A Guide to Co-Sleeping
Should we consider co-sleeping good nighttime parenting—or a recipe for disaster?
The Case Against Co-sleeping
In a recent study, the St. Louis University School of Medicine found the risk of suffocation to be 40 times higher when baby sleeps in the parents’ bed rather than in his own crib. The January 9-11, 2004 edition of USA Weekend presented a special report on infant and child safety. In the article, “15 New Findings on Caring for Your Baby,” by Michele Hatty, tip number one is, “Keep baby out of your bed.” Hatty bases this conclusion on the same St