Babies In The Bed: The Pros And Cons Of Co-Sleeping
My oldest daughter slept with us until one week before her sister was born. She was 15-months-old at the time. I planned to let our youngest daughter stay in our bed until nine months, but the muscle I pulled in my back from improper sleeping positions instructed me otherwise. As an attached parent who breastfeeds, having our five-month-old in bed with us was easiest, but the aches over my body from accommodating her growth and mobility, plus our 18-month-old’s revolt against falling asleep alone, lead me to revisit the pros and cons of co-sleeping.
Per Dr. Sears, America’s pediatrician and an expert on attachment parenting, there are three important goals for beginning parents:
To know your child
To help your child feel right
To enjoy parenting.
Attachment parenting encourages skin-to-skin bonding after birth, responding on-demand to baby’s cries and cues, breastfeeding, baby wearing, and co-sleeping as methodologies to achieve these goals. For more on attachment parenting and Dr. Sears’ nationally recognized practice visit his website, Ask Dr. Sears.
For us, attachment parenting works! Our oldest daughter, Genesis, has a happy disposition I attribute to the bond we built from baby wearing, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping. However, there are those moments where too much attachment needs to be addressed.
We allowed Genesis to sleep with us until she was 15 months. The courage to finally kick her out of our bed came with the birth of her baby sister. I learned my lesson with Genesis, and I made a vow to evict Joelle, the little sister, from our bed before she could walk.
I don’t know about you, but I was uncomfortable with the notion of my babies sleeping alone fresh out of the womb.
Why should my child go from living inside of me for ten-months to no sight, smell, or sound of me for 3 – 8 hour increments at night?
Co-sleeping, to me, supports a smoother transition period.
The pros to co-sleeping are regulated breathing assistance from mother-to-child, a sense of security for babies who may feel uneasy in their new habitat, and less sleep interference for breastfeeding mothers.
Our oldest daughter is not a great sleeper, so sharing our bed with her made our nights much easier. Our youngest daughter does not have these issues. She loves to relax and sleep anywhere anytime. Because we let our oldest daughter sleep with us much longer than needed, she now feels entitled to disrupt our sleep at anytime. This is definitely a con we are slowly working on re-engineering.
All babies endure periodic breathing episodes the first year of life and more so during the first six months. When babies sleep with their parents, the carbon dioxide from the mother or father’s proximity rouse’s the baby in instances where they may be struggling to wake-up on their own. Pro! For me, the highlight of co-sleeping is that no one wants to get out of the bed 2 – 3 times a night to attach herself to a hungry infant. Why walk when you can roll over?
Now there are cons to co-sleeping as well. It is not recommended that parents co-sleep on couches. There have been many cases of suffocation where children are trapped by sleeping adults in compromising positions. I would be remised not to mention the presence of alcohol and drugs in most cases.
SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, is not a risk of co-sleeping. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome happens when doctors are unable to determine a cause of death. However, research shows that crib-sleeping infants suffer from SIDS at a higher rate than infants who share beds with their parents.
The con of co-sleeping for me is the three feet of space it puts between the parents for the comfort of our child. I am also a stomach sleeper, but co-sleeping forces me to sleep on my side, which causes me all types of muscle pains. When the babies are smaller, I can get away with sleeping on my stomach, but cheeks, as we like to call our 5-month old, is not a newborn anymore. She is a tossing, turning, demanding to snuggle up baby.
As my husband said, “It’s time for her to go. I want to sleep next to my wife again.” And he has his rights, so we kicked our baby out of the bed. I feel so bad. Funny enough, I seem to care more than she does. In all of his talk about attachment parenting, Dr. Sears makes a point to highlight setting boundaries and prioritizing your infant’s needs on demand not wants.
With cheeks now sleeping through the night and her breathing pattern more regulated, she does not need to latch onto her mother immediately every three hours anymore. I may want her in my bed, but my back and my husband say no.