It’s easy to see the appeal of co-sleeping. After all, who can resist a plump, sleeping baby and all the sleepy sounds? Maybe more to the point, who can resist the idea of staying in bed to give a feed, rather than having to get up, brace the cold and enter the (often fruitless) dance of trying to get your little one back to sleep?
Then again, there are definite drawbacks. If you’re debating between setting up the cot or getting into bed for a night together, here’s what you need to know.
When co-sleeping is not a good idea
Co-sleeping is not an option if either you or your partner is a smoker, if you’ve been drinking or if you’ve taken medication with a heavy sedative effect.
It’s also not a good idea to co-sleep with a baby who is younger than six months. The same goes for premature babies, or those smaller than average.
The best way to do it
A co-sleeping sidecar is first prize. But either way, remember it’s best to put your baby next to one parent, rather than in the middle of both. If you’re worried about rolling in the night, place your baby well away from the edge of the bed, rather than creating a protective boundary with pillows or jamming the bed next to the wall, as your little one might get trapped in the gap.
You’ll also need to make sure that no blankets cover your baby’s face during the night (in fact, it’s best to keep blankets as light as possible. Definitely no duvets!)
Finally, test your mattress. It should be firm, rather than soft.
What the experts say
Dr Hasmita Ghandi, obstetrician for The Birthing Team at JMH City Hospital, Durban, doesn’t recommend co-sleeping in a bed, at least until the baby is a year old. Room sharing is a better option, she maintains. “Young babies wake up frequently at night, needing to be fed and cared for – meaning many parents end up co-sleeping whether they intend to or not. Room sharing, as opposed to co-sleeping, reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 50%, while still giving the infant their own space or crib. This is much safer,” she says.
It has other benefits, too. For example, says Dr Ghandi, room-sharing can help teach your baby to respond to others’ sensory signals, including smells, movements, sounds, touch and heat, and can help to nurture the bond between baby and caregivers. It may be helpful for breastfeeding mothers, because night nursing is far easier. Plus, babies often sleep better, and cry less at night.
She adds, however, that some parents find the interrupted sleep that accompanies room sharing to be exhausting. “It’s important to realise that what works for some families might not work for others.”
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.