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Are You Considering Co-Sleeping? What You Should Know Before You Decide

 

 

 

Understand the pros and cons of co-sleeping and the potential ways it could impact your relationships before you decide if it’s right for your family.

Please note: While we’re experts when it comes to mattresses, we are not doctors. It’s always recommended that you consult with your doctor when it comes to choosing whether or not co-sleeping is right for you.

As a new parent, getting enough sleep is a critical concern for both parents and baby. Looking for ways to sleep more than thirty minutes at a time, many couples may bring their children into bed with them—a practice called co-sleeping. 

Over the years, co-sleeping has had mixed reviews. While some parents focus on the benefits of co-sleeping such as getting more rest, easily breastfeeding, and ultimately spend more time together as a family, others are quick to point out the cons of co-sleeping and express concerns about safety, sleep, and quality of relationships for couples.  In this guide, we aim to provide the information you need to decide whether or not co-sleeping is the right choice for your family. 

At Mattress Advisor, we understand that your child’s safety is a top priority, and we are here to provide tips and guidelines for creating a safe co-sleeping environment. 

If you’re considering co-sleeping, but don’t know what factors to take into account when making your decision, this guide is for you!

But first, let’s start with unpacking what co-sleeping really is.

What Is Co-Sleeping?

Co-sleeping is a broad category that includes sleeping arrangements where parents sleep in the same room or the same bed as the child. 

While co-sleeping is often perceived as just snuggling up to your little one each night, there is actually a wide variety of co-sleeping arrangements.

Couple Co-Sleeping with Baby Between


Co-Sleeping Arrangements

Bed Sharing: Known as the standard for co-sleeping. As the name suggests, this is when the baby or toddler shares the same bed with one or both parents.
 
Sidecar Arrangement: In this sleep arrangement, the child has a separate surface to sleep on that’s adjacent to the parent’s bed, similar to a sidecar on a motorcycle. A co-sleeper bassinet (which can be made or purchased pre-made) or a crib is placed against the parent’s bed. The bassinet or crib can be either 3-sided or 4-sided with one short wall, having the open or short side facing the parent’s bed.
 
A Shared Room but Separate Beds: Room sharing in different beds allows for the parents and children to have their own separate sleeping spaces.
 
As-Needed: For struggling sleepers or frequent nightmare offenders who may wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep, so they go to their parents’ bed. As indicated, this is not an everyday situation and usually involves older children.
 

Co-Sleeping Safety Guidelines & Tips

No matter what sleeping arrangement you choose for your child and yourself, parents must be centrally focused on ensuring their safety. 
 
If you choose to co-sleep, the first steps are to talk to your pediatrician and a thorough discussion between both parents. 
 
These safety tips can protect your child in a co-sleeping arrangement:
  • Responsible Parents: Both parents must assume responsibility for the child’s condition and wellbeing while co-sleeping.
  • Place Baby on Back: By placing the baby on its back to sleep, keeping the room from being overly warm and removing loose blankets, stuffed animals or pillows, you can help your baby have a safe place to sleep.
  • Avoid Loose Bedding: Making the sleep surface safe with a tight sheet, no heavy blankets, or overly plush pillows can reduce the risk of these sleep-related incidents.
  • No Alcohol or Drug Use: A parent that smokes, takes sedatives or other medications, or is intoxicated from alcohol should not sleep on the same bed as the baby. 
  • Check Mattress Firmness: Do not co-sleep on a softer surface, like a water bed, couch or beanbag and do not co-sleep mattress less than the size of a Queen. 
  • Secure Bed Placement: Do not allow any space between the mattress and the headboard, adjoining walls, headboards, the sides of the cribs or footboards. 
  • Monitor Room Temperature: Pay attention to the room temperature to avoid overheating.
  • Other Considerations:  Parents with long hair or who are obese must be precautious as hair can entangle around the baby and overweight parents run a larger risk of suffocating the baby. 
 
"For safer bed-sharing, babies should be over 4 months and sleeping with a breastfeeding mother who does not smoke, has not consumed alcohol in the past 24 hours, and is not impaired by drugs or sleep-inducing medications."

