Recently, I read a great article outlining how and why co-sleeping until the age of 5 is healthiest for babies. The article can be found here. Co-sleeping is yet another of the many topics that is controversial among both parents and pediatricians.
Despite the controversy, however, quite a few medical professionals have determined that co-sleeping is what is best for babies. And, if done properly, co-sleeping is significantly safer than crib sleeping, making for a happier, healthier family. The director of The Centre for Child Mental Health in London, England, Dr. Margot Sunderland has reason to believe that co-sleeping causes children to experience less stress than babies and children who sleep alone. Her research is based on a compilation of over 800 scientific studies which found that a child’s cortisol (a stress hormone) rises when they are separated from their parents. Dr. Sunderland also points out that co-sleeping offers many benefits from infancy, including teaching the infant how to regulate his own breathing, heart rate, and body temperature. In fact, babies who sleep alone fuss more and sleep more sporadically, meaning that co-sleeping is not only healthy, but may also result in more sleep for mom and dad.
Here are some of the many benefits of co-sleeping:
-Helps baby regulate nervous systems
-Promotes healthier sleep habits
-Allows for more sleep
-Increases nighttime breastfeeding
-Increases mother’s protective instincts
-Raises child’s self esteem
-Raises child’s confidence
-Supports feelings of familial intimacy
These are only some of the many reasons to co-sleep. While co-sleeping can be a unique bonding experience for both baby and parents, co-sleeping also has some potential risks. Like any aspect of parenting and raising a baby, if not done properly, co-sleeping can be dangerous. Here is what you need to remember to keep your co-sleeper safe all night:
-Always place baby on his back to sleep
-NEVER co-sleep while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
-Don’t leave your baby in bed alone
-Never put baby on the edge of the bed; he could roll off or get caught between the bed and the wall.
The staff of Attachment Parenting International say that co-sleeping is as safe, or safer than, crib sleeping. They offer many details as to why babies can benefit from bed sharing with either one or both parents. In their own words, here is some of API’s thoughts on the safety of co-sleeping:
“Co-sleeping is just as safe or safer than a crib.
Existing studies do not prove that co-sleeping is inherently hazardous. The elements of the sleeping environment are what dictate the level of danger to the infant. When non-smoking parents who do not abuse alcohol or drugs sleep on a firm mattress devoid of fluffy bedding, co-sleeping is a safe environment. In addition, it is likely that there are many children whose lives have been saved by sleeping next to their parents. There is anecdotal evidence, for instance, of mothers who have noticed their child not breathing and were able to stimulate them to breathe.”
Not only is co-sleeping safe, but it has many benefits for mom, dad, and baby. So what are you waiting for? Toss out the crib and break out the family bed tonight!