Co-sleeping is often thought to be synonymous with bed, but co-sleeping can also mean putting your baby to sleep in the same room as you, but in a separate bed.
If your baby is six months or younger, experts recommend that healthy babies be placed on their backs to sleep, as this is the safest position for them. Putting your baby to sleep on his back decreases his chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and this applies to both naps and nighttime sleeping.
Registered nurse and midwife Lynne Bluff, sheds some light on some of the benefits of co-sleeping with a newborn baby.
Babies naturally fall into a day and night pattern
It’s not uncommon for newborns to mix up their days and nights. Many babies sleep extra soundly throughout the day, but can be restless or wakeful much of the night. Keeping your baby close during the day with lights and noise around can eventually help her to stay a bit more alert in the daytime. Keeping your baby close at night, and meeting her needs within a quiet and dim environment, can help her learn to rest more at night. Babies also rest more soundly when they feel secure.
Co-sleeping helps babies practice rousing themselves
While having your newborn falling into, and staying in, a deep sleep might sound appealing, it isn’t the type of sleep they were designed to have. Co-sleeping babies are frequently aroused when close with their moms. This practice rousing can help babies learn to use their self-preservation instinct to rouse when there’s any danger such as overheating, being too cold, or something blocking their airway. Being able to easily rouse may reduce the risk of SIDS.
You can meet baby’s needs without getting up
Most babies need to be fed, soothed and changed at night. If your baby is close by, you can do all of these things while in bed and remain in a restful state. Getting out of bed, walking down the hall, changing nappies on the changing pad, feeding in a glider and soothing baby back to sleep requires being fully awake and alert.
Experience less night time crying
Babies sleep well when they feel secure. Knowing you are close will likely help your baby sleep better and fuss less. Moms who co-sleep are able to notice earlier signs of hunger and needing to be changed. Often, mom can wake during these early signs and meet baby’s needs before they begin to cry. When you co-sleep there is less trying to get baby to settle down to sleep before laying them down. This often means less crying. You aren’t likely to have an overtired baby fussing and protesting being laid down in her cot to sleep.
Co-sleeping helps with bonding and secure attachment
A secure attachment between a baby and her caregiver is an emotional bond that leaves the baby feeling secure and cared for. This secure attachment, fostered in infancy, translates to a child feeling secure and knowing their caregiver will always return to meet their needs. Children with a secure attachment often respond appropriately to situations, show minimal distress when their mother leaves, and are happy when their mother returns.
Co-sleeping helps with maintaining an adequate milk supply
Feeding on demand helps moms maintain an adequate milk supply. Breast milk production is a supply-and-demand process. Babies are designed to eat frequently at night and co-sleeping helps to make it easier for mom and baby to meet this need.
Co-sleeping can mean better rest for mom
Moms, not just babies, are wired for closeness. Studies show that new moms do not experience a better quality of sleep if their babies go to the nursery at night. Co-sleeping may not guarantee more sound sleep for every mom, but many report sleeping better knowing their baby is safe and close by. Moms also release oxytocin when they are close to their babies, which improves sleep quality and is also great for breastfeeding.
As your baby grows, he may not want to sleep all night, every night, with you. With a bit of trial and error, you’ll eventually find a method that works for you, your partner, and your baby.
More about the expert:
Lynne Bluff is a registered nurse, midwife, and internationally certified childbirth educator. Read more about Lynne Bluff here.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.