Lauren Garmon, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Sleep Consultant certified by the Family Sleep Institute
 
 
For those parents looking for a compromise…
 
Room sharing is an option for those parents who want to stay close to their infants while still providing the baby with its own space. However, the same safety precautions are necessary regardless if you choose to co-sleep or room share. 
 
Find a mattress that may work for you and your family. Check out our best mattresses for couples.
 

The Evolution of Co-Sleeping

The Roots of Co-Sleeping
 
While today, co-sleeping is a buzzword in the parenting realm with lots of differing opinions surrounding the topic, co-sleeping has been practiced for a long time in Collectivist cultures, like Japan, who have been sharing sleeping quarters for decades.
 
In the 20th century, attachment parenting became more widespread across the Western world and individualist cultures.
 
Since then, more parents and scientists have been examining co-sleeping and comparing it to the separate sleeping structure. 
 
To learn more about culture and sleep, check out our Sleep in Different Cultures article. 
 

The Rise of Co-Sleeping

Stemming from the increased popularity of co-sleeping is the principle that parents want to be involved in their child’s development and respond to their growing children’s needs.
 
While parents may have found a strengthened bond between themselves and their child, there is a chance the couple’s relationship can deteriorate if neglected. The intensified focus on the child and parenting and the child’s presence in the couple’s bed decreases the chances of intimacy between partners
 
Not sure if having your child co-sleep with you is best for your family? Check out our Best Crib Mattresses article to keep your baby comfy in their own crib. 
 

Things to Consider: The Impacts of Co-Sleeping

Close-Up of Couple Co-Sleeping with Baby

  • Bed Structure: Adult beds may not be designed with the same infant safety precautions that cribs and bassinets take into consideration.
  • Sleep Disruption: In cases of infants and older toddlers, sleep disruption can occur for both parents and toddlers. Sleeping closer to caregivers can cause babies to sleep more lightly than those who are farther away from their parents.
  • Sleep Crutch: Children become reliant on the presence of a parent in order to sleep; this makes it more difficult to transition to separate beds and may inhibit the growing child from experiencing activities away from home. Children may be too anxious to sleep without his or her parents.

There is no one simple answer as to whether co-sleeping is a good idea. How co-sleeping affects different families will vary.

We’ll explore the pros and cons of a co-sleeping arrangement in relation to the effects it may have on your relationships with child and partner. 
 

Is Co-Sleeping Beneficial for Parent and Child Relationships?

One of the largest reasons parents are interested in co-sleeping is to form a bond with their newborn baby. This co-sleeping arrangement also adds some convenience for the parent.

Lauren Garmon, a nurse practitioner and Family Sleep Institute certified sleep consultant, says co-sleeping allows for easy breastfeeding, reduces the risk of bed-sharing on a couch or recliner which is more dangerous than a properly prepared bed, can increase maternal sleep quantity and can reduce infant crying and waking. 

Of course, there are two sides to the argument—co-sleeping could also interfere with your child developing healthy, independent sleep habits. Dr. Chris North of SleepStandards.com describes this problem as developing sleep crutches. “Always having a parent around at bedtime can become a strong sleep onset association, also called a sleep crutch or sleep prop—something your kid can’t drift off without,” says Dr. North.

Keep reading to weigh the pros and cons in relation to the parent-child relationship.

Pros:

  • Intimacy: Co-sleeping provides physical closeness and increased emotional intimacy between parents and their children.
  • Better Sleep while Breastfeeding: Mothers who breastfeed during the night find it easier to nurse in bed.
  • Reduces Nighttime Anxiety: Co-sleeping provides the infant or growing child with comfort that a parent is near. Reassuring gestures and physical proximity to a parent can help regulate a baby’s temperature and increase oxygen levels. 
  • Increased Family Time: Co-sleeping is a way for parents to enjoy more quality time with their children. Especially for working parents, co-sleeping creates a peaceful environment for everyone to be close together.

