What is sleep-sharing?
Co-sleeping, sleep-sharing, the family bed; whatever you choose to call it, means regularly sharing a bed with your child as opposed to sleeping separately. This practice is more common than you would think. Families all over the world share one family bed. While it is impossible to tell the exact number of how many families in the US co-sleep, it is definitely a growing trend. According to one national survey, approximately 13% of family’s practice sleep-sharing. This number has more than doubled in recent years. Even parents who don’t subscribe to the idea of a family bed may allow a child to co-sleep on occasion when they feel it’s necessary, for example if a child can’t sleep or has a bad dream.
Is it Right for my Family?
The decision to share a family bed is a very personal one- what works for some families may not work for others. Here are a few things that are important to consider.
-Your child’s health and safety are the most important things to consider. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend sleep-sharing for the health and safety of the child – but sleep-sharing advocates disagree.
-Some people love the coziness of sleep-sharing. Others finding that having a squirmy child in bed with them make it difficult to sleep.
-Some babies sleep better next to their parents. Others seem happier sleeping on their own.
-For busy families, sharing a bed can be a way to connect after a long day apart. Co-sleeping can especially enhance closeness between the father or and the baby, since the father doesn’t have the physical connection that a nursing mother and her baby do.
-Moms who co-sleep say it’s easier to breastfeed and bottle-feed with their baby right next to them. If you breastfeed your baby, once you get comfortable with nursing while laying down, you may find that you barely wake up when it’s time to feed. You help your infant latch on, and then fall right back asleep. However, some say that sharing a bed can make it more difficult to wean your child away from waking up in the middle of the night to feed, since of the proximity to their mothers, they may wake up to eat even if they are not hungry.
-Some moms and dads discover that the family bed makes it harder for them to find time alone together to reconnect, or puts a damper on their sex life. Other parents say it makes them more resourceful and creative about finding private time.
Check with your Partner
Choosing to sleep share is a family decision, so make sure your partner is comfortable with the arrangement. If you make the dependent independently or pressure a reluctant partner, you risk damaging your relationship. Make a list of pros and cons with your partner and brainstorm ways for you two to still have private time to yourselves. If there are still any reservations, agree to a trial period to see if it is something that works for your family.
Check with your Baby
Many parents who have no intention of sharing their bed end up doing so when they find that it’s the only way they get can their newborn to sleep. For some babies, sleeping alone is hard to get used to –after 9 months in the womb, they crave closeness. But not every baby enjoys a shared sleeping arrangement. If you have a family bed and your baby’s restless or fussy at night, you might try putting him in her bassinet or crib to see if he seems happier there. Or, if crowding is the problem, consider getting a larger bed or a bedside bassinet to give everyone a little more room.
What are the long-term effects?
Advocates of attachment-style parenting, which emphasizes the close bond between parent and child – believes babies who co-sleep grow up more confident and independent, because of the early nurturing co-sleeping provides, however some traditional child development experts worry that children who co-sleep become overly dependent. However, as sleep-sharing becomes more widespread in the US, it is becoming more accepted, so some of this skepticism has lessened. It is important to consider the fact that if you sleep with your baby, it can be more difficult to get them to move into his or her own bed later, so prepare for this transition ahead of time. Most parents find that once this transition is made, the children are happy sleeping on their own.
-Don’t leave your baby to sleep alone in an adult bed. Of course, you won’t always go to bed at the exact same time your baby does, so have a bassinet or crib ready for naps.
Do not co-sleep with your infant if you’re under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. These intoxicants could interfere with your awareness of your baby’s presence and her cries.
-If you are overweight, sleep-sharing might not be safe for your baby. Installing a crib or a co-sleeper next to your bed is a less risky way to go.
-Don’t sleep in clothing that has long strings or ribbons on it or wear jewelry in bed.
-Don’t let older children sleep next to a baby younger than one year. They could accidentally harm the baby by rolling over or kicking in their sleep.
-Keep pets out of the bed.
-Put your baby to sleep only on a smooth, flat mattress. It’s not safe for babies to on a waterbed, an egg-crate mattress, a couch, an armchair, or any other surface that’s not firm and could interfere with your baby’s breathing.
-If you can, place your mattress on the floor so if the baby rolls off, he or she won’t have far to fall. Place rugs or pillows on the floor around the mattress to cushion falls. If your mattress isn’t on the floor, equip it with a mesh bed (not rails with slats that could entrap a baby’s head).
-If your mattress is against a wall, make sure there are no gaps that your baby could slip into. Fill any gaps with tightly rolled towels. The same goes for gaps between headboard or footboard and the mattress.
-Don’t use a headboard or footboard with slats more than 2 3/8 inches apart or cutouts. These can entrap a baby’s head.
-Position the bed away from things that might be a hazard for a baby, such as cords for window blinds, lamps that can be pulled over, etc.
-To make sure your baby can breathe, keep pillows, blankets, comforters, and other bedding away from his or her face.
-Make sure fitted sheets fit securely so they can’t be pulled loose.
-Don’t use sheepskins or any type of cushy mattress cover.