Did you know that about half of all babies co-sleep with their parents by the time they are 3 months old? And on any given night a fifth of all UK babies spend at least part of the night c0-sleeping with one or both of their parents. (www.isisonline.org.uk)
This is despite co-sleeping being a frowned upon and considered a ‘dangerous’ practice in western society.
Some babies will happily sleep and settle in their Moses Basket or cot but if your baby doesn’t, you can be left feeling frustrated and exhausted and, if you know your baby will settle next to you in bed, chances are this is what is going to happen just so you can get some peace and some well deserved sleep.
According to the Infant Sleep Information Source (ISIS), the most common reason for co-sleeping is breastfeeding. 70-80% of breastfed babies will sleep next to their mother at some point during those early months.
Co-sleeping is a very personal issue – and almost a bit of a taboo subject! It is something that has to be right for you and safe for your baby. If you are bringing your baby into bed with you, you need to make sure that where they sleep is safe, so make sure:
- Your mattress is firm – if it’s saggy it’s not safe
- Your baby can’t fall out of bed or get trapped
- You keep your baby away from pillows
- Your baby doesn’t go underneath your quilt
- your bedding cannot cover your baby’s head
- you don’t leave your baby alone in your bed
- you or your partner do not smoke, are not drunk or under the influence of drugs
A 2009 study found that in 99% of cases, there was at least one risk factor present – in 75% of cases it was cigarette use by the mother and in 42% of cases either mum or dad had been drinking alcohol.
The benefits of co-sleeping
- It can be much easier to breastfeed your baby – as your baby snuggles up next to you; he has greater access to his food, which means he thrives.
- It means less disturbed nights for you and your baby – your baby may not properly wake up so he is easier to settle, which means you aren’t pacing the floor either!
- It makes up for any lost touch between mum and baby during the day, especially if mum returns to work. Just because this connection happens during sleep, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t count! This extra touch can also be needed when your baby is teething, not well, experiencing a growth spurt or a developmental change because they often need more comfort and reassurance during these times.
- You are meeting the needs of you and your baby if it is what you both want and need to feel settled and easier to sleep
Biological Factors of co-sleeping
- A baby who is snuggled up to his mum is the basic way of keeping babies warm and safe.
- Studies show that infants who sleep near to parents have more stable temperatures, regular heart rhythms, and fewer long pauses in breathing compared to babies who sleep alone.
- Babies who sleep either in or next to their parents’ bed have a fourfold decrease in the chance of SIDS.
- Co-sleeping babies grow up with a higher self-esteem, less anxiety, become independent sooner
Sofa-sharing is not co-sleeping
Due to all the confusion and negative messages about the safety of co-sleeping, many new parents ask about and end up sleeping on the sofa or in an armchair. They may do this deliberately or fall asleep there when feeding their baby.
The research tells us that sleeping on a sofa or in a chair with your baby is hazardous because babies are at a greater risk of being suffocated. According to ISIS: “The sofa is the only sleep environment in which SIDS deaths have increased in recent years, up from 6% in 1993-9 to 16% in 2003-6. This represents an increase from 24-42 deaths per year.”