Every aspect of childrearing is under scrutiny by professionals, the media and parents. Each and every person you meet has some opinion on every single decision you make about how to care for your child, whether you’re doing it “right” or “wrong”.
One of the most heated debates is whether or not co-sleeping with your child is safe or beneficial. Knowing the pros and cons of co-sleeping can help you figure out what’s best for you and your child – and really, that’s what matters.
If you’ve ever had to get up in the middle of the night and trudge across the house to breastfeed your hungry infant at 3:00 a.m., you know how tough it can be to keep yourself awake. If you bottle feed, it’s even worse, because you have to muster enough coherency to safely heat water, sterilize bottles and mix the formula and test its temperature.
Nightmares, diaper changes and those moments when your child just needs his or her mom or dad are also burdensome reasons for that middle-of-the-night trek across the house. One of the biggest pros of co-sleeping is that your child is right there next to you. Whether it’s a hug, milk or just a reassurance that they’re safe and loved, you don’t have to leave the warm comfort of your covers to tend to your child’s needs.
The closeness provided by co-sleeping is also a drawback. If you and your partner share a bed, there might be times where you want to have some alone time together without a child in the bed. While family cuddle time is great, sometimes you just want one-on-one time with your partner.
Additionally, the closeness offered by co-sleeping can be an exercise in mixed martial arts some nights and Tetris on others. Fitting two or three people in a bed takes some shuffling. If your child tosses and turns, you’ll find yourself with feet and arms in your back, kidneys and bladder, something you thought you’d left behind once they exited the womb.
Pro: It’s Safer Than Some Options
When parents who feel that bed sharing could be beneficial to their family try to avoid it, they might end up choosing unsafe options. A mother feeding her infant in the middle of the night might settle down on a sofa or comfy chair and start nodding off: both of these places produce more of a risk than if mom had just shared her bed in the first place.
In an attempt to make co-sleeping safer, many crib manufacturers have created side-cars or cots that cozy up to the parent’s bed so that co-sleeping is still possible while reducing the risks associated with full-on bed sharing.
Con: It Might Not Be Safe
If you’re a heavy sleeper, you might not realize you’ve rolled over onto your child in the middle of the night. It sounds ridiculous, but it has tragically happened. Additionally, bedding, pillows, stuffed animals and other extraneous items in the bed pose a hazard to children who co-sleep.
The American Association of Pediatrics advises against co-sleeping as a risk hazard for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Pro: Extra Rest
When you’re not constantly worried about running to your child’s room to check on them or see to their needs or comfort them, you’ll feel more rested. Even if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night, those extra few minutes here and there add up quickly. By co-sleeping, you’re saving those precious moments for the rest you need to be the best mom you can be during the day.
Con: You Might Not Sleep
As your child ages, you might find that they view bedtime as a time to gear up and go crazy. Co-sleeping means they can stay up and chat with mom. If you put them to bed before you, you’ll have to sneak into the room and perhaps do a ninja roll onto the bed, praying they don’t wake up as you reposition them to get comfy. Remember – if they’re up, you’re up.
The Bottom Line on Co-Sleeping
Co-sleeping and bed-sharing is not for everyone and there is no environment that is 100% safe for a baby to sleep. SIDS can happen to any infant at any time with no explanation. Infants who co-sleep and infants who sleep in their own cribs can all be susceptible.
Opponents of co-sleeping feel that having baby sleep in his or her own bed can lessen the risk, while proponents feel that the proximity offered can help identify signs of distress sooner.
The experts advise against bed sharing, but many families find that it’s right for them and resources exist to make it safer. Before making a decision on whether or not co-sleeping is right for you and your child, do your research, speak to your pediatrician and get some expert recommendations on how to do it as safely as possible.
If you decide co-sleeping is right for your family, arm yourself with research and know you’re doing what you feel is best. And if you decide it’s not right for you? That’s okay, too. Really. Don’t get dragged into the Mommy Wars: there’s no one right way to raise a child.