These recent years, the term “co-sleeping” has become a hot topic. Oxford dictionary defines “co-sleeping” as “the practice of parents and young children sleeping in the same bed”. It is regarded as a taboo in the western culture. Many health practitioners warn parents against it, citing various reasons. Ironically, according to Dr William Sears, a renowned American paediatrician, who has written over 30 parenting books, he supports the idea of co-sleeping.
A father of eight grown-up kids, his nurse wife and he had co-slept with all their babies till they grew up. He chides books and talks which are against the idea of co-sleeping, saying, “how could a culture be so educated in other things, yet be so misguided in parenting styles?”
Advantages of Co-Sleeping
1. Babies feel secured
Babies less than a year old feels frightened when awaken alone in their crib and often have difficulty in going back to sleep. Having their mothers beside them is an assurance for them that things are all right.
2. Mothers feel assured
Mothers feel relieved just by having their babies beside them. Let’s just admit it. How many of us do feel paranoid about checking on our babies regularly especially amongst newborns? Questions like “is anything covering my baby’s face”, “is he breathing”, “is he sleeping correctly” are common amongst mothers. So, with co-sleeping, mothers get less worked-up.
3. Breastfeeding is easier
There’s no need to leave the bed (and room) when feeding times arise. Co-sleeping automatically make breastfeeding mothers anticipate when their babies need a feed. The very first squirm from their babies will awaken them automatically and this natural process is usually very relaxed. Studies have proven that milk producing hormones work better when mothers are more relaxed and sleeping.
4. Reduce SIDS
If done correctly, co-sleeping kids will refrain from sleeping on their tummies. Instead, they tend to sleep on their backs or sides. This sleeping position can lower the risk of SIDS. SIDS is an acronym for “sudden infant death syndrome“. It is an unexpected and unexplained death in healthy babies younger than one year old in their sleep.
5. A chance to reconnect
With our busy lifestyle, somehow sleeping with our babies are bits that we cherish. Co-sleeping is like precious moments to make-up for the lost times. We get close and intimate with our little ones.
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Disadvantages of Co-Sleeping
1. Co-sleeping has been associated many times with high risks of suffocation and strangulation.
2. Co-sleeping with a newborn may also be regarded as dangerous because the baby is at its most tiniest and fragile state. Fatigued parents may roll over their newborn accidentally.
3. With co-sleeping, babies are at their closest physical contact with us. They feel us. They can smell us. So, this may result in them waking up every now and then asking to be fed. When this happens, mothers may end up not getting enough sleep.
4. It may be difficult to persuade your child to sleep on her own at a later age, as she’s used to having someone sleep next to her. She might feel a little anxious and perhaps scared that all of a sudden her “room is too big and empty”.
5. Co-sleeping means we are sharing our bed with someone else apart from our spouse. Having another person (even if that person is our very own child) may be a hindrance to our sex life.
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If you have decided to co-sleep with your baby, make sure that……
1. It’s only the parents and the baby who co-sleep; with no other kids (the baby’s siblings) nor the family’s pets sharing the bed at the same time as over crowding the bed is hazardous for the baby.
2. Parents are non-smokers as the breath of the parents and their babies’ are synchronised when they sleep face-to-face.
3. We refrain from taking any kinds of medications that may result in us being intoxicated and unaware of our baby’s presence.
4. We avoid wearing jewelleries and shirts that have loose buttons as these may fall off and act as choking hazards for babies.
5. The sleeping mattress doesn’t sink in with the weight. The ideal mattress should be firm and flat.
So, whether we should co-sleep or otherwise, the choice is a very personal one. There isn’t a straight yes or no answer. Whatever works for another family may not work for us. So, the bottom line is, we should be open enough to do trial and error. As Dr Sears put it perfectly, “forget the cultural norms and do what comes naturally”.
By Noreen Yek Boussetta