Cosleeping with a newborn baby is a growing parenting choice. As the name suggest it means sleeping alongside your baby. This may be an easy choice for you, however you need to consider how your partner feels about co-sleeping. Weighing up all the pros and cons before baby is born will prevent you coming across any stumbling blocks once baby arrives.
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If you are considering co-sleeping with your baby then this guide is for you. If it works for your family then it’s the best choice for your baby. Never mind if others don’t agree with your choice, you won’t be losing any sleep over it. We’ll discuss the different types of co-sleeping, the pros and cons, how to co-sleep safely, deciding if it’s right for you and how to set up your room. Let’s get started.
Types of Co-Sleeping
When it comes to co-sleeping there are two different methods: bed sharing or room sharing. Each one has their own benefits and drawbacks. The best one is the one that works for your family. You may even decide to switch between the two styles as your baby grows.
This involves having baby sleeping in your bed, either on mom’s side or in between parents. Having baby sleep in your bed has a lot of advantages. However parents are often wary of this option because of the potential dangers. This co-sleeping option is the one that requires most consideration as it has big implication for you and your partner.
Benefits of Bed Sharing
- Save money – You don’t need to spend money investing in a crib, or dealing with the hassle of building it up.
- Keep cozy – When you baby wakes you simply open your eyes and you are there. No more getting up to the sound of your baby screeching down a baby monitor from your warm and snug bed.
- Instinct – Humans have evolved to sleep with their newborn babies to protect them. It’s natural for parent to lie of their sides in a protective c shape around there baby. Higher rates of sleep arousal mean we have evolved to naturally wake and check that baby is ok.
- Better sleep pattern – Your baby is more likely to follow your sleep patterns if you bed share. This helps you quickly get through those sleep deprived nights.
Concerns of Bed Sharing
The biggest concern with bed sharing is safety and babies’ risk of suffocation. It’s not simply a case of placing baby in your bed and off you go. Modern day adult beds and sleeping arrangements are not exactly baby friendly. Most parents, especially dads, worry about rolling on top of baby. If you are in a deep sleep you can roll of top of baby. This is extremely rare and unlikely if you follow safe co-sleeping guidance, which we will discuss later.
An alternative to sharing your bed with baby is to have them sleep in your room but in their own bed space. The type of bed can vary between a bassinet, crib or co sleeper which attaches to your bed.
Benefits is Room Sharing
- Great middle ground – Room sharing is a great way to get the benefits of co-sleeping without the disadvantages of discomfort or concerns of rolling onto baby.
- Tend to baby – Having baby close means you can feed them or change a nappy quickly during the night. Plus if you have an explosive diaper or leaky nappy then it’s only in baby’s area and not yours.
- Baby adapts – When it comes to moving baby into their own bed room sharing can make this easier. The closeness of room sharing lets baby know you are there but gives them the freedom of their own space.
Drawback of Room Sharing
The main disadvantage of room sharing is that it’s not close enough for some parents. You may prefer to have baby as close as possible and enjoy the skin to skin contact it give you. If you prefer to follow and attachment parenting model, then you’ll probably opt for bed sharing over room sharing. Intimacy is another concern for parents who are considering room sharing.
Co-sleeping involves making changes to your sleeping area to make it safer for baby. Check out the co-sleeping products available to make your life a lot easier.
For Bed Sharers
This is a little area of padding which ‘nests’ your baby. It makes co sleeping easier whether baby is sleeping to the side or in between parents. Baby has its own little sleep area, which makes it less likely parent will roll onto them. They can also be used as a portable sleep area. Using a nest is great for new-borns and can even be used for padding as baby learned to sit upright.
For older babies opt for a bed guard. You can buy a pillow shaped guard which should cover a good length of your bed. Some parents like to use the mesh toddler bed guards so baby can still breathe should they roll into it. Never use a bed guard for a newborn or baby unable to roll as they can become trapped and at greater risk of suffocation.
For Room Sharers
This is like a little mini crib for baby. As bassinet is a great way for babies to have their own sleep space in your room. Position it right next to you bed so you have easy access if baby should cry during the night. Modern bassinets have supportive mesh sides to allow breathing is they roll over. These also help you to see baby easily when you are lying in bed.
