Inside: Tips on how to co-sleep safely with your baby and the benefits of co-sleeping or bed-sharing.
I’ll never co-sleep with my baby…
I’d never get any sleep cause I’d be hyper aware of her right next to me.
What if I roll over on her? What if in his sleep, my boyfriend’s spastic arms cover her face??
Nope…co-sleeping isn’t for me!
These were some of the thoughts I had when I was pregnant with my first baby.
As a new mom, I had done a lot of research and read many parenting books to get a sense of what kind of parent I wanted to be.
I realized my parenting theories closely aligned with attachment parenting. However one of the things they talk about in attachment parenting is co-sleeping.
As down as I was for attachment parenting, co-sleeping was the one thing I didn’t see myself doing.
Instead, I spent lots of time researching and picking out the perfect bassinet and crib, and diligently decorated her nursery where, (in my mind) she would soon be sleeping.
What I didn’t count on once I had her, was how natural it would be for me to co-sleep with her.
Once I realized this sleeping arrangement was in our future, I did a lot of research on safe co-sleeping and talked with trusted medical professionals to get more safety tips.
If you plan on co-sleeping, or even just want to learn more about it as an option, you want to do your research. There’s pretty clear lines for when you should, and shouldn’t co-sleep.
Many people aren’t supportive of this sleeping arrangement, because if you don’t take precautions then it can be dangerous.
However, done safely, there are many benefits to co-sleeping and bed- sharing with your baby.
There are also those who’ll make comments, about how you’re spoiling your kid, or they’ll never learn to sleep alone, or that they’ll be sleeping with you until they’re a teenager.
First, none of those things are true, and frankly, it’s no ones business what your sleeping arrangements are.
If someone asked how my kids slept, or where they slept, and I didn’t know them or didn’t think they’d be supportive, I didn’t tell them we co-slept.
The bottom line is, where your baby sleeps is a personal decision that no one else can make for you.
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Co-sleeping versus bed-sharing
These terms are often used interchangeably but they do have different meanings.
Co-sleeping is sleeping with the baby in the same room. So if your baby sleeps in a co-sleeper or bassinet next to the bed, that’s co-sleeping.
Bed-sharing is when your baby sleeps in bed with you.
I’ll be talking about both of these sleeping arrangements and the safety measures you should take for them.
How To Co-Sleep Safely With Your Baby
You should only bed-share if you’re breastfeeding your baby.
Breastfeeding mothers are more in sync with their baby’s sleep cycles and therefore more aware of their baby’s location in bed.
They’re more likely to rouse from sleep when their baby is hungry, moving around, rooting, or fussing.
A co-sleeper that’s flush to the mattress. The only thing missing is the mesh liner.
Use guard rails
Your baby should be placed between you and a wall, guard rail, or something that acts like a guard rail, (like a crib).
The mattress needs to be flush with the other surface though because you don’t want the baby to slip into a crevice.
Also guard rails should have a mesh liner so there’s nothing your baby’s arms or legs can get caught in.
If you’re using a crib as a guard rail, (like the crib is acting like a wall) instead of putting a mesh liner inside the crib, (which you’d do if your baby were to sleep inside the crib) put it on the outside so their arms and legs don’t go in between the slats of the crib.
Avoid putting your baby to sleep between you and anyone else.
Your husband and/or other kids don’t generally have the same awareness of the baby as you do, so it’s not safe for your baby to sleep in between you and them.
Sleep position is important
Always place your baby to sleep on their back to prevent the risk of suffocation or SIDS.
You’ll probably find if you bed-share and you nurse while laying down on your side, that your baby will need to be on their side too, (in order to be flush with your body for proper latching). Oftentimes, your baby will roll onto their back after their done nursing, but if they don’t, just roll them onto their back.
Avoid these mistakes
Never place your baby with blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals as this is a risk for suffocation.
I ran very hot while I was nursing and bed-sharing, (plus my baby was like a little heater!) so if I used a blanket, it was on the lower half of my body which was far from my baby.
I used a pillow for myself, but always slept with my arm out, (so it was a barrier between the pillow and my baby). Plus my baby was at chest level so she wasn’t near the pillow.
If you find you’re cold, you can wear warmer pajama bottoms and socks.
If you don’t think you can manage your baby not being near blankets and pillows, then try having them sleep in a co-sleeper or bassinet right next to the bed instead.
Don’t overdress your baby in super warm clothes if you’re bed-sharing. Bed-sharing and breastfeeding helps regulate your baby’s body temperature so if you dress them too warm they’ll overheat.
You’ll want to find a pediatrician who agrees with your parenting style so you can talk openly about your sleeping choices and how to do so safely.
My daughter’s pediatrician was very supportive of our sleeping choices and gave me several bed-sharing safety tips.
Never bed-share in these situations
You don’t want to bed-share if you’ve been drinking alcohol, or you’re taking any type of drug.
If you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they’ll impair your ability to rouse from sleep and you won’t be aware of your baby.
This is extremely dangerous as you could accidentally roll onto your baby without knowing it.
Similarly, if your partner has been drinking or is taking any kind of drug, put your baby to sleep in a bassinet or crib.
If you’re extremely exhausted, this also makes it less likely you’ll wake up when your baby has a need, and you won’t be aware of your baby.
Exhaustion is really common after you’ve had a baby, so if you find that you’re more tired than normal, place your baby to sleep in the bassinet, or crib next to your bed.
Never co-sleep on a couch or in a reclining chair.
Many parents are so scared to sleep in bed with their baby because they’re discouraged from doing so, that they attempt the couch thinking it’s safer.
Co-sleeping on a couch or in a reclining chair is much more dangerous, (as opposed to practicing safe co-sleeping in bed) because of the soft crevices your baby can get caught in.
Waterbeds are also a no-no. The surface is not firm and could cause your baby to suffocate.
You can read more co-sleeping and bed-sharing safety tips here
The Benefits Of Co-Sleeping
Many moms who co-sleep or bed-share, find they’re very in tune with their babies and have a strong bond with them.
(This is not to say moms who choose not to co-sleep aren’t bonding. You can bond with your baby no matter what the sleeping arrangement is).
Co-sleeping is also a great way to reconnect with your baby if you’re working and aren’t able to spend as much time with them as you’d like to.
Your baby sleeps better!
Babies who co-sleep or bed-share are less likely to fully wake up due to separation anxiety, hunger, etc., because their mom is right there to soothe them or nurse them.
I found this to be true with both of my kids when they were babies. They never fully woke up because I felt them rooting around and I could latch them on while they were still sleeping. Or if they needed comfort, I could soothe them and they never woke up.
Lots of moms who co-sleep find they sleep better too.
Knowing your baby is right there brings a sense of peace knowing you can immediately meet their needs, or check on them.
Plus you have better quality sleep because you don’t have to fully wake up either, (like you would if you had to get out of bed and go to your baby’s room to tend to them if they wake up).
When I noticed my baby needed to nurse or be comforted, I addressed the need and was able to fall back asleep very quickly.
For me this meant I felt pretty well rested in the morning!
Your baby’s physiology is more stable. When you co-sleep with your baby, their breathing and temperature is more stable. (source)
Breastfeeding at night can help maintain your milk supply because you’re feeding more frequently. When you’re nursing more often, it signals your body to produce more milk.
If done safely, co-sleeping and bed-sharing have a lot of benefits.
I believe that bed-sharing with both of my kids helped me get way more sleep than I would have if they had slept in another room. It also helped create a strong bond between us.
If you think co-sleeping may be the right choice for you, be sure to do your own research, and talk with a trusted medical professional so they can tell you if it’s the right option based on your lifestyle.