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Real moms share pros and cons of co-sleeping with a baby

Co-sleeping or keeping the baby in a different room? Find out which sleeping arrangement is ideal with a newborn.

One of the things that I read a lot about and pondered over when I was pregnant was whether I would co-sleep with my baby or not. My first and foremost concern was that I might crush my baby in sleep, that a tiny hand or foot may get squished. However, once the baby came, it was clear to me that co-sleeping was the only way for me. And two years later, all her limbs are safe. That's more than I can say for myself. Toddlers usually do some intense from of martial art when sleeping, injuring the poor parent sleeping next to them. Anyway, co-sleeping or not is a popular topic of discussion in any mommy group with a number of pros and cons. Co-sleeping has worked for me, but I know it doesn't for some. So here I am listing a few pros and cons of co-sleeping, bed sharing or otherwise.

Cons of co-sleeping

  • Potential risks: As I shared earlier, crushing a baby is a major risk when bed sharing. Also, if you use the same blanket with the baby, chances are that the baby can suffocate or get tangled. Also, if you share the bed with another child, there is an increased risk of the older child hurting the baby.
  • Disturbed sleep for you: As a new mother, you will get anxious over the slightest whimper your baby makes. Newborns make a lot of sound when sleeping, and it's all normal. But you may find yourself waking up again and again and checking the baby.
  • Disturbed sleep for the baby: With your constant fretting, you can disturb your baby's sleep too, which is definitely not needed. Also, if you share the bed, you might keep shifting the baby to make space for yourself while keeping her close.
  • Your sex life can take a hit: With a baby on the same bed, or even close-by, not many people feel comfortable having sex. You might have to take your rendezvous elsewhere, but that would mean leaving the baby alone on the bed.

Pros of co-sleeping

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  • Great for breastfeeding: Newborns feed every 2-3 hours, day and night. Every feeding session lasts anywhere between 20 minutes to 40 minutes. Imagine having to wake up 4-5 times during the night, going to the baby's room, feeding and coming back to sleep. This is why co-sleeping -- bed sharing or room sharing, is great for breastfeeding. With the baby close at hand, you can feed the baby in a sleeping position, with her head elevated, and get some well-deserved rest.
  • Better sleep for the baby: Newborns wake up a lot in the night. Sometimes all they need is some soothing and a pat. When co-sleeping, it is easier to soothe your child, and the baby can fall back asleep almost instantly. A research [1] also concluded that co-sleeping babies experience lesser awake incidents during a sleep cycle.
  • Reduces the risk of SIDS: Over the last decade, the cases of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) have increased and there is no apparent reason why. A research [2] showed that co-sleeping of any kind reduces the risk of SIDS.
  • Babies sleep longer: From my personal experience, I have noticed that my baby used to sleep longer when I slept next to her. Also, she would sleep peacefully for as long as I was next to her. I have tried letting her sleep in a separate room, but she always sleeps for shorter duration than when she has me next to her. This maybe a unique to me, but I feel it works because babies feel safer and warmer sleeping next to the mother.
  • Babies are safer when co-sleeping: Given that you have a safe and comfortable setup, babies are actually safer when co-sleeping. Imagine the baby sleeping alone and her blanket blocks her airway, or her foot gets caught in the railing of the crib? Mothers are known to check on the baby frequently during the night, with the baby close at hand, it becomes easier.

An ideal set-up for co-sleeping

While a lot of mothers are not comfortable with the idea of bed-sharing, for the obvious reasons, what you can do is create an elevated space for the baby on your bed. Many options in co-sleeping mats are available, and you can get one that suits you. Another option is to have the bedside baby basket/ crib, which is like an extension to your bed. You can also opt for room sharing by having the crib in your room.

References

1. Mao, A., Burnham, M. M., Goodlin-Jones, B. L., Gaylor, E. E., & Anders, T. F. (2004). A Comparison of the Sleep Wake Patterns of Cosleeping and Solitary-Sleeping Infants. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 35(2), 95 105. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-004-1879-0

2. Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome., Moon RY. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2011 Nov;128(5):e1341-67. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2285. Review. PubMed PMID: 22007003.

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