Co-Sleeping and the Family Bed

Posted 07-22-2010 at 05:47 PM by Faiths13

Co-sleeping has different meanings for different families. For some it means having your baby sleeping in the same room either in a crib or bassinet. For other families it means having their baby in the same bed with them or “the family bed.” For some parents there is no question as to where their baby will sleep once they arrive into the home. It’s simple and natural to have them snuggled securely next to them all night. Understandably though, there are still many parents who fear to share their bed with an infant.

When I brought my first one home for the first time, I was exhausted and wanted my bed. There was no second thought however when I brought my tiny infant son into bed with me and breastfed him until we both dozed to sleep. It was the most natural and logical thing for me to do. Since then, I have co-slept with all three of my sons and have enjoyed the bond and better nights of sleep it has brought me.

The Benefits of Co-Sleeping

There are many advantages to sharing a bed with your baby, and the most beneficial is sleep. Young babies often pass from deep sleep into light sleep during the night. During these periods of light sleep, when your baby is awakened he may feel alone and fearful if he is in another room. Infants do not have the understanding that mommy is in the next room, and cannot understand where you are. This can cause him to awaken fully and have a hard time relaxing and falling back into a deep sleep.

On the other hand, if your infant is nestled into your bed with you, he may never be awakened during those periods of light sleep. Feeling the warmth of  your body near his, he will be comforted and secure. With a little warm breastmilk or a soothing touch, your baby will be falling back into deep sleep in no time, often without the mother or father having to fully awaken themselves.

Co-sleeping can also make it easier for breastfeeding. During the early months when your infant needs many night feedings, you will be right there to offer the breast to her. And, by having on-demand feedings at night, you can help to maintain your milk supply. Even if you are only room-sharing and not bed-sharing, having that close proximity to your child will allow you to meet her needs quickly and without too much stress on her. You will easily be able to hear her stirring into wakefulness and breastfeed her back to sleep.

Co-sleeping is not only good for mothers, but also good for dads. Fathers are often gone at work all day and don’t get as much of that precious bonding time with their baby. Sharing a family bed can allow father and child to have that closeness to each other. A father can just as easily reach out with a gentle touch to help soothe a resteless infant as a mother can.

Co-Sleeping and SIDS

Contrary to popular belief, co-sleeping can actually REDUCE the risk of SIDS. While SIDS is most certainly a real fear many parents have, it is not caused by co-sleeping. SIDS research has been mainly focused on the level of babies sleep and how it affects their breathing. It is thought that some infants are unable to arouse themselves from sleep if something threatens their well-being, such as difficulty breathing. Infants who co-sleep have increased arousability from sleep and their mothers are more alert to any potential dangers to their child.

When a mother and baby sleep side by side, they become in what is likened to a sleep-harmony. They can share the same sleep patterns and breathing patterns, becoming aware of each other’s presence. During the first six months of an infants life, they are at the highest rate for SIDS. This is the time when babies learn to have a deeper sleep, which may be more difficult to wake from. Gaps in breathing are normal in these early months; if an infant is in a deep sleep that they do not awaken from and have a breathing issue, it can be serious. The movements and sensitivity to having their mother next to them, helps them to move in and out of deep sleep more frequently during the night.

One of the biggest precautions for SIDS is to never have your baby sleep on their stomach – something that will most likely never happen while co-sleeping. A baby who co-sleeps usually sleeps on his or her side facing their mother, or on their back, so to be easily accessible for breastfeeding. The close proximity of their faces and the warmth of the mothers body can remind babies to breathe.

Making Co-Sleeping Safe

While SIDS may not be a factor in co-sleeping, there are some precautions you should take to ensure your childs safety in the family bed.

* Do not sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This can lessen your ability to wake and dimish your sensitivity to the presence of your baby.

* Do not sleep with your baby if you have other children in the bed as well. Other children may not be aware of the baby’s presence and could unintentionally hurt them.

* Do not sleep on a couch with your infant. They could fall and get trapped between the soft cushions.

* Do not sleep with your baby on a waterbed or any other soft mattress they could sink into.

* Avoid fluffy bedding, stuffed animals, or extra pillows in bed.

* Never leave a baby asleep alone and unattended on an adult bed. They could become covered by a blanket or pillow or unexpectedly roll off of the bed.

* Do not let another care taker sleep with your baby. They may not be as aware of your child’s presence while sleeping.

