Co Sleeping With Baby: A Solution For Sleep Problems?

Co Sleeping With Baby

Co sleeping tends to be a controversial topic; some parents are adamant that co sleeping is the best and most natural sleeping arrangement for all families, while others are just as adamant about the dangers of co sleeping with a baby.

All that aside, though, what we’ve found in our years spent working with tired families is that, far from being interested in the debate, exhausted moms and dads have a far more pressing about question co sleeping:

“If I co sleep, will my baby and I FINALLY get some uninterrupted sleep?”

That’s understandable – for every parent who co sleeps out of deep attachment parenting convictions, there are many more who are interested in co sleeping purely because they are sooooo tired, and will do just about anything for better sleep.

And that’s the topic we’re examining today, parents – will co sleeping work as a solution to your family’s sleep challenges? Read on for details!

Co Sleeping Versus Bed Sharing: Defining Our Terms

First, it’s important to remember that the term “co sleeping” means different things to different people. Many automatically assume that co sleeping means parents sharing a bed with their baby, but that’s not technically true. That’s actually called “bed sharing.” Co sleeping can also mean parents and baby share a room; more specifically, that arrangement is called “room sharing“.

How Co Sleeping Can Help Your Baby’s Sleep Problems

Co sleeping can, in some cases, help both you and your baby get more sleep, and can solve the problem of constant nighttime waking:

  • Co sleeping tends to make breastfeeding easier, as there is much less back-and-forth between rooms.
  • Co sleeping allows for greater soothing: if your baby is in bed with you, or right next to your bed in a bassinet, you can simply reach a hand out to offer comfort if she fusses.
  • Dr. James McKenna, a renowned anthropologist, points to research which indicates that babies who sleep right very near their mothers tend to fuss less and actually sleep better, due to the calming influence of mom’s smell, mom’s warmth, and the sound of mom’s breathing.
  • If you work full time outside the home, co sleeping can be a great way to get some quality time with your baby. And if you breastfeed, and need to nurse more frequently at night, co sleeping can make that easier.

Why Co Sleeping May Not Solve Your Baby’s Sleep Problems

It’s not all good news, however; while co sleeping is a great sleep solution for some, it doesn’t work well for others:

  • Some moms who try bed sharing become so anxious and paranoid about keeping the baby safe in bed that their own sleep is actual worse!
  • If you’re a sensitive sleeper who tends to wake at every little sound, having your baby in the same room with you may prove to be too noisy, as babies tend to make lots of little noises as they sleep.
  • Speaking of little noises – some parents report that their babies actually sleep worse during co sleeping, because the parents themselves are overly attentive and pick up the baby at every little sound!
  • If your baby’s sleep association isn’t one that can be met through co sleeping, then co sleeping may not help you much. For instance, if your baby has to be rocked to sleep, and needs that movement to fall back to sleep quickly, then even if you co sleep, you’re still going to need to get up and rock the baby after every waking.
  • Some parents who co sleep for the sake of convenience end up discovering that co sleeping has itself become a sleep association that they have to undo later. While this isn’t necessarily a problem – there are ways you can gently transition from co sleeping (and we have a day-by-day co sleeping transition plan in our Members Area designed to help you do just that), some parents don’t want to inadvertently create new sleep challenges by co sleeping, so they opt to avoid it and work on their babies’ existing sleep associations.

Co Sleeping Can Be A Great Short Term Baby Sleep Solution For Some Families

In our experience, many families find co sleeping to be a good short term solution; it allows everyone to the whole family to get a little more sleep at night. However, unless you have plans to co sleep long term (because you are a proponent of attachment parenting, perhaps, or for other reasons), co sleeping isn’t really a solution to your sleep challenges. Most babies who wake frequently at night and take short, inconsistent naps usually have one or more sleep associations that are preventing them from learning to self soothe. If you ultimately want your baby to transition your baby from co sleeping, and have him sleep in his own sleeping area, separate from yours, then while co sleeping can be a great temporary fix, it won’t be a lasting solution. Instead, you’ll want to work on gently weaning your baby away from his sleep associations, and teaching him to fall asleep independently – this is the process we call sleep training. And it’s a process we happen to specialize in!

