Sharing sleep safely: What you need to know

What are the advantages of having our baby sleep with us?

Some obvious advantages can include:

  • The baby will know that you are there, and can respond emotionally and physiologically in potentially beneficial ways. Recent studies show that babies will breastfeed more often, with less disruption to mother's sleep, and the baby will receive more sleep compared with solitary-sleeping breastfeeding babies.
  • Babies arouse more frequently, but for shorter average durations, than if the baby slept apart, and spend less time in deeper stages of sleep. This is especially beneficial for babies with arousal deficiencies.
  • Babies cry significantly less in the co-sleeping environment. This means that more energy can be put into growth, maintenance and protective immune responses.
  • Breastfeeding is enhanced. More breastfeeding, which accompanies co-sleeping, also can be translated into less disease and morbidity.
  • Proximity of the infant potentially permits the parents to respond to changes in the baby's status, such as if the infant were choking or struggling to breathe. Proximity makes it more likely that if a baby were fighting to remove a blanket from it's head, the parent might here the event and intercede.
  • Working mothers and fathers who feel guilty of not having enough time to be with their babies during the day can feel better about nurturing and interacting with their baby during the night, hence, further augmenting and cementing their relationships. Given the right family culture, co-sleeping can make mother, dad and baby feel very good indeed.

What is the "proper" sleeping arrangement for me and my baby?

There is no one best way to arrange your baby's sleep. How well one approach works is, as always, determined by factors specific to each family and baby (temperament, sensitivity, etc.), which are not known to an advice giver or expert. Try to remember that you know your baby better than anyone. Become informed, but make your own decision and feel good about it.

How you and your baby's other caregivers feel about privacy and separation as well as the physical circumstances of your house can make a difference as to what approach or practice might work best. For example, some parents who go to bed much later than the baby feel more comfortable if the baby is kept nearby, where, for example, the baby can be easily seen or heard. In these cases, the baby may not be officially "put to bed" in the sense of being placed in a room where all contact is broken. Rather, in these instances the parents might place the baby in an open hall in a bassinet, or let the baby sleep in a bassinet in the living room, or in a carrier seat, close enough to permit a kind of informal monitoring.

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