How Cosleeping Can Help You and Your Baby

Posted by Darian Dozier on Nov 27, 2021 9:00:00 AM

How Cosleeping

Cosleeping is a term for sleeping with your baby or child in the same bed. Although there are different theories on the safety and wellbeing effects of cosleeping, this practice may help you and your child in the long run. It's important to note that small infants who are at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) should not be in the same bed, but should be in a separate space with a firm mattress and a fitted sheet to avoid suffocation. However, as children grow older and their safety risks decline, extended cosleeping may still be an option for your family. Read more to decide if this is the right move for your family.

Cosleeping vs. Bed Sharing 

First, it's important to note the difference in some terminology you may see on the internet regarding this topic. Bed Sharing and Cosleeping are often used interchangeably but are not the same. 

Cosleeping is the act of sleeping in the same space as your child. This means that they are nearby and you can easily reach them throughout the night. Bed Sharing, on the other hand, is the act of physically sharing a bed with your child. Bed Sharing is not a safe idea because of the risk of suffocation that your child as, especially the younger they are. Pillows, comforters, and even you are suffocation risks that can lead to your child being unable to breathe. Children may even fall off adult beds during Bed Sharing. 

Cosleeping is a safe options because the child is in the same room, but in their own bed. This could be a bassinet, crib, or pack-n-play, that is within arms reach of you, but with low safety risks. 

How is cosleeping beneficial? 

Cosleeping is a controversial topic because there are so many different opinions on where and how the baby should sleep. However, anthropologist James McKenna, who is an expert on parent-child sleep, has suggested that there are mutual benefits to cosleeping. 

For the child, cosleeping provides them an area of sleep where they are within close proximity to their parent. This means that they can have their needs met more quickly and don't run the risk of being in prolonged distress. Milk is more accessible, and middle of the night needs are handled more quickly so as to avoid excess arousal and prolonged settling. Cosleeping also helps them regulate their vital signs to those of their parent because they are in the same room. 

For the parent, cosleeping also offers more benefits. For the mother, cosleeping allows closer access to the baby for feeding. This makes it easier on both the mother and the child to get more sleep because it expedites middle of the night disruptions. When mothers are more well rested, they have a lower chance of postpartum depression and better daytime relationships with their children. Cosleeping also helps to regulate the mother to child, creating a bonding experience that brings them closer.

For the father, cosleeping has been shown to lower testosterone and increase sensitive parenting responsiveness, making for better fathering. 

How long should we cosleep? 

The length of cosleeping is up to you and your family. However, it has been recommended that cosleeping take place for at least the first six months of life. This is when the chance of SIDS or other nighttime accidents is highest, and cosleeping would allow parents to be close enough to better monitor their infants breathing throughout the night. Cosleeping does allow for more arousal, however, that means both parent and child are in the REM stage more often, which is important for neuronal connections in the child. 

After the first six months, it is up to you and your family when to transition the child to their own room. More dependent children may need extra time to roomshare or cosleep with their parents. However, it's important that the older the child gets, the more structure they have with sleep training.

Sleep training should take place between four and six months because the child may no longer need to feed as frequently. Sleep training involves teaching the child how to fall asleep on their own. This may lead to some tears at the beginning, but eventually the child will learn to soothe themselves. Sleep training may make the transition to their own room easier, but should not be done in children younger than four months. 

There have been studies that have shown that children who cosleep longer tend to be more independent at the preschool age, and are just as emotionally and mentally well as those who did not cosleep when they become adults. Therefore, the choice is yours, however it's important to keep in mind that the longer you cosleep, the harder it may be to establish good sleeping patterns in toddlers and young children. This leads to poorer sleep for both the parents and the child, and nighttime will become a battle for everyone. 

The decision is yours

Cosleeping can be a wonderful decision for you and your family. It's important to have an open line of communication with your pediatrician about the decision that you and your family have made. It can be a hard discussion as there are so many different opinions on cosleeping, but if you are doing it safely and are firm in your decision, then your provider should respect your decision. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page with what cosleeping means to you and create a month-by-month plan on how you will transition them to their own bed, based on the individual needs of your child. 

If you have any questions about how to sleep better with a newborn, then please click below to schedule a sleep medicine consultation now, or read the book Safe Infant Sleep by Dr. McKenna to have your questions answered. 


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