Co-Sleeping with Your New Baby

Right alongside with baby wearing and keeping our infant close to us we find co-sleeping. Many mothers unintentionally end up co-sleeping at some point or another with their newborn. The exhausted Mom falls into bed with baby attached trying to get some much-needed sleep. Some women keep it up consistently noticing that they can rest much better this way.

After you get married, you don’t ever sleep alone, either, do you? If you have to do so occasionally, it feels empty and weird. Babies feel the same. They thrive on their parents’ presence and will sleep much better when they are in the same room as you.

When Not to Co-Sleep

Co-sleeping has many benefits. But first, let’s mention a couple of things that you need to pay attention to before you co-sleep:

  • Never co-sleep when you or your partner are intoxicated or taking medication (such as sleeping pills)
  • Do not co-sleep if you smoke (do me a favor and do not have a baby at all when you smoke)
  • Do not let older children co-sleep with the infant
  • Keep all lose blankets and pillows away from the baby
  • Do not co-sleep on a water bed, sofa, or other soft surface

Benefits of Co-Sleeping

That does not sound too difficult to do, does it? Co-sleeping actually provides many benefits. Mothers can rest more, because nursing can be done while lying on your side half-asleep. You will actually notice your baby and respond to his needs much quicker that way before he gets really upset.

Your baby also benefits in numerous ways. He is close to you just like he was in the womb, and therefore he is much more comfortable and secure. His needs are responded to much quicker when he is in bed with you. He even benefits physiologically, because when babies sleep with their parents their heart rate and temperature stays more stable.

Research has shown that sudden infant death syndrome is much less prevalent in countries where co-sleeping is the norm. This seems to go the opposite of what most people believe to be true in the Western world. Many people are afraid to co-sleep because they are worried about suffocating their baby or otherwise letting it come to harm. (Source: AskDr.Sears.com, 2011. Scientific Benefits of Co-Sleeping. Retrieved on September 19, 2012 fromhttp://www.askdrsears.com/topics/sleep-problems/scientific-benefits-co-sleeping.)

When you think about it logically, this fear is quite unfounded. After all, you never fall out of bed nor do you roll onto your spouse without noticing, even though there is no physical barrier between you and your spouse or you and the end of the bed. Your body just knows. As a mother you will probably be even more aware of your baby and his breathing than you are of your spouse’s.

Co-sleeping creates more independent children as they get older. Why would this be? When you are co-sleeping you are giving your baby and small child a safe haven. You are making your baby feel safe, and he knows you are there for him. Therefore, it is not as scary for your baby to venture out and explore. After all, your child knows you will be there when he returns.

Even though I am very much in favor of co-sleeping, I realize that it does not work for everyone. Some parents prefer their baby to sleep in their own crib in the same room with them. Some mothers cannot sleep at all this way, because every little noise wakes them up, and they rest better with the baby in another room. For working parents, co-sleeping can be a great way to bond with their infant when they do not get to spend as much time with him during the day.

How to Co-Sleep with Your Baby

When co-sleeping with your baby, you can choose to place the baby in the middle between you and your spouse. In the beginning it may be safer to have baby closer to the mother since she will be more aware of the baby than the father. You can also purchase a co-sleeper bed. Some of them are meant to be placed on the bed in the middle. They have sides to keep the baby or you from rolling towards each other. There are also some beds that attach to your bed on the side. Finally, you can compromise and put a crib or travel crib close to your bed in the room with you. This way you can still hear your baby before his moans turn into screams, and he is aware of your presence as well.

If you decide to have your baby sleep in bed with you, you may want to purchase a mattress cover. If you can find one that is comfortable to sleep on and waterproof, you can place this over your sheets. Then if you have a mess in your bed you will not have to change the entire bedding, but just replace the cover and wash it. I was able to find a good-size cover that was designed for bed-wetting troubles with older kids. Just make sure it is big enough and heavy enough so it doesn’t move. If it is too small your baby may lift it up and over him, and that poses a suffocation risk. You can also make your own. Wool is very absorbent, and you could sew a blanket that works just right for you if you are good with a needle or sewing machine.

When Co-Sleeping Is Not an Option

So what do people do who are not into attachment parenting? You already know. Baby’s room gets painted and decorated, and a beautiful crib with cute bedding patiently awaits baby’s arrival. The room may also include a changing table, rocking chair, nightstand with nightlight, and a diaper pail. You will also have a dresser with baby’s clothes. Your baby will be tiny compared to his crib. He will have a hard time adjusting to sleeping by himself without any noise or company.

Many parents use noise machines of some kind and swaddle their baby to imitate the sensations of the womb. There is an excellent book about that written by Dr. Harvey Karp called “The Happiest Baby on the Block”. If you find that co-sleeping and baby wearing do not work well for you, and your baby is colicky or just very fussy, this book will be your lifesaver. Attachment parenting can prevent a baby to become fussy in the first place by giving him all the closeness and attention he needs. When that is not practical, imitating the womb (by swaddling and rocking your baby) is the next best thing to do.

If you cannot co-sleep for whatever reason, please do not despair. I encourage you to give co-sleeping a try, but the next best option would be for your baby to at least sleep in the same room with you. There are smaller cribs that will likely fit in the space you have in your bedroom. Once your baby gets older, feel free to let him sleep on his own or with his other siblings. Most siblings do fine sleeping in the same room together.