* Do not overheat your infant. A baby sleeping with a parent does not need as much warmth and clothing as a baby sleeping alone.

* Have your baby sleep next to the mother with a rail or in a co-sleeper, not in the middle of the bed.

Is Co-Sleeping Right For You?

Only you and your family can decide if co-sleeping is right for you. Whether you choose to share a family bed or simply have your baby sleep in the same room as you, the benefits can be bountiful. Just the joy of waking up to see your precious angel smiling every morning can make it right for you. I have co-slept with all three of my sons, and while it can have it’s trying moments, I don’t regret it at all.

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22 Responses to “Co-Sleeping and the Family Bed”

  1. Trenna on July 22nd, 2010 9:04 pm

    Cosleeping was pretty scary for me at first but I’m surprised how comfortable I’ve gotten with it in just 2 months.

    We had a home birth so it was particularly natural to all settle into bed together once we wound down; however I kept stealing Dad’s extra pillow during the night if it got within 2 feet of our son!

    Once baby and I went home to my house I appreciated the co-sleeper attached to the bed; he was close but I wasn’t too anxious about him being too close.

    At 7 weeks he suddenly started refusing to sleep in the co-sleeper, right when I was also having oversupply issues. I started nursing him on my side through the night and we suddenly started sleeping really well! Since it’s warm summer having sheets and blankets off made me feel more secure.

    After a week of that he’s now sleeping in very long stretches – he still wakes a little bit at 3AM but now does not require any feeding. He just snuffles a little, and I touch him and talk to him, and he doesn’t wake up all the way. Then we do his 7AM feeding without him waking up completely either.

    I really love that he doesn’t need to wake up all the way for me to know he needs food or a diaper. He just makes little noises and starts moving, and we get it taken care of before he gets upset.

    Now at 2 months it’s also giving me very special time with my little one. This morning I was on my side with my back to him and I woke up to his little hands patting my back while he chattered, and he smiled before letting me know he was hungry.

    He also can find his way back to my nipple now, a lot of the time, so if he needs to suck to soothe himself he doesn’t necessarily need to wake me for it.

    Thanks for the great article – and for those in doubt, definitely try it for a little while!

  2. jveprek on July 22nd, 2010 10:29 pm

    Thanks for a great article! I didn’t plan to bed-share with my kids, but with my first, sleep deprivation brought me there and I never looked back!

  3. KiteGirl on July 23rd, 2010 5:25 pm

    I appreciated this article, and think that co-sleeping is a natural, normal thing for families to do. That said, we didn’t co-sleep. At least not in the traditional way. And I don’t really agree that I was ever “afraid” of cosleeping. When my son was in the NICU the nurses there encouraged me to cosleep with him when I got him home, and when I said I wondered if I would roll on him, one of them simply said, “This baby is big enough to squawk if you do that!” Turns out, I can’t sleep with anyone touching me. This was true before the baby, and after. But I did sleep in the baby’s room for the first 3 months of his life, on a little twin bed close to his crib. It worked out well, because then my husband was able to get some more sleep as well, and I was able to nap in the evenings after he got home from work and school in our bed. It was hard not sleeping with my husband for awhile, but it worked for our family. I feel like we all got enough sleep, enough time with each other, and felt secure. We are (still, even at two years old) carefully to attend to our son’s needs quickly if he wakes up in the middle of the night. No child should ever have to wonder if his or her parents are there or not. I totally respect cosleeping parents, and who knows what I’ll do with baby two, but this arrangement worked out really well for us.

  4. jdsmommy22 on July 23rd, 2010 8:02 pm

    When I first brought my baby home, we put him in his bassinet. As the days went by and I figured out how to nurse in bed laying on my side, I decided to keep him beside me. I love waking up to him each morning and not having to pick him up out of bed or move him too much. It helps me to sleep more sound because I know where he is and that he is not is destress. I think it is so cute when I move too far from him and then he will scoot over to be closer to me.
    I read an article before having him that stated that the United States is really the only place where babies are not cuddled and held close to their mommies in the first early years. Think about it, we put them in their own beds from day 1, little bathtubs, and swings. i love to hold my baby and let him know that he is loved!

  5. elkay724 on July 24th, 2010 12:39 am

    we love co-sleeping, and still sleep with our 2 year old and 1 year old. No plans to stop!

