Co-sleep: How to sleep safely and the benefits it could have

Could co-sleep be right for you? (Photo: Getty Images)

It is a decision that is not taken lightly by parents and is not without controversy and risk – should I sleep with my child?

Co-sleeping, by definition, is not necessarily sharing a bed with your children but sharing the experience of sleep nearby.

Many jump to the conclusion when discussing co-sleeping what it means to have your newborn baby in bed with you.

This is a huge misconception and one that I will say right off the bat, despite my stance in favor of co-sleeping, is a huge risk. A baby under six months of age at least shouldn’t share your bed for a number of factors, most notably a baby’s inability to communicate if something like the temperature isn’t right.

Additionally, babies tend not to be able to change positions without help at this point and so the nightmarish fear of rolling over your child during sleep, which many parents put off, is a real risk here.

The NHS tends to take a general stance against co-sleeping and parents really need to weigh their own situations and practicalities to make a good judgment. But while this is a heated debate, with many pros and cons cited, one thing all charities and scholars will agree on is that a baby under six months old, at least, should not share your bed.

However, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the benefits of co-sleeping as a cradle near the bed. side from bed, where they can feel your breath and feel close to you, is perfectly safe and acceptable.

Better for parents too, as they don’t have a long way to go when baby inevitably wakes up during the night.

What are the benefits of co-sleeping?

Development

Your child is constantly developing and the more he sleeps, the more uninterrupted he is. They also take a huge influence from you, so whether it’s a young baby in a crib next to your bed or an older child snuggling up to you, there is communication that benefits you. both to the child and to the parents.

Heart rates, brain waves, sleep states, oxygen levels, temperature and breathing all influence each other, creating a restful night and growing bond as well as the development of growth and health. a child.

mom holding a toddler

It’s about taking advantage of this link (Photo: Getty Images)

Better sleep for both of you

Babies need to be close to their parents; this is why the first skin-to-skin contact in the moments after birth is important in consoling a stressed child and forming that initial bond which is so important. But that doesn’t stop at the maternity ward.

A small study of 25 babies aged four to ten months, who were separated for sleep training, found that although babies’ behavior stabilized by the third night, their levels of cortisol (a stress hormone ) remained high. Similar studies in monkeys have shown high stress levels when babies are separated from their mothers.

Increased stress leads to an interruption in sleep time for babies and therefore has a direct impact on development. If your baby has had a restless sleep, her development during the day, including her communication attempts and cognitive skills, is impaired.

And it’s not just for the baby. Sleep deprivation is a huge risk factor in women who can suffer from postpartum psychosis. This is directly related to the belief that co-sleep, because it can bring deeper sleep and less anxiety, can lower the risk of postpartum difficulties.

Research suggests that more rested parents make better decisions and, most importantly, have better emotion regulation. It’s better for everyone.

What about dad?

Bed-sharing fathers also benefit in other ways: One study found that when fathers slept near their babies, their testosterone was lowered more than fathers who slept separately.

Men with low testosterone will engage with babies more calmly and effectively, leading to a more serene atmosphere, reduced anxiety, and better decision-making. It is important for a baby, as much as possible, to bond with mom and dad, where the baby feels safe and connected to all caregivers, the stress is much less, which gives the child more time to focus on its development.

Believe it or not, children who sleep together will switch to lonely sleep much more easily.

On average, bed-sharing children will later find independent sleep, but due to their positive relationship with sleep, results tend to lead to much better outcomes, as they can be more independent, self-sufficient, and confident in their daily life. than children who have not experienced the proximity of co-sleep.

In all aspects of childcare, I believe that showing hard love to babies and children as a measure to make them more independent, is a far inferior technique than showing love and allowing trust in the child. their own pace, knowing you have their backs.

Let’s not forget the most obvious advantages

Close contact with your baby at night makes things a lot more convenient in the sense that you don’t have to go far to meet their needs and there is also a certain intimacy and joy in having your child at home. proximity.

It is also a great breastfeeding aid, making it a much more comfortable and easier process for moms.

“The mother instinctively needs to be close to her baby,” says Cynthia Epps, MS, a certified lactation educator at the Santa Monica Pump Station.

“Working women who don’t see their babies all day may be particularly drawn to co-sleep to make up for missed contact.

“Keeping the baby close, with skin-to-skin contact, calms the baby and can cement the emotional bond between mother and child. “

happy baby in bed

Make sure you sleep safely (Photo: Getty Images)

How to sleep safely

As a child care practitioner, co-sleeping is something that I advocate and have seen positive results in families that I have worked with for many years.

Having said that, it stands to reason that there are some safety measures to keep in mind to ensure that it is performed with low risk. So what should you do?

Keep pillows, sheets, and blankets away from your baby or anything else that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause him to overheat.

There is an increased risk of SIDS if the baby is too close to thick blankets and has a high temperature.

Avoid leaving pets or other children in bed, especially if your child is still quite young. Children move a lot in their sleep, and they need the space and freedom to do so, unobstructed.

Make sure baby doesn’t fall out of bed or get stuck between the mattress and the wall. All spaces must be closed for all eventualities.

When not to co-sleep

There are also circumstances in which co-sleeping with your baby can be very dangerous and should not be done in any capacity. If any of the following apply to you, do not sleep at all and ask your GP or midwife for advice.

  • Either you or your partner smoke (even if you don’t smoke in the bedroom)
  • Either you or your partner have ingested alcohol or taken drugs (including medicines that can make you drowsy)
  • Your baby was born prematurely (before 37 weeks)
  • Your baby was born at a low weight (2.5 kg or 5½ lbs or less)
  • Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby, this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times

Co-sleeping has so many benefits and, provided all safety precautions are followed, it can really increase intimate bonding and development and give everyone a more comfortable night’s sleep, making those days more relaxed. and more manageable.

However, this is a decision that you should fully explore and ideally with feedback and discussion with an experienced person such as your GP or midwife.

If there are any risk factors, err on the side of caution at least until you’ve done your research and discussed your options.

If co-sleeping is for you, make sure you are completely on top of all safety precautions so you can enjoy it with minimal risk.

Finally, with all this in hand, enjoy the experience, the joy of the bond and the closeness and intimacy that it brings to family life.

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