum and Assoc., 1995).
- “SIDS Global Task Force Child Care Study” E.A.S. Nelson et al., Early Human Development 62 (2001): 43-55
- A. H. Sankaran et al., “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Infant Care Practices in Saskatchewan, Canada,” Program and Abstracts, Sixth SIDS International Conference, Auckland, New Zealand, February 8-11, 2000.
- D. P. Davies, “Cot Death In Hong Kong: A Rare Problem?” The Lancet 2 (1985): 1346-1348.
- N. P. Lee et al., “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in Hong Kong: Confirmation of Low Incidence,” British Medical Journal 298 (1999): 72.
- S. Fukai and F. Hiroshi, “1999 Annual Report, Japan SIDS Family Association,” Sixth SIDS International Conference, Auckland, New Zealand, 2000.
- E. A. S. Nelson et al., “International Child Care Practice Study: Infant Sleeping Environment,” Early Human Development 62 (2001): 43-55.
- P. S. Blair, P. J. Fleming, D. Bensley, et al., “Where Should Babies Sleep – Along or With Parents? Factors Influencing the Risk Of SIDS in the CESDI Study,” British Medical Journal 319 (1999): 1457-1462.
- SIDS book, page 227, #162
- P. Heron, “Non-Reactive Cosleeping and Child Behavior: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep All Night, Every Night,” Master’s thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Bristol, 1994.
- M. Crawford, “Parenting Practices in the Basque Country: Implications of Infant and Childhood Sleeping Location for Personality Development” Ethos 22, no 1 (1994): 42-82.
- J. F. Forbes et al., “The Cosleeping Habits of Military Children,” Military Medicine 157 (1992): 196-200.
- D. A. Drago and A. L. Dannenberg, “Infant Mechanical Suffocation Deaths in the United States, 1980-1997,” Pediatrics 103, no. 5 (1999): e59.
- R. G. Carpenter et al., “Sudden Unexplained Infant Death in 20 Regions in Europe: Case Control Study,” Lancet 2004; 363: 185-191.
"The CPSC sleep study estimated that 64 deaths per year occurred in infants sleeping with parents... Around 5,000 babies die from SIDS annually in the United States." from Attachment Parenting by Martha and William Sears.
That is just 1% of all babies who die from SIDS each year. This leads me to the logical conclusion that 99% of SIDS deaths occur in CRIBS! So, should we vilify cribs?
As I'm writing this I realize that I am getting quite heated over this topic instead of giving you useful information on HOW to safely co-sleep. So, I will give you one last quote and move on.
CPSC study by Mark Vonnegut in the October 24, 1999. Boston Globe article 'Beware of Bad Science'
Now, let's talk about co-sleeping and how to do it safely...
First, it is important to understand the difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing. Bed-sharing is co-sleeping, but not all co-sleeping is bed-sharing. Bed-sharing is exactly what it sounds like, you share your bed with your baby/child. Co-sleeping is when your baby sleeps with you in a shared space, like in a crib or bassinet in YOUR bedroom.
There are a lot of great products out there now to help parents co-sleep safely.
Bassinets and Cradles: Bassinets are great because they are small and space-saving as compared to a crib, so they are great to use in smaller rooms that don't have the space for a large crib. Many are portable so you can take it from room to room during the day and pull it right up next to your bed at night. They won't last forever though, they are usually only safe up to 15lbs.
Sidecar Co-Sleepers: These are similar to bassinets, but they have only three sides and are level with adult beds. When they are pulled up to mommy and daddy's bed it gives the feel of sharing a bed. These are usually safe up to around 25lbs.
In-Bed Sleepers: These are similar to Moses baskets. They have a firm sleeping surface for baby and they lay right in the middle of your bed. They come in fours sided and three sided options. These are a great way to ensure safe bed-sharing. The only down-side is that they take up a lot of real-estate in mommy and daddy's sleeping space.
Travel Cribs: These are great option for those who don't want a full size crib in their room, but want to keep baby close after he/she has grown out of their bassinet. It is VERY important to note that travel cribs are NOT approved to be used for unsupervised sleeping. Once your baby can roll over on his/her own do not put them to sleep in a travel crib overnight.
If you prefer good, old-fashioned bed-sharing just be sure you are doing it safely.
~Don't sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of any drug (prescription or otherwise) that affects your sleep or consciousness or that makes you less aware of baby's presence.
~Avoid sleeping with your baby if you are extremely obese. Obesity can affect mother's sleep patterns, making her less aware of baby.
~Do not allow baby-sitters to sleep with baby.
~Don't allow older siblings to sleep with babies under nine months old.
~Don't sleep with baby on a couch, water bed, or other "sinky" surface where baby can be easily buried or wedged in cushions or crevices.
~Don't wear dangling jewelry or lingerie with strings.
~Avoid pungent hair sprays, deodorants, and perfumes that can irritate or clog your baby's nasal passages.
~Put baby to sleep on his/her back.
~Dress your baby appropriately. Adult bodies generate plenty of warmth so don't overdress your baby or use heavy sleep sacks.
~Make room for baby. Keep your baby's bed space clear of fluffy pillows and comforters.
~ NEVER smoke where baby sleeps!
Source: Attachment Parenting by Martha and William Sears
Now, I will leave you with these words of wisdom...
"Co-sleepers do it in the kitchen"
Come back next time for Baby B #6: Balance and Boundaries!