  6. EGBaby on July 25th, 2010 7:48 am

    I didn’t think I would sleep with my baby. I was so sure I would want that to be a special kid free place for dh and I. Then at the hospital when Eva was born, the nurse taught me how to nurse lying down. I fell asleep while she fed, and that was the end. I thought the nurses would move her when they saw us asleep together, because we had to sign saying co sleeping wasn’t allowed at the hospital for safety reasons, and they would remove the baby from the bed if I was asleep. But the nurses actually encouraged it, saying that it was important to hold her as much as possible. After that, there was no question of what we would do at home.

    Eva slept in our bed until 3 months. It was hard to get her to go to sleep in her own room, but she stayed asleep longer that way. I know that is different than many babies, but not all babies are the same. By then we were ready to have our bed back, and she was needing a totally dark quiet place to sleep.

    My next baby? No question. Mama’s arms are the safest place until baby gives cues that he/she needs their own space.

  7. TrivMama on July 25th, 2010 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the article! I have a 16 month old breastfeeding son that we co-slept with for two months and then moved him to a crib in his room. There are still times I bring him to bed with us, ex. storm, if he has a hard time sleeping when he’s teething (like last night). I have been wanting to learn more about co-sleeping and the family bed, but have been learning about other things currently, like cloth diapers. I do have one question though, how do you make sure your marriage is the priority over your children? A marriage has sexual needs and I am just curious how families that co-sleep or share a family bed, get those needs met. Thank you!

  8. katiekat1032 on July 26th, 2010 4:37 pm

    Why shouldn’t the baby sleep in the middle of the bed between both parents?

  9. DaisyDiaper728 on July 27th, 2010 12:20 am

    DD slept with me sometimes when she was tiny but I found it always made me wake up more often and lay in uncomfortable positions b/c I would not move as much. I move a lot in my sleep naturally and found it hard to get any quality sleep with her in the bed next to me. As she got older, she would not settle if we brought her to our bed, she wanted her bed! She did sleep in our room in the bassinet until she was 4 months. Although she didn’t sleep through the night until she was 8 months old, she would merely nurse for 2-3 minutes then fall back asleep and be happily put back in her bed. Now as a 14 month old she loves sleeping in her crib and even asks to be put there when she is tired.
    Letting her sleep with me in the early mornings when she was prone to having painful gas bubbles as a tiny baby was helpful, though.

  10. aubreyaks on July 27th, 2010 7:43 am

    @ katie: because daddies aren’t as in tune to the whole co-sleeping thing. Babies are safest next to Mom.
    I flip my baby from side to side with each nursing, but Dad has his own bed pushed up against ours. It works great because our movements don’t disturb him and his blankets/pillows don’t get in the way of DS. But he’s still close and we all 3 snuggle while falling asleep and waking.
    We originally didn’t plan to cosleep either, but I’m deaf and as long as DS is in the bed, I am able to tend to his needs without DH’s help and without a flashing light or alarm of any kind. It works like a blessing for us. In fact, DS doesn’t even bother to cry at night anymore. If he needs something and for some reason I haven’t woken up to give it to him yet, he kicks me. (He’s 12 weeks).

  11. sarateak on July 28th, 2010 4:12 am

    We’ve tried co-sleeping on many occasions but my DD constantly moves throughout the night as she sleeps and it keeps me up the entire night. She loves to kick me, usually a few times every 10 minutes or so for hours on end. I repeatedly find myself hanging half off the bed due to her moving so much and sleeping perpendicular to my husband and me! Although it seems like a nice bonding experience, we just can’t do it unless we never want to sleep again!

  12. aihley on July 28th, 2010 5:27 pm

    Co-sleeping has been a wonderful practice for my sanity! We still have the occasional night of squirmy fighting, but he wouldn’t be sleeping if he was in a crib anyway! The few times we tried the crib, I was exhausted. Everyone always comments that I must be a saint to co-sleep, but I honestly get great sleep & love waking up with my little guy.

    It’s definitely a baby-by-baby basis as to whether this will work for you. Just try and find the best fit for your family!

  13. Meighan on July 29th, 2010 7:04 pm

    I appreciate that co-sleeping works for some families–it def does not work for ours. My son is such a light sleeper that the slightest movement by DH or I in bed would wake him. So I would end up never being able to fully get comfortable and sleep soundly because I was too afraid to accidentaly move and wake the baby. After a couple nights of everyone sleeping uncomfortably and waking up cranky we called it quits and boy am I glad we did!

