Sharing sleep safely: What you need to know

Will our baby sleep through the night sooner if he or she shares our bed?

No longitudinal data exists that can answer this question. A variety of scientific studies indicate that the baby's own maturational rate, as influenced by its unique internal needs to awaken, to feed, to find reassurance, or to oxygenate, are as much influencing factors in night waking and sleeping through the night as is sleep location.

When infants and parents co-sleep, the infants are for the most part undetected by the parent, and the infant, upon feeling the parent's presence, returns to sleep without awakening the parent, so the question of sleeping through the night becomes less relevant.

Interestingly, laboratory studies reveal that the average duration of infant and maternal awakenings in the co-sleeping environment are shorter on average than the awakenings mothers and babies experience when baby awakens in another room and requires intervention before going back to sleep.

From a biological perspective, it is appropriate for babies to awaken during the night during the first year of life. In fact, although infants can be conditioned to sleep long and hard alone, and without intervention and, hence, fulfill the cultural expectation that the should sleep through the night, the fact remains that they were not designed to do so, and it may not be either in their best biological or psychological interest.

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