One of the easiest and fastest ways to get expert sleep coaching help is to try a personalized consultation from The Baby Sleep Site®? Your consultation will allow you to work one-on-one with an expert sleep consultant. Your consultant will craft a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for your family, walk you through each step of implementing the plan at home, and then will support you throughout the process.
 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
 

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Does your baby sleep like a baby, or are you working towards “sleep like a baby” status? Share your stories and questions with us!

 
bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
 
Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
 
bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
 
bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
 

The Co-Sleeping Campaign That Backfired Completely

CoSleeping Campaign Backfired

To co-sleep, or not to co-sleep…that’s a hot, debatable topic these days! Of course, we work with families all over the world, who sleep in a variety of arrangements, so we pass no judgment. We make it our priority to respect every parent’s personal philosophies and goals.

But we also make it a priority to emphasize the important of safe sleep practices. And let’s face it, when it comes to co-sleeping, there is quite a debate out there about whether or not it’s a safe way to sleep.

The Overlooked Facts About Co-Sleeping

There’s a lot we could say about safe co-sleeping, but we’ve already made those points in this article, Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous?

But here’s the thing – we have learned a lot about how and why parents co-sleep in the 3 years since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its warnings about the dangers of bed-sharing in 2011. The AAP went to great lengths then to issue warnings about the dangers of co-sleeping…and some states (New York and Wisconsin, for example) have taken up the call by creating their own anti-co-sleeping campaigns. The goal was to staunch the rising tide of infant deaths related to bed-sharing, and some of the tactics used in this anti-co-sleeping campaign were downright disturbing (like this image of baby sleeping next to a meat cleaver).

But it’s looking more and more like these campaigns have not only failed to make a meaningful difference in co-sleeping rates — it’s looking more and more like they have backfiredand it’s easy to see why.

For one, most of these campaigns strongly emphasize the dangers of sharing a bed with your baby – but really, sharing a bed is far, far less dangerous than parents sharing a couch with their babies, or a recliner. As Dr. Melissa Bartick shared in a recent article with WBUR, in Boston,

“As states have adopted the AAP 2011 recommendations, the advice to never sleep with your baby has backfired in the worst possible way. Rather than preventing deaths, this advice is probably even increasing deaths. Included in 2009 study that the AAP even cited in its statement for other conclusions, parents of two SIDS babies who slept with their infant on a sofa did so because they had been advised against bringing their infants into bed but had not realized the dangers of sleeping on a sofa. In fact, deaths from SIDS in parental beds has halved in the UK from 1984-2004, but there has been a rise of deaths from cosleeping on sofas.”

And it’s becoming clearer and clearer that not all co-sleeping is equal. An attachment parent who is committed to co-sleeping, and who is incredibly intentional about her family’s sleeping arrangements, is not at all the same as an parent who simply collapses on the sofa with baby on her chest, out of sheer exhaustion. So to treat ALL co-sleeping as dangerous is really unfair; we know that intentional co-sleeping, done safely and carefully, is actually quite safe indeed.

And finally (and perhaps most importantly), here’s what is most revealing about how fall short these anti co-sleeping campaigns have fallen: the evidence suggests that in spite of the AAP’s best efforts, over 40% of mothers report that they frequently or always share a sleep space with their child (and it’s likely the co-sleeping stats are grossly underestimated). The scare tactics simply aren’t working.

So what does this suggest? To us, it suggests that what we don’t need is a fear-based campaign designed to terrify mothers into not co-sleeping…instead, what we need is a comprehensive system to educate mothers about how to co-sleep safely and with intention, if they do choose to occasionally or frequently (or even always) share a sleeping space with their babies.

In some ways, this is like similar to the sex education that many teenagers receive in school. (Okay, not totally similar, but stick with me here!) There is lots of evidence that abstinence-based sex ed, on its own, is not nearly as effective as programs that teach both the value of abstinence AND safe-sex practices. You simply can’t terrify or persuade teenagers into not having sex, and hope that works. It doesn’t.

Similarly, you can’t terrify moms into not co-sleeping – the evidence suggests that they will anyway. So what if, instead, we focused on educating moms about what safe co-sleeping practices look like?

The fact is, as Dr. James McKenna points out, co-sleeping has been around since the dawn of time. We will never eradicate it, and campaigns that are designed to dissuade parents from sharing a sleep space with their children are bound to fail – whereas campaigns designed to educate and inform can only succeed.

