Co-sleeping with a newborn means different things to different parents, and whether or not it is a safe practice depends on the definition.
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It feels good to sleep with your little one, but now, co-sleeping and bed-sharing have become a debatable topic, and many families find it challenging to know what’s best for their kids.
Some families may find it appealing to sleep with their babies on the family bed, but this is risky. It increases your child’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
There are ways you can sleep near a child without necessarily having them on the bed with you.
Here, we will discuss co-sleeping and bed-sharing, the pros and cons, and what you need to know while practicing them.
What is co-sleeping?
Co-sleeping is a term that defines when parents sleep close to their child. This involves either sleeping on the same bed with them or on different mattresses, but in the same room.
Pros of co-sleeping with a newborn
Not every family practices co-sleeping, but there are many benefits of this practice.
- Co-sleeping allows parents to sleep more
- Babies also get more sleep because they do not need to be fully awake to cry loudly before the parents hear from the other room to nurse them. So with just a little turning, you can breastfeed and tuck the child back to sleep before she is fully awake.
- Parents will easily breastfeed at night when the baby is nearby
- Breastfeeding at night is even advised as it helps maintain your milk supply
- With co-sleeping, parents get no nighttime separation anxiety
- According to AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), room-sharing reduces a child’s risk of SIDS up to 50%
- You get fewer bedtime hassles
Cons of co-sleeping with a newborn
Co-sleeping in terms of room sharing with your baby is safe, but when it has to do with bed-sharing, it has lots of disadvantages.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3,500 babies die in the United States due to sleep-related problems. The following are the disadvantages of bed-sharing
- A child’s risk of SIDS increases in the first six months when they sleep on anything other than a mattress with tight sheets and nothing else close by
- Your family mattress may use loose sheets and pillows. All these can become a potential suffocation hazard for your baby. Your baby can easily get trapped in the sheets or in between the mattress and headboard or wall.
- On the night where parents are exhausted, they have an increased risk of rolling over their babies. This leads to suffocation and increases the child’s risk of falling off the bed.
- Smoking or drinking alcohol before bed-sharing increases your child’s risk of SIDS
Though people say that there are some advantages of bed-sharing, we believe you should avoid this at all costs because when you are sleeping, you are less conscious of what is happening around you.
To keep your baby safe, let them co-sleep in the same room with you but on different beds. Just get a good crib or bassinet for them, and you are fine.
How to safely share rooms with your newborn
Follow these tips to ensure that your baby sleeps safely near you but not in your bed:
- Place a crib or bassinet close to your bed. The level of closeness depends on you. You may want your baby to be closer, especially if you are breastfeeding.
- Place the child’s crib or bassinet away from dangerous room features. Ensure that picture frames, window blind cords, lamps, and other items are not close to your baby’s crib.
- Use a bedside sleeper if you want your baby to be very close. The bedside sleeper will be attached to your family bed and allow you to sleep very closely with your baby, though on different surfaces.
- Make the baby sleep on her back. According to experts, babies that sleep on their backs have a reduced risk of SIDS
According to experts, it is good to sleep in close proximity to your baby until their first birthday. It is generally healthy for both the parent and child.
At what age is co-sleeping with a newborn safe?
You can start room sharing with your newborn immediately after they are born. This is an excellent idea because newborns feed more frequently than older babies, and you will need to reduce your time of leaving your room and getting back there throughout the night.
When to stop co-sleeping with a newborn
AAP recommends that you should stop co-sleeping when your baby is between 6 and 12 months. However, the time to prevent room sharing depends on you and what you feel is right for your family.
According to research, both parents and infants find it difficult to get more sleep when they share rooms after they get older.
Also, since the chance of getting more sleep reduces, you may be tempted to cuddle the baby through the night, in which the baby may end up in your bed.
Co-sleeping with your baby into toddlerhood means more bedtime hassles and less sleep for both the child and parents.
