Sharing sleep safely: What you need to know

As always, parental goals and needs lead parents to interpret their infant's behavior, including night awakenings, very differently. For example, many parents do not worry about night awakenings because when their babies sleep next to them, the infants are content and less likely to awaken and remain distressed.

Years ago Dr. Tom Anders observed that babies awaken for short periods throughout the night without parental knowledge, even where they sleep in a crib, alone. Some babies will simply go back to sleep while others, presumably with different needs and sensitivities, will awaken and signal their need for contact with the parent. This is not necessarily a sign of immaturity, stubbornness or an attempt to manipulate.

What are the long-term effects on my baby?

While advocates of solitary infant sleeping arrangements have claimed any number of benefits of infant sleeping alone, the truth of the matter is, none of these supposed benefits have been shown to be true through scientific studies.

The great irony is that, not only have benefits of solitary infant sleep NOT been demonstrated, but recent studies are beginning to show the opposite. It is not, for example, solitary sleeping arrangements that produce strong independence, social competence, feeling of high self esteem, ability to handle stress, strong gender or sex identities, but it is social or co-sleeping patterns that might, indeed, contribute to the emergence of these characteristics.

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