Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Depending on your cultural background, you might have heard of co-sleeping. You might also have made up your mind about the subject, perhaps adopting of the most common beliefs in Western society: co-sleeping = spoiling your baby. In that case, keep on reading. This might just be the day you change your mind.
Although co-sleeping has often meant sharing the same bed, it is technically defined as ‘any situation where the infant and parent are within sensory range of each other’. This includes placing your child in a bedside crib, for example.
During labour and breastfeeding, the woman’s brain produces oxytocin, a hormone which is released in the bloodstream helping milk production. When the baby is in proximity, or even touching his mother, oxytocin has the power of soothing him, of making him feel safe, thus strengthening the mother-baby bond. Conversely, the baby will often start crying when pulled away from his mother’s arms. Co-sleeping is therefore key in producing this hormone and in keeping both the child and the mother calm.
You might think breastfeeding, or cuddling your child, is surely enough to nurture your bond and that having to share a bed with him/her is a bit excessive. Well, you might be wrong.
In co-spleeping scenarios, both the baby and the mum tend to sleep more lightly. This does not necessarily mean this is bad sleep. The baby will wake up more often having to feed, but proximity with the mum will offer easy access to breastfeeding (if applicable). Waking up more often also means a spike in oxygen levels and hart rate, which is essential for the baby’s growth. It also means interruption of possible episodes of apnea, which can lead to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Numerous studies show how SIDS is barely existent in cultures where co-sleeping is the norm.
One of the most common mistakes to make as a parent, is to think that your child’s sleeping pattern should be like yours. Well, babies are not adults. And even though paediatricians have been insisting over the past decades on the importance of making children as independent as possible in early stages, there is no scientific data suggesting children who sleep on their own will be healthier or more independent while growing up. In fact, if done safely, co-sleeping can be extremely beneficial to both parents and children. As you can see from the table above, a study shows how children who are used to co-sleeping actually develop fewer sleeping problems along the way.
Clearly, modern-day families which do not often have the support of other family members for their children upbringing and need to balance work with parenting, even within the baby’s first year of life, might not look at co-sleeping as a valid option. It is normal for many parents to sleep train their babies, valuing their own sleep above anything else. Frankly, it is understandable. However, as with everything in life, recent studies show how a good balance between both practices, co-sleeping and sleep training, is the ideal scenario.
So keep an open mind and remember, as long as your decision is well informed, makes you feel comfortable, and is in your child’s best interest, you’ll do great!