It will be more challenging to separate the room between you and your toddler after becoming comfortable with the room sharing. So, to make it easier for the child to transition into her room, you must stop room sharing early.
Stopping co-sleeping on time can help you achieve more privacy. And since toddlers become more aware of what’s happening in the environment than babies, it is indeed an excellent time to send them to their rooms.
On the other hand, some parents find room sharing a way to bond well with the older baby or toddler.
If you find this arrangement suitable for you and every other person in the family, you can continue co-sleeping.
Safety guidelines for bed sharing
If you must bed share, it is vital to ensure that your baby is as safe as possible. Follow these safety guidelines when your baby is to share a bed with another person:
- Use a bassinet placed in bed when bed-sharing. You may want to try this if you have a huge bed. There are infant bassinets that you can use on your bed to increase security since they provide a slight barrier between you and your baby.
- Only consider the idea of bed-sharing if you are breastfeeding your baby
- Do not bed share with your baby when they are very premature or have low birth weight. These babies have an increased risk of SIDS. Instead, put them on a different surface.
- Dress simply to bed. Avoid string clothing or pajamas. Also, remove your pieces of jewelry when co-sleeping, as they can cause a choking risk if they fall off.
- Tie up very long hair as it can be wrapped around your baby’s neck.
- Check for crevices and gaps around the bed, especially if your bed is placed close to the wall. Babies can easily roll into a gap. If there are any, tuck in tightly rolled towels to fill them up.
- Avoid sleeping on the same bed with a baby if you are a smoker or if you smoked when you are pregnant
- If you are a deep sleeper, or you’re just too upset about what may happen if your child sleeps nearby, avoid bed-sharing.
- Do not bed-share when you’ve taken sedatives, alcohols, drugs, or any substance that makes you sleep deeper or makes you less aware of your environment.
- Avoid swaddling your baby when bed sharing. They may overheat and may not be able to move their legs and arms effectively to alert you when you get too close. This increases the child’s risk of SIDS the more.
- Do not allow your babies to sleep with their siblings when they are under 1 year.
- Do not allow pets on the bed when you are bed sharing. It could get too crowded.
Find more information on how to safely co-sleep with your newborn here.
Is it possible to sleep train when co-sleeping with your newborn?
For the first few months after birth, your newborn will frequently feed over the night. This will make you wake more regularly to give them food. It is not any different when letting your baby sleep in a separate room.
However, after the child reaches 4 to 6 months, she may just be waking because it is now a habit. This will not be healthy for you as a tired parent in need of an extra minute of sleep, and also for the baby. So, you need to teach her how to get back to sleep on her own.
This is where you need to do sleep training.
Sleep training means teaching your child to get back to sleep on their own after waking up at night.
Succeeding in sleep training will help you get more sleep. But I should warn you; sleep training can be frustrating during the early times of trying.
You should start sleep training your baby when they have reached 4 to 6 months. This is because she is no longer in need of nighttime feedings. Also, she is more mature and knows that she will land in her mother’s arms when she cries.
However, every child develops differently, and you should check in with your pediatrician before you start sleep training.
Tips for sleep training your baby when co-sleeping
It may be a bit challenging to sleep train your baby when you two are sleeping in close proximity, but you can make it easier with these tips:
- Increase the distance between your bed and the baby’s crib. The idea is to prevent you two from seeing each other.
- Use either a fan or white noise machine to add some white noise to the room.
- Be consistent in your practice. Stick to the sleep training method that works for you and your baby.
- Sleep training means that you may turn your back on your baby’s cry. If the crying upsets you, leave the room until she falls asleep.
Co-sleeping with a newborn is a great idea when room sharing. Though many parents enjoy the idea of cuddling their newborn on the bed during sleep, the risks are usually higher than the advantages.
It is an excellent idea to co-sleep (safely) with your newborn until they become a year old, and after that, separate.
Follow the tips shared above to make co-sleeping with a newborn safer and more fun.