There are benefits and disadvantages to co-sharing a bed with your child. Some experts are concerned about the health and safety of the baby. Others argue that sleep quality is improved. Ultimately all agree the goal is to create a safe sleeping environment for your child that will successfully launch them into a healthy, regular sleep habit. However, how do you decide if co-sharing is right for your child?
What is co-sharing?
Co-sharing means that your baby sleeps in the same bed as you. However, there is also the option of setting up a crib right next to your bed for a similar effect. Whether your baby sleeps in your bed or its own, merely sharing a room can lessen the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by up to fifty per cent.
What society has to say about co-sharing:
Many people hold differing opinions on co-sharing. In Western cultures, co-sharing is often frowned upon yet in some cultures like Japan it is considered the only responsible choice. The US government officially condones co-sharing. However, a 2013 study shows that co-sharing had increased from 6 per cent in 1993 to 13.5 per cent in 2010.
Co-sharing and different cultures:
It seems that many factors contribute to different culture’s views and opinions regarding co-sharing. The environmental conditions, customs, cultural values and wealth all play a role in whether or not a family will have their baby sleep in their bed. The idea that a child should sleep separately from his or her parents is foreign to multiple cultures outside of America. Some of these cultures seem to include Aborigines, the !Kung people of Botswana and the Efe people in Zaire. Professor James J. McKenna, having found that co-sharing is widely practised in much of Southern Europe, Asia, Africa and South and Central America, suggests that ‘the practice of co-sleeping does not necessarily vary a great deal from culture to culture, but rather that the social acceptance of cosleeping is what varies’. This could be because, in 1998, sixty per cent of parents said they practised bedsharing in Japan only sixteen per cent more than parents in the US. Dr Carolyn Schwarz argues that in most cultures ‘The idea of a crib or separating children physically to sleep would be considered unimaginable, even neglectful.’ Co-sharing seems to be a topic that stirs strong emotions in many societies. Even in America, there seems to be a division over whether co-sharing is natural and essential or dangerous. However, both sleeping with your baby in your bed or not have their benefits and disadvantages. Societies differ across the world in their opinions regarding co-sharing. However, the decision lies with the parents who have responsibility for the child.
Myths about co-sharing:
Some stigmas that are linked to co-sharing, especially bed-sharing include the idea that it is dangerous. However, researchers have found that some common pitfalls that are used in alluding to the danger of co-sharing seem to apply only to mothers who do not breastfeed their children. Video footage from baby sleep labs at Durham University, UK and the University of Notre Dame discovered that breastfeeding, bedsharing mothers tend to form a protective position around their baby intuitively. They do this by lying on their sides, pulling their knees up to the feet of the child with their arms positioned nearby.
Co-sharing and sleeping positions:
This position could prevent the baby from slipping down and protect the baby from either the mother or the partner rolling into the baby’s space. Thus, it would appear that a breastfeeding mother is already in tune enough with her child to overcome some main concerns that could pose a threat to the baby when co-sharing. For example, the babies tend to instinctively want to move closer to their mothers’ breasts in this position and in doing so move away from the potentially hazardous pillows or crevices at the top of the bed. There are risks when it comes to co-sharing same as with most sleeping arrangements. However, if you are interested in co-sharing to consider reading Professor McKenna’s Safe Cosleeping Guidelines online.
Myths about co-sharing
Another myth is that you may make your baby overly dependent of you. In reality, babies are already reliant on their parents as they are unable to perform daily routine actions by themselves. The act of cosleeping often helps the child feel secure and safe as the Mother’s presence tends to calm and reassure him or her.
Some people believe that the child will never leave the bed if the parent encourages this sleeping arrangement. Growing up, your child can appreciate and love the comfort of being in the same bed as you but at whichever stage you feel the need to transition them into their bed you can. The decision to help them sleep on their own is a legitimate one to make, and you can decide at which age. With the help of your partner, you will be able to transition your child.
Co-sharing benefits and tips:
Parents could experience fewer hassles, as the infant is nearby to attend to their needs. Thus the child is likely to feel protected and nurtured. Also, many believe it helps the baby fall asleep especially when they wake up at night.
Additionally, co-sharing maximises the use of space. Co-sharing provides a chance for bonding time and deepens attachment to the baby. The child is likely to benefit from the safe environment, and this should encourage healthy sleeping habits. Furthermore, it can boost the child’s development.
Another benefit includes the idea that co-sharing can likely help establish a better day and night pattern for your newborn. Babies seemingly commonly struggle to always rest at night and stay active during the day. Staying with their mother to experience the activeness of the day and then the contrast of the Mother’s calm, sleep environment at night may help the baby learn to rest more at night.
Some more practical co-sharing advice
– Experts seem to agree that baby needs to sleep on his or her back. Ensuring this position is vital for a safe sleeping environment. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy infants, when being put down to sleep, be placed on their backs.
– Bed surfaces need to be firm with tightly fitted sheets over. It is recommended to avoid having loose or heavy items nearby such as toys or extra blankets.
– Avoid placing other furniture nearby the bed. Check for gaps or crevices that you can eliminate.
– Covering the child’s head should be avoided. Aim to keep the baby at a warm temperature but prevent them from getting too hot.
– Sleep in a C position at night, forming a curve around the infant.
– You may want to consider buying a larger bed.
Above all, never fall asleep with your child on a couch or armchair. Co-sharing on these surfaces is dangerous for your baby with the hazard of possibly being squeezed between the gaps.
Disadvantages and concerns of co-sharing:
There are definite benefits to sharing a bed with your baby. However, co-sharing also allows room for error posing risks to your child.
Sometimes lack of space may lead to strangulation or suffocation. Parents’ sleep patterns may be disturbed by the infants’ sudden movements. Parents are unsuitable for co-sharing if they are under therapy or heavy medication, smoke or abuse alcohol. Such behaviour would pose a threat to the baby.
Furthermore, the child might find it difficult transitioning to sleeping on its own in the future. It could also encourage an excessive dependency on the parents.
Advice from Doctors and what not to do:
The majority of trained professionals are against co-sharing. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does recommend that your baby sleeps with you in your room for the first six months. The AAP also recommends that baby should ideally sleep in the same room as its parents for the first year but not in the same bed. Children born prematurely or with a low birth weight are at a higher risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) when co-sharing.
Parents can also significantly affect the risk of SIDS when sharing a bed with their child. Parents should not co-share if they are overly tired, suffering from depression, are under heavy medication or are smokers. These factors should guide you as to whether or not your baby should sleep in your bed. Wherever your child sleeps, the surface must be firm and clear of hazards.
With two opposing arguments, the question remains unanswered. It is clear given the research that sharing a room with your child is beneficial. Thus having your baby sleep in a cot in the same place, or in their own space designed to attach to your bed is a solution that can meet both critics and supporters halfway. Room sharing keeps your baby safe yet comforted.
However, parents know their children best and are best placed to make a decision that has the child’s best interest at heart. Whether you choose to co-share, room share or use a cot is your choice. We trust you will find the above information helpful on your journey of researching the best option for your family.