MpkaaCo-sleeping is a very controversial topic even amongst crunchiest of folk. There’s also confusion around the word cosleeping itself. You may have also heard of the terms bed-sharing or room sharing adding further to the confusion.
Co-sleeping merely means sleeping close to your baby. Whether that mean the same room, the same corner of a room, or in the same bed. This is the broadest of the three terms.
The co-sleeping “controversy” is mostly limited to the western world especially here in the US. According to Dr. James McKenna, specialist in mother-infant cosleeping in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS, “For the overwhelming majority of mothers and babies around the globe today, cosleeping is an unquestioned practice”. He states that in much of southern Europe, Asia, Africa and Central and South America, mothers and babies routinely share sleep. In many cultures, co-sleeping is the norm until children are weaned, and some continue long after weaning.
We are taught here in the US that placing baby on their back in an empty crib to sleep is the safest way for our babies to sleep in order to lower the risk of SIDS. However the issue is that science just doesn’t back up this idea. In the 1970s and 1980s, the rate of infant deaths per 1,000 live births was 1.5; it’s now 0.5. Placing baby to sleep on their back drastically reduced the risk of SIDS, however, there are still 3500 SIDS deaths in the US each year.
The question is are some of these 3500 annual SIDS deaths caused by cosleeping? New research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in October 2016 states that, based on research, bed-sharing is positively associated with increased SIDS risk while co-sleeping in the same room is negatively associated with SIDS risk.
The AAP also listed recommendations for reducing SIDS risk in order of importance:
- Back to sleep
- Sleep on firm surface
- Breastfeeding is preferred
- Infant should sleep on a separate surface BUT close to parents in same room for the first year of life
- No loose sheets or toys while sleeping
- Use pacifiers
- Avoid smoke exposure
- Avoid alcohol and drug exposure
- Avoid infant overheating and from covering head
- Pregnant women should obtain regular prenatal care
- Immunize baby according to AAP and CDC recommendations
- Don’t use sleep wedges or positioners
- Don’t use cardio respiratory monitors to attempt to prevent SIDS
- Supervised awake tummy time for baby to strengthen neck
The main issue surrounding bed sharing is the lack of information regarding how to safely bed share. The following are important tips to keep in mind if you choose to bed share:
- Sleep on a firm surface with tight fitting sheets
- Keep covers low on the bed and away from baby
- Dress baby with the same amount and thickness of clothes as you will wear to sleep. If you are warm in a tee-shirt and shorts baby will be warm in the same. It’s important to keep baby from overheating.
- Keep baby away from pillows
- Keep baby near mom and away from dad. Mom is more aware of baby’s presence even while sleeping.
- Do not drink or do drugs and bed share
- Use a safe method to keep baby from rolling off the edge of bed (i.e. toddler bed rails, side car crib etc)
Before I had my baby I had never even heard of co-sleeping or bed sharing and naturally expected to lay my baby to sleep in her crib and her sleep blissfully through the night after a little practice. Well… that didn’t happen.
I had a pack n play that I received at my baby shower set up with the included bassinet intending for baby to sleep in the bassinet by my bed after coming home from the hospital.
Important note: I was breastfeeding at the hospital but started exclusively pumping as soon as we got home because baby’s latch was not perfected and had caused a great deal of pain and damage to my nipples by the time we left the hospital.
I tried getting baby to sleep in her bassinet but she wouldn’t have it. At most she would sleep 10 minutes and then cry for me to hold her. At that point I was desperate for sleep I knew she wouldn’t sleep in her crib and only wanted me to hold her so I laid slightly reclined in my bed propped up with a couple pillows holding my 7.5 lb baby asleep on me. Lying chest to chest with her little head under my chin and my arms wrapped securely around her we finally slept…amazingly! This continued for a couple weeks. I kept trying to see if she had warmed up to the idea of sleeping alone in the bassinet.. nope (I don’t blame her haha).
During the day I was trying out the Leachco podster, an infant seat lounger that lovingly envelopes baby in an adjustable support. Baby really enjoyed the way it kept her snuggled but she wasn’t lying flat so that she could see what I was doing. I cautiously decided to let her nap in the podster. I had heard positioners and props were bad but this thing was made perfect. Baby couldn’t wiggle to press her face on any part of the lounger. She was stuck in a comfy cloud. She slept like a rock. The podster was then a permanent addition to our pack n play bassinet. This setup worked perfect for us until she reached the bassinet weight limit at about 3.5 months when we started bed sharing.