ParenTalk- Cosleeping: Yay or Nay?
If you ask new parents, there is no better feeling than cuddling with your baby in bed all night and relishing the sweet baby smell. However, is it ideal to co-sleep? This question has been haunting new parents ever since the safe sleeping guidelines have been rolled out and the debate about co-sleeping or not has begun. There have been conflicting opinions regarding co-sleeping and bed-sharing and it is overwhelming to pick what is the healthiest for your family.
The family bed seems ideal to parents for many reasons, but experts warn against the risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that bed-sharing could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in your child.
The difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing:
While you may think that co-sleeping and bed-sharing are the same and the terms can be used interchangeably, that is not true. Bed-sharing means sharing the same sleeping surface with the child, whereas co-sleeping means sleeping near your child. This could mean sleeping either in the same bed or in another bed in the same room. So, bed-sharing is a way of co-sleeping; whether it is healthy is a controversial topic debated around the world.
Benefits of co-sleeping:
Co-sleeping advocates emphasize that both the baby and parents get more sleep if they co-sleep. This is because it is easier to breastfeed at night when you are right next to the child. The snuggles also make the child feel warm and offer a feeling similar to the womb. A study showed that women who share the bed with their infants breastfeed longer. Research also shows that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS by 50%.
How to get these advantages without sharing the bed?
Room sharing while having the baby in their bassinet or crib near your bed makes it easier to feed in the night. It enables the child and the mum to get back to sleep easily. When the child wakes up for a feed, it is a great time to cuddle. Room sharing lowers the risk of SIDS because you can easily spot any discomfort or breathing difficulties in your child.
The disadvantages of co-sleeping:
Why is snuggling with your baby in the bed advised against, may sometimes seem incomprehensible. After all, it seems the best way to take the much-deserved rest is by feeding on demand and not having to get up and walk to the crib every time the child wakes up. However, according to CDC, bed-sharing is one of the primary reasons for infant deaths in the United States. Here are some cons of co-sleeping that are associated with infant deaths:
Soft loose bedding and adult mattresses could pose suffocation hazards
The baby can get trapped between the mattress and the wall
Overtired parents may roll over the baby and suffocate them
There is a higher risk if the parents share the bed in an intoxicated state
Kids may develop a sleep crutch i.e. they may not be able to fall asleep in the absence of a parent
The ideal time to stop room-sharing?
While AAP recommends you must share the room with your infant for at least 6-12months when you want to stop only depends on you. Every family is unique and you can decide based on your comfort. It is a great way to bond with your child and if you are not facing any issues with this arrangement; you do not have to stop till you want to. The risk of SIDS is negligible after the 12-month mark and it is thus safe to continue the snuggles until you want.
How to co-sleep safely:
Traditionally, generations around the world have been bed-sharing and that makes us question the recent guidelines. While the guidelines are study-based, you may want to co-sleep with your child for various reasons including lack of space. For instance, when my child was born, I barely had any help. My husband was working 12 hours a day and there was no one to walk to the crib to pick the hungry baby for me. Bed-sharing seemed best to help recuperate with c-section pain while continuing breastfeeding. We researched a lot and ensured that the family bed was a safe space for the newborn. Here is how you can ensure that co-sleeping is less hazardous:
- Facilitate a different surface: Sharing the same sleep surface is not recommended. It is a good idea to attach a bedside crib or a bassinet to reduce the risk. We used the firm child beds with a mosquito net to keep over our bed. This kept us away even if we rolled over while sleeping.
- Do not share the bed under the influence of drugs, sedatives, or alcohol: You may be less alert to your child’s cues when under the influence of medication or alcohol. You are also likely to roll over the baby. This makes it unsafe to share the bed.
- Smokers should not share the bed with infants: Secondhand smoke poses a high risk of SIDS for infants and thus smokers should not share the same bed as infants.
- Do not keep the baby between 2 adults: If you wish to bed share, place the child next to the mom to facilitate breastfeeding and not between both parents as the risk of suffocation or being rolled over is higher.
- Do not place them next to siblings or other children: Children are not conscious about their hand and leg movements while sleeping. You do not want the knee of an older child in the tummy or throat of your newborn.
- Do not use couch or recliner chairs for cosleeping: If you wish to cosleep, a firm mattress is the only way to keep it safe. Sleeping on a couch or chair may cause suffocation.
- Place the baby on their back: Infants must always sleep on their back to prevent breathing obstructions and SIDS.
- Pay attention to little things: Do not forget to tie long hair when sleeping. It may seem inconsequent but long hair is also a strangulation hazard.
- Ensure there are no pillows, blankets, or loose sheets: These objects may suffocate the child and are best avoided.
What to avoid if you do not co-sleep:
If, after analyzing all pros and cons, you decide not to co-sleep, you must still be careful about your child’s safety. While feeding your child, ensure that you are on a safe surface, like a bed. Even if you accidentally fall asleep, your child will fall on the bed and not the floor. Falling asleep in a chair will also pose the risk of suffocation because of the arm of the chair.
Room sharing without bed-sharing is the safest sleeping arrangement for your infant under 12 months of age. If you choose to co-sleep, avoid hazards and create a safe sleeping space for your child. During the initial months, sleep is precious for the both of you, pay attention to safety and come up with an arrangement that works for the both of you.