Friday, October 14, 2011

Benefits of Co-Sleeping With Baby*

Co-sleeping with baby is a hot topic.  Either parents are highly in favor of it, or they’re very against it.  Some people cite it as being a dangerous practice.  And it can be unsafe, if not done the right way.  As long as you use common sense and take care to co-sleep with the correct precautions, co-sleeping with baby can be beneficial for both the baby and the mother.

The one thing most parents who co-sleep do wrong is they don’t have the bed arranged correctly.  If you co-sleep with baby, parents should be really and willing to make some lifestyle changes to ensure their child’s safety.  The best way to co-sleep is to take the top mattress off the bedframe and put it on the floor.  Put the bed frame into storage for 6-9 months, or for the duration of you’re baby’s co-sleeping career.  I know this is a lifestyle change, but it’s worth the benefit.  It also helps to have a large mattress.  If parents don’t want to put the top mattress on the floor and only pull the sheets up to their waist, then the baby needs to go in a crib.  Parents have the top mattress on the floor and then line the sides with pillows.  That way, baby can sleep between the parents or on the side of the bed by the mother.  As soon as the baby is old enough to roll over, he or she will need to sleep between the two parents.  If the top mattress is on the floor and the sides are lined with pillows, in the event the baby does slide off the edge, he or she only falls a few inches onto a pillow.  At this point, the baby usually wakes up and alerts the mother. 

The other very important key to co-sleeping is to have the bed sheets only pulled up only to waist level.  A lot of co-sleeping parents sleep with a top sheet and they tuck it in really tight at waist level.  This way, the sheets won’t ride up in the night and cause the baby to suffocate. 

Co-sleeping also cuts down on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  SIDS is most common between 3-6 months of age.  So if mom is going to co-sleep with the baby, she should make sure to do it at least through 6 months of age. 

Lastly, when a mother co-sleeps with the baby, studies have shown that they begin to synchronize sleep cycles.  People cycle through different sleep cycles.  You need to get through most of a full sleep cycle for it to have a restorative effect.  People will go through a sleep cycle about every 2-4 hours while they are sleeping.  As soon as they’re done with one cycle, their body begins the next one.  REM is the part of the sleep cycle where people dream; it’s the part of sleep just before they wake up.  When mother and baby co-sleep, they begin to come out of REM sleep around the same time.  That way when the baby naturally wakes up and needs to nurse, the mother is in a part of her sleep cycle where she also easily wakes up.  If the baby were in a crib, mother and baby would be on different parts of their sleep cycles.  This means that when the baby woke up and began to cry, the mother would get wrenched out of a deep sleep and have to get up and tend to the baby.  If mother and baby synchronize sleep cycles, the mother doesn’t feel as tired during the day.

Most health professionals are against co-sleeping, and for good reason.  If done incorrectly or carelessly, it could have dire consequences.  You will always find parents who refuse to put the mattress on the floor, insist they need to use a full comforter, etc, and claim everything turned out fine for them.  They’re lucky.  Infant deaths have resulted from suffocation and fractures due to incorrect co-sleeping with a baby.  It’s not worth the risk.  Co-sleeping has to be done right for it to be a safe practice.  As long as co-sleeping is done done with care, it can be good for both the mother and the baby. 
*As with any advice in regards to children, consult your pediatrician before making lifestyle changes.