How To Co-Sleep Safely

With all this talk about how to co-sleep safely, you may be wondering, “How exactly DO I co-sleep safely, anyway?” Glad you asked! These resources are great ones, if you want to educate yourself about safe co-sleeping practices:

  • Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines
  • KellyMom Guide To Safe Co-Sleeping
  • Co-Sleeping Frequently Asked Questions
  • In the end, what we want to leave you with is this: there is no “right” or “wrong” sleeping arrangement for you and your baby, provided your sleeping arrangements are safe. Safe bed-sharing, safe room-sharing, safe crib-sleeping…it can all work! And your baby can sleep well, and peacefully, in any sleeping arrangement. The Baby Sleep Site® team is 100% committed to respecting your parenting goals, and your family’s sleeping arrangements, and we will work with you to improve your child’s sleep no matter what those arrangements look like. We will never pressure you to change you sleeping set-up; instead, we will work within the parameters you give us, and will respect them every step of the way.

    Browse our list of consultation package options here.

    Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

    Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

    What are your thoughts on co-sleeping? Any co-sleeping stories or tips to share?

     
    bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
     
    https://www.babysleepsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Essential-Keys-to-Newborn-Sleep.jpg“>Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
     
    bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
     
     
    bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
     
    bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
     

    Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous?

     
    Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous

    A recent article published in USA Today has added fuel to an already-raging fire — the debate over co-sleeping. The article references a new study, which found that while the number of SIDS-related deaths has dropped by over 50% in the past two decades (since the introduction of the “Back to Sleep” campaign in 1994 began discouraging tummy sleeping), the drop has plateaued recently. What’s more, the number of SIDS-related deaths as a result of co-sleeping is actually on the rise.

    There’s no doubt that co-sleeping is a controversial topic, with parents offering strong and emotional opinions on both sides. Reports like the one in USA Today seem to indicate that co-sleeping is dangerous, but co-sleeping advocates point to research showing that it’s safe. So what do we make of this? Is co-sleeping actually dangerous? Should you and your baby co-sleep?

    Defining Our Terms: Co-Sleeping vs. Room Sharing vs. Bed-Sharing

    First, let’s get our terms straight. Co-sleeping simply means that a child shares a sleeping space with a parent. With that in mind, co-sleeping can mean a baby sleeping in the same bed as his parents; however, it can also mean a baby in a bassinet next to the bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls that kind of sleeping arrangement “room-sharing”. Room-sharing is considered completely safe, as long as baby’s sleeping area follows safety guidelines (no loose bedding, firm mattress that’s flush with the sides of the bassinet, tight-fitting bottom sheet, etc.) Bed-sharing refers to the practice of parents and children sharing the same bed. Bed-sharing (specifically when infants are involved) carries far more risks than other forms of co-sleeping.

    Can Co-Sleeping Be Dangerous?

    Room-sharing is safe; bed-sharing, however, is inherently risky, specifically when it involves young infants. As rates of bed-sharing continue to rise in the United States, so do the rates of infant deaths related to bed-sharing. The most obvious danger related to bed-sharing is suffocation. An adult (or an older child) can roll on top of a baby, or the baby can be smothered by the large pillows and heavy blankets that most adults use in bed. Some less obvious dangers include a baby falling from the mattress to the floor, or a baby becoming wedged between the mattress and the headboard/footboard or wall. The mattress itself can also be a threat; if it’s overly soft, a baby can sink too low and suffocate.

    As a growing number of babies die due to bed-sharing, health organizations are stepping up their efforts to warn parents. The AAP, along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), has issued precautions against bed-sharing, warning parents that it puts babies at a much higher risk of suffocation. And warnings like these aren’t just happening on a national scale; they’re happening at the local level, too. Bed-sharing was blamed for causing increasing rates of infant death in Milwaukee, WI, so the city’s health department responded by releasing a highly controversial ad depicting a baby curled up (in an adult bed) next to a large butcher knife. When critics attacked the ad as extreme (and it is), Milwaukee’s Commissioner of Health replied, “…what is even more shocking and provocative is that 30 developed and underdeveloped countries have better [infant death] rates than Milwaukee.”

    Can Co-Sleeping Be Safe?

    Again, room-sharing arrangements are considered very safe. In fact, the AAP recommends room-sharing as the best sleeping arrangement for infants, since it’s been shown to produce lower rates of SIDS than a solitary sleeping arrangement (which places baby in a room by herself.) And while bed-sharing is statistically less safe, advocates of bed-sharing point out that research studies (like the one cited in the USA Today article) fail to account for a variety of factors and ultimately make bed-sharing seem more dangerous than it actually is.