Co Sleeper Crib
These cribs attach to your bed with no side barrier, giving you instant access to baby. They are a great way to get the closeness of bed sharing without the safety risk. No need to even sit up to tend to baby. They are fantastic for breastfeeding, whilst giving baby their own safe area to sleep.
Related: Best Co-Sleeper Reviews
Benefits of Cosleeping With a Newborn
Whether you chose to co-sleep by bed sharing or room sharing there are some shared benefits between the two methods.
Easier night feeds
Co-sleeping makes breastfeeding so much easier. You don’t need to get up and settle in another room. Simply let baby settle in bed with you and feed whilst side lying. You usually only need to be awake to attach baby and then you can snooze throughout a feed. This method of night feeds encourages longer breastfeeding relationships.
Reduced Risk of SIDS
Babies who sleep alone are 4 times more at risk of SIDS than babies who co-sleep. Countries where co-sleeping is the norm have the lowest rates if SIDS. A slight increase in carbon dioxide from parent breath stimulates baby to breathe more. Co sleeping babies also tend to sleep more on their back or sides which is a big factor in preventing SIDS.
Babies Cry Less
Co sleeping causes baby to startle less during the night. Startling can cause a baby to cry, so babies who sleep alone cry up to 4 minutes more than a co sleeping baby. Your baby will cry less because you are able to respond to their needs quicker when you are co-sleeping.
Parents get more sleep
With reduced crying and easier night feeds, co-sleeping leads to minimal disruptions during the night. Compare this to solo sleeping where you need to constantly get up to tend to baby in another room. A baby monitor may also cause more disruption to your partners sleep than if baby was in the room with you.
Co sleeping babies are known to have better breathing rates, heart rates and maintain their temperature better. The feeling of security the closeness give them reduce their stress levels. Babies who experience less stress have better emotional and brain development in later life.
There are certain circumstance under which you should never co-sleep by bed sharing. Even room sharing put you at higher risk of taking baby temporarily into bed and falling asleep. These factors are known to increase your baby’s risk of SIDS or suffocation.
If you have drunk alcohol it can make you sleepy and affect your ability to wake. Even if you’ve has only one glass of wine it’s advisable not to co-sleep with baby. If you bed share with baby in the middle, then it’s important your partner is not under the influence of alcohol.
If you or your partner is a smoker then it is advises you do not bed share. Smoking release second hand toxins into the air for hours after a cigarette. This reduces the amount of oxygen available to you and baby. This dulls your sense and make you less reactive to baby. For baby it interferes with their breathing patterns and put them at higher risk of SIDS.
Any medication which makes you sleepy or drowsy should not be taken when co-sleeping. These medications put you into a deep sleep and can make you unaware of baby in the bed. This includes sleeping tablets as well as certain antidepressants, flu and cold remedies or pain killers.
Most parents are exhausted from sudden changes to their sleep patterns. Conditions such as anemia, pain or thyroid disorders can all increase your levels of fatigue. This makes you less responsive to baby and unaware of their presence. Try to get as much sleep during the day as possible to avoid this.
Avoid bed sharing if you suffer from a sleep disorder which can make you unresponsive. Conditions such a sleep apnoea, narcolepsy or sleep paralysis will all make you unable to respond to baby should they be distressed. Room sharing is still great option and may be advisable so you partner can tend to baby if you are unable to.
Never sleep with your baby on an arm chair or sofa. When co-sleeping this is the most dangerous place to sleep. This is mostly due to parent being excessively tired and unintentionally co-sleeping. Babies can become easily wedged between the arms and the parent and become trapped or suffocate.
Low Birth Weight or Premature
If your baby was born before 37 weeks or weighted under 2.5kg then you should not bed share. Premature and low birth weight babies are at greater risk of SIDS. Although unknown it is thought that their immature development makes them unable to cope with a bed sharing environment. These babies do greatly benefit from co-sleeping by room sharing.
If you are morbidly obese it is recommend that you room share rather than bed share. You may struggle to recognize when baby is too close to you which put baby at great risk of suffocation. If your partner is extremely obese you should position baby at your side only and not between parents.
