Snuggling your baby or child can be one of the most calming and loving activities in a parent's day. World wide, parents know this to be a valuable and intimate experience. If you mention you sleep with your infant to others, you may receive a variety of reactions. Some will say, "My baby and I slept so soundly - I love it!" Others will say, "You can't do that! That's so dangerous, you'll suffocate the baby!"
Who is right? The best way to choose what is right for your family in your situation is to be informed.
Noted Harvard-trained pediatrician, Dr. William Sears, author of The Baby Book, includes co-sleeping as part of the recipe of what he calls "attachment parenting," a high-touch style of parenting that advocates breastfeeding, wearing babies in a sling for several hours a day, and otherwise creating a child-centered environment that promotes bonding and trust. He lists the many reasons that co-sleeping works well for parents and baby, "Baby falls asleep and stays asleep better, mother sleeps better, breastfeeding is easier and middle-of-the-night feedings are less disruptive, and close physical contact at night can make up for lost time during the day if mother has to leave baby to work." Sears is also the author of SIDS: A Parent's Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death. In that book, Dr. Sears cites more than 200 current, reputable, scientific studies on the safety of sleep sharing when properly practiced.
Those against co-sleeping site statistics (often without references) of babies suffocating by "roll overs" or "overlays" of adults onto children. Sometimes, they infer that co-sleeping causes SIDS. According to the Chicago Infant Mortality Study, researchers "report a nearly doubled SIDS rate for co-sleeping, but this study does not remove the powerful effect of smoking parents from their statistic. When other studies remove this behavior, they find the remaining infants enjoy a drastically lower rate of SIDS for co-sleeping versus isolated crib sleeping. There are two kinds of co-sleeping, that conscious decision made by highly attentive parents, and that coming from factors such as fatigue from partying or drinking." Read more about this at Babyreference.com, a site that devotes extensive space to setting the record straight about SIDS and co-sleeping by examining the research. . To read what the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has said about co-sleeping, click here. To read how Attachment Parenting refutes the CPSC/JPMA statements, click here.
There are certain basic principles for co-sleeping. We found a great list on the BabyCentre site from the UK. This is a synopsis of the list ~ much is just pure common sense. Click here to see the complete explanation of principles for co-sleeping (him is used as a reference to the infant):
- Establish a mutual agreement - if sleeping with another adult, make sure they are ok with co-sleeping
- Get a big bed
- Make sure your mattress is safe
- Keep bedding light and minimal
- Never co-sleep on a sofa or waterbed
- Keep him warm, not hot
- Don't let your baby sleep on a pillow or with his head covered
- Never let infants and toddlers sleep next to each other
- Don't leave him alone on the bed
- Don't co-sleep if you have a sleep disorder
- Don't smoke if you co-sleep
- Don't drink alcohol or take drugs if you co-sleep
- Be flexible ~ sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't - don't force it.