    For example, researchers refer to bed-sharing as a baby and an adult sharing an “adult bed.” But an adult bed doesn’t necessarily mean an actual bed — in these studies, it can also mean a couch, or a recliner, or a waterbed (all surfaces that bed-sharing advocates would never recommend using). Research studies also fail to account for safety factors like smoking, or drug and alcohol abuse (parents who smoke or use drugs or alcohol should never bed-share.) Even factors like obesity, which advocates say should be considered (since obese parents are advised not to bed-share), aren’t considered in research studies.

    Supporters of bed-sharing claim that when these factors are considered, research shows that safe bed-sharing practices make putting a baby to sleep in an adult bed just as harmless as putting a baby to sleep in a crib. In fact, a 2006 study indicates that when researchers controlled for these kinds of safety factors, rates of infant death related to safe bed-sharing proved to be very low.

    UPDATE MAY 2013: A study published on May 20th, 2013 reveals that any kind of bed-sharing, even safe bed-sharing, increases an infant’s risk of SIDS five-fold. The study’s researchers found that even in the safest of settings, bed-sharing presents a dramatic increase in the risk of SIDS. This stands in direct opposition to the 2006 study which found that safe bed-sharing produces low rates of infant death.

    Supporters also point to the fact that co-sleeping in all its forms (including bed-sharing) has been the norm for human infants since the dawn of time, while putting babies in cribs, in their own rooms, alone, is a practice that’s less than 200 years old. Anthropologist Dr. James McKenna, an outspoken advocate of co-sleeping, points to these facts as proof that mothers and babies are biologically designed to sleep together, and he asserts that co-sleeping is the best sleeping arrangement for families.

    Finally, bed-sharing advocates emphasize that while co-sleeping is no longer standard practice in most Western cultures, it remains the norm in many, many countries around the world. These advocates are quick to point out that if it works for families around the globe, it can work for families in the West.

    An important note, though, about comparing bed-sharing in Western countries to bed-sharing around the world: the comparison isn’t always a fair one. Western-style beds (with their soft, elevated mattresses as shown above, and their abundance of pillows and blankets) make bed-sharing more dangerous than do other types of beds found around the world. What’s more, health-habits vary worldwide, making the bed-sharing comparison a tricky one. Western mothers are more likely to smoke than are Japanese mothers, for example; this may partly explain why Japan has an extremely low rate of deaths related to bed-sharing. It’s best to take cultural differences like this into account when looking at bed-sharing from an international perspective.

    Should You Co-Sleep Or Not?

    Putting a baby to bed is a bit like stepping into a car. There are risks associated with driving, and traveling in a car can certainly kill you. But there are many steps you can take to make driving safe, like wearing a seat belt, obeying traffic signs, and taking proper care of your vehicle. Baby sleep can work the same way. There are risks associated with any sleeping arrangement, but parents can take steps to make their baby’s sleep environment as safe as possible. Parents who educate themselves and practice safe co-sleeping shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about their decision. And of course, neither should parents who choose not to co-sleep; after all, it won’t work for everyone! That was certainly the case with Nicole — during the short time she co-slept, she found herself so worried about harming her son that she hardly slept at all.

    A final word: while many forms of co-sleeping are safe, bed-sharing is inherently risk. There are ways to bed-share safely, but the list of precautions is long, and some of the precautions themselves border on extreme. For example, it’s recommended that you remove pillows and blankets from the bed, and even that you put your mattress directly on the floor. It’s also safest if the only people in bed are mom and baby, meaning that if dad is around, he needs to find somewhere else to sleep! What’s more, safety guidelines specify that some people shouldn’t bed-share, including those who smoke and use drugs/alcohol, those who are obese, and those who are “overly exhausted.” That last one is bound to exclude many readers of this blog! If you’re considering bed-sharing, remember to review the list of precautions carefully, and then commit to following them. Otherwise, we recommend that you consider a different method of co-sleeping.

    What do you think? Room-sharing? Bed-sharing? No-sharing? Tell us your thoughts on co-sleeping!

    At The Baby Sleep Site, we’re committed to remaining judgment-free when it comes to parenting styles. We’ve worked with all kinds of parents (including those who are committed co-sleepers), and we’ve manage to help their babies sleep while respecting them as parents. So whether you room-share or bed-share (or neither!), The Baby Sleep Site has sleep products and services that’ll work for you!

    Please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.