Related: How To Reduce Your Baby’s Risk of SIDS
6 Co-Sleeping Considerations
If you are still undecided about bed sharing, use this guide to consider how much impact it will have on your life. For each concern consider both you and your partner as the decision to co-sleep will affect you both.
If you or your partner fall into any of the risk categories you should reconsider bed sharing. These are based on statistics from infant sleep deaths. Not all of these are risk to room sharing, which is the safest method for newborns when in their own bed space.
You will probably need to make changes to your bed set up for co sleeping. Changes to a mattress or bedding can reduce your comfort levels. You will have less room to sleep and you movement will be restricted. Bed sharing may not be the best idea if you already struggle to get a good night’s rest.
Are you comfortable with the thought of getting intimate when baby is in the bed or room? It’s a personal choice. If one partner is not happy with baby being present then don’t force the idea. You can temporarily move baby to another room during and then bring them back after. You can also choose to get intimate at different times or day or other areas of the house.
4. Sleep disruption
Having a baby in your bed can cause disrupted sleep for either parent, especially as they grow. Consider thing like snoring, sleep talking or tooth grinding. Frequent night waking’s can play havoc with your daily life. It can leave you both feeling tired and grumpy which can lead to short tempers or poor work performance.
If you agree that bed sharing is the way to go then have a time frame in mind. This may be different for either parent. Co-sleeping get more difficult as you baby grows and it get harder to transition then into their own bed. You should only bed share with one child at a time, so you don’t want to cause sibling resentment if you get pregnant whilst still co-sleeping.
A new baby can be a big change for family pets. If your pets already share your bed, it needs to stop if you want to let baby sleep with you. If you think it will be a struggle to get pets to stop sleeping on your bed then room sharing may be a better idea.
Making a choice
If after reading these consideration you are still excited about bed sharing with your baby then go for it. When one parent is keen and the other is hesitant about bed sharing or you have risk factors then room sharing is a great middle ground. If you dread the thought of giving up your comforts, vices and privacy then you should opt for baby to sleep in their own room.
Successful co-sleeping requires commitment from both parents and a safe set up
Co-Sleeping Bed Set Up
If you decide to share a bed with baby to need to know how to keep it a safe environment for them. This is what you should look out for to ensure your baby is as safe as possible in your bed.
Your baby should not be resting on any pillows at all. Your pillows should be regular sized and in plain bedding. Make sure your pillows are positions well away from baby. Try to keep you bed free from extra pillows or decorative piece whilst baby is in it.
The temperature of your room should be kept comfortable and not too hot or cold. Babies who overheat are a greater risk of SIDS. A good temperature is 60.8-68⁰F. If you think baby is too hot remove a layer of blankets.
Thin blankets should be used and not big thick, fluffy ones. Try to keep blankets to a minimum and don’t used heated blankets. Blankets should never go over your baby’s head. You should not swaddle baby when bed sharing.
A firm mattress should be used for co-sleeping. Soft mattress or waterbeds are known to increase the risk of SIDS.
Away from walls
Keep your baby away from walls, hard rails or dividers. These can cause baby to become easily trapped between them and a parent. Check you headboard is plain, without any slats, where babies head can get stuck.
Lower the bed
If you decide to keep baby on one side of the bed you may want to lower the bed. Some parents prefer to move the mattress onto the floor, so there is no risk of falls when baby is asleep. If your bed is higher you should not leave baby to sleep alone due to the risk of falls from a height.
Place baby on back
Your baby should always be placed on their back to sleep. If your baby tends to side sleep them move them onto their back if you can. Babies who sleep on their front are at double the risk of SIDS.
Tie your hair back
If you have extremely long hair you should tie it back. This prevents it front getting tangled on baby’s neck or causing a breathing obstruction as they sleep.
Your mattress should be flush with the side cart and secured safely to prevent movement. Using a thin sheet to cover over the join between beds will prevent the risk of gaps baby can slip down.
James McKenna Co-Sleeping guidelines
Mothering.com CoSleeping Community
Infant Sleep Information Source