  14. Brianne on July 31st, 2010 1:58 am

    Are most of you just having your baby in bed, using a co-sleeper attached to the bed, or something like the Baby Delight Supreme Snuggle Nest. I was thinking the snuggle nest since we have a California King bed and my husband and I both want to co-sleep. It seems safer, but anyone with experience?

    Also anyone have cats or dogs who like to share the bed. Have you had any problems with the animals getting too close to the baby or wanting to lay on the baby? Any ideas will be helpful. Thanks.

  15. jkhashab on July 31st, 2010 5:22 am

    We co-slept with all 3 of my kids and still do with my 19 month old DS. At first it was convenient with bfing, but then it just became comfortable and a habit. DS loves to snuggle and seems to sleep longer, but unfortunately, he moves a lot (to get in closer and closer to me) and often pushes me off to the edge of the bed, so I don’t get a very good nights sleep. The thing that keeps me going is that eventually he won’t want to co-sleep anymore, and with him being our last baby, I can deal with a sore back or restless night here and there.

  16. khan47 on August 2nd, 2010 7:37 pm

    Co-sleeping was a God-send with my oldest, who was a high-needs, colicky baby. My son and I actually both sleep more soundly with our own space. We part-time co-slept the first couple months and now he is mostly in his swing or crib at night. I was kind of bummed it didn’t work as well for us this time around, but I’m a firm believer that whatever way everyone gets the most sleep is the best arrangement for all!

  17. nickygeorg on August 3rd, 2010 9:59 am

    I appreciate this article. At first my husband was scared to co-sleep with my son, but after the first week of my working night shift I would find him and my son sleeping in bed together. Now we find it the most comfortable way to sleep for all of us!!!

  18. foolsgold on August 6th, 2010 5:05 pm

    Co-sleeping is great for us. I have slept with both ny dd and now our ds is in our bed. It works wonderfully for us and I really couldn’t see us sleeping any other way.
    As far as “relations” between hubby and me we have a moses basket that we put ds in on the floor so we have the bed to ourselves or have grandma watch him so we can have some ‘shnoogle time’.

  19. vqjohnston on August 10th, 2010 11:34 pm

    Currently we co-sleep but soon I would like to move him into the bedroom with his brother. we did the same with our older son(co-slept or a few months) and everything worked out good. I think I will be glad when I can get my bed back haha LO is consantly snuggling up to me and im practically on the floor by the time we wake up next hehe

  20. Amina on August 11th, 2010 11:34 am

    Can anyone recommend a good co-sleeper?

  21. motherlylove on August 13th, 2010 3:18 pm

    We weren’t planning to co-sleep but we do room in, our son’s crib is in our room. He is eight months now and we plan to keep the crib in our room the first year to make breastfeeding easy. Most of the time he sleeps in the crib just fine but sometimes when he is having a difficult time winding down (or teething) for a nap or at the end of the day and we know he is tired, either my husband or I will lay down with him and take a nap or just co-sleep until he is fast asleep. He loves to snuggle up next to daddy after my husband comes home from work. They often snooze together for a few minutes on the bed before dinner. It’s very sweet. I plan to buy an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper when we have another baby so I can keep him/her close by but I can still have my space.

  22. Paisleesmomma on August 13th, 2010 10:25 pm

    These sound like our experiences. We co slept until the past few months.(and still do on restless nights) My daughter is 9 1/2 months and sleeping about 8-9 hours in her own bedroom after being nursed or rocked to sleep. I had all the ney sayers (including my mother) telling me I was making the “biggest” mistake.

    Needless to say I ignored all and nursed my babe to sleep every night right in our bed snuggled close until she was about 6 1/2 to 7 months now she is doing very well in her crib with minimal effort. I have tried(unsuccessfully the “cry it out” thing and that is horrible and I’m unsure if I could ever pull that off.) I just figure I am blessed to be able to stay at home and not worry about “routine” however, she has her own schedule that I don’t really have a problem joining her in so we are all okay :)

    we had a reflux choking not breathing scare at about 2 weeks and that was the last time she slept on her back alone until recently. Husband and I agreed she wouldn’t be alowed to be on her own until she could roll over and save herself if something were on her face or if she were choking etc.

    I plan to do the same with future children :)

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