Cons:

  • Risk of SIDS: SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) becomes a danger for your baby when loose blankets and sheets can prevent them from breathing. SIDS is the sudden death of a baby, under one years old. Even parents can become a risk to their infants by potentially rolling over onto the baby or habits like drinking or smoking can increase a baby’s chance of SIDS. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that over 3,500 babies die each year from sleep-related incidents although it is important to note that babies can suffer from SIDS regardless of if parents choose to co-sleep or not if the right safety measures aren’t taken into consideration.
  • Sleep Crutch: Children become reliant on the presence of a parent in order to sleep; this makes it more difficult to transition to separate beds and may inhibit the growing child from experiencing activities away from home. Children may be too anxious to sleep without his or her parents.
     

How Does Co-Sleeping Impact the Parent’s Relationship?

When it comes to what co-sleeping can do to your relationship with your partner, there are also both advantages and disadvantages. 

Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a marriage counselor, says the parent can act as a 'human pacifier,' making it difficult for the baby to 'self-soothe' during the night.

Marriage Counselor, Dr. Wyatt Fisher finds that there are a few things to consider when deciding if co-sleeping will work for your family. ​

“First, consider the toll it will most likely take on your relationship and brainstorm how you could keep your connection and intimacy alive if you decide to co-sleep. Second, because co-sleeping can be so damaging to the relationship and potentially to the child’s independent development, consider alternatives.”

Pros:

  • Increased communication and responsibility: Parents that intentionally co-sleep usually decide on this arrangement before the child is born. Families that actively choose to co-sleep, instead of just allowing it to happen as a reaction to their circumstances, are able to avoid a crisis state in the marital relationship. 
  • Syncing sleep schedules: Co-sleeping usually requires all family members to head to bed around the same time. Some studies show couples are happier when their sleep schedule is synced with their partner.

Cons:

  • Marital decision making: A 2016 Developmental Psychology study found a growing disconnect between parents when it came to making decisions about the baby. The transition to parenthood means a shift in primary focus to the new baby, with less time dedicated to “couple-centered” conversations necessary for maintaining a couple’s physical intimacy.
  • Sex Life: Most couples only experience alone time when the child is sleeping. Co-sleeping produces a physical barrier to sexual intimacy for couples. Moreover, as new mothers dedicate more time to nursing their babies, fathers may feel neglected. Add in fatigue and changing hormones, and a couple’s sexual intimacy can be quickly displaced by all efforts focused on the child. 
  • Mother’s mental health: More prominent in toddler co-sleeping, the child’s sleep problems can be unwittingly passed along to the mother. At least 25% of children have sleep issues during their childhood. These issues are then indirectly transferred to the mother, as constant infant wakings increase fatigue in the mother and can turn into sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can put mothers at higher risk for postpartum depression; these behaviors negatively affect her relationship with her spouse.
According to the American Psychological Association, between 40-50% of marriages fail after just 6 years.


Final Thoughts

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what is best for your family. Many families around the world have had great success with co-sleeping. Having your baby or toddler sleep in your room or in your bed can provide comfort, encourage bonding, and enhance sleep quality for some families. 

Though, it is still important to give you both sides of the argument if you’re contemplating a decision. Co-sleeping requires certain safety precautions and it can have an effect on your family dynamic, whether that’s between you and your partner or your child’s relationship with his or her parents.

Whatever sleep arrangement you choose for your family, remember that getting a good night’s sleep is needed for the physical and mental wellbeing of parents and their children. Keep browsing on MattressAdvisor.com to find all the sleep resources your family needs. 
 

Printout: Co-Sleeping Safety Guidelines

Below is a snippet: Full infographic is available to print here.

Co-Sleeping Infographic
 

Content Contributed By:

This article was originally posted by Mattress Advisor.
Mattress Advisor's mission is to help people live their best days by finding their best night’s sleep. The company takes a wholistic approach to helping people get better rest, so whether you’re looking to learn about or improve your sleep health, or need new products to help you sleep better, they have got you covered.

 

 

 

 

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