Today’s parent faces tougher parenting than previous generations of parents did. Of course, we do have all the latest options like baby gear, developmental toys, and assorted paraphernalia, but there has never been so much pressure on parents to do the ‘right’ thing for their baby. Unfortunately, when it comes to parenting, there is hardly the right way to do anything. And along with breastfeeding or baby’s addiction to I-Pad, a hot topic of contention is the discussion on the pros and cons of co-sleeping.
What is Co-Sleeping?
Co-sleeping means to sleep next to another person. To be more specific, co-sleeping really refers to sensory propinquity rather than physical propinquity, where one person can touch, see, smell, or hear the other person.
Co-sleeping actually covers a good vary of sleeping arrangements, some of which are given below:
- Bed Sharing– This is where the baby usually sleeps juxtaposed with his parents on the same bed.
- Room Sharing– Here the baby sleeps in his crib that is placed inside his parents’ room.
- Attachment Bed– This is where a small crib-like structure is connected to the parent’s bed so that the baby is at a similar level as his mother.
Co-Sleeping across the World
Co-sleeping is barely a new concept; it has been practised by many communities across the world, particularly in South American, African and Asian countries. Any form of co-sleeping may be practised in these places – while many families sleep together on a large bed, in some countries babies are placed in a cloth swing that is either suspended from the ceiling or tied at two ends sort of a hammock, while the mother sleeps close by.
Some experts think that families at a higher socio-economic level don’t practice co-sleeping simply because they have bigger homes with extra rooms to spare for the baby. However, studies show that this is hardly a factor, and co-sleeping encompasses a way more cultural significance rather than economic issues. It is partly this adherence to ancient norms that seem to be the subject of debate once it involves co-sleeping. To make sense of this tiff, let’s take a better look at the pros and cons of co-sleeping.
Pros of Co-Sleeping
- Promotes Breastfeeding
An obvious choice of sleeping with your baby is the comfort and accessibility of breastfeeding, particularly at night. There is no need to get up and walk to another room in the dark. Many babies reach for the breast themselves and feed while not without even waking the mother. Being together at night secure that no feed is missed and also the baby is well nourished.
- Better Sleep for Baby
Babies are found to sleep better with their mothers. Coming out from the close confines of the womb and made to sleep alone in another room can be often traumatic for newborns and having the ability to touch, see, and smell their mother close by helps to ease them. Babies who awake during the night tend to resettle faster when their mother is right next to them. They are also less prone to apprehensions and seem well-adjusted during the day.
- Better Sleep for Mother
Mothers also sleep better when their babies are juxtaposed to them. Many studies have shown that a mother and baby who sleep together tend to synchronize their respiration patterns and this helps to manage each of their sleep cycles. Due to this, mothers who co-sleep get up naturally just before feeding time, and don’t feel groggy as a result.
- Better Awareness
When a mother sleeps next to her baby, she is conscious of her baby’s movements. This way, she is quickly alerted when something abnormal takes place, like if her baby is having respiration pauses or extreme temperature. She can cowl the baby with a blanket if any of these factors are inflicting him discomfort before they actually wake the baby.
- Family Bonding
After spending a hectic day in work and different commitments, going to bed together is the perfect time for the entire family to have some fun and bond with each other. This is particularly necessary for Dads, who don’t get to see their babies much during the day and don’t have the benefit of breastfeeding.
- Reduced Risk of Postpartum Depression
Moms are at far reduced risk of postpartum depression once they are well rested, which is more likely to happen with co-sleeping Moms. Such mothers usually report lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. They are happier with their babies and the whole family reaps its benefits.
Cons of Co-Sleeping
- Disturbed Sleep
This may sound contrary to what was mentioned earlier, but co-sleeping doesn’t work the identically same way for everyone. Some infants find sleeping among their parents too cosy and feel more comfortable in a womb-like closed crib. Some mothers also can’t seem to sleep for worry of rolling over their babies and rouse within the morning feeling drowsy and irritable. If other children also share the family bed, the baby crying at night time or soiled/wet bed sheets can wake the whole family and have an effect on their sleep too.
- Risk of Suffocation and SIDS
There are cases of babies dying from suffocation while sleeping with their parents, and therefore risk will increase of either or both parents are weighty, intoxicated, heavy sleepers or are taking drugs that can cause drowsiness. The chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) increase if either or both parents are smokers or spend the whole day with smokers. If the family members sleep together, other small children may accidentally smother the newborn, and large pillows and quilts pose an additional peril.
- Pacifier Dependency
While breastfeeding convenience is a bonus of co-sleeping, it becomes a problem when the baby starts to use the breast as a pacifier instead. This is more seemingly in older babies, particularly when they don’t want as many nights to feed as before. This kind of addiction can be very difficult to wean off later, and can also result in nursing caries (a kind of tooth decay).
- Risk of Infection
When the baby sleeps closely with different family members, he is prone to any infection that the others might have, especially skin infections that may be contagious. This is significantly true if other children also share the bed, as they carry all kinds of bugs from school or the playground. The problem gets worse with pets within the house, which may shed all over the furniture.
- Difficulty to Move to Crib
Babies who co-sleep till older may have more trouble moving to a bigger bed later. They tend to indicate a lot of separation anxiety and can result in several sleepless and restless nights for both parent and child. Babies who learn to self soothe and sleep on their own early doesn’t have trouble adapting to a bigger bed.
- Intimacy Issues
Co-sleeping has its benefits for mother and baby, but it will place a strain on the married couple. In some cases, the father finds that he has no space and moves to another room or the sofa, leaving the mother to fend for herself. This can stimulate tension among the couple, at a time when complete cooperation is necessary. Parents are also probably to get less intimate when there is an infant on the bed additionally, creating further stress.
Deciding what is Right for your Family
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong – it all depends on what works for your family best. Every baby is different, and every family’s circumstances are completely different, so you will have to make a choice that’s tailor-made for you. Many families use a combination methodology, or a progression method, where the baby starts out on the parents’ bed until around six months. When his night feeds have settled into a routine and his sleep cycles are regular, he is shifted to a crib in the parents’ room. Later, he is shifted to his own room, depending upon his readiness and capacity to self soothe. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, therefore plough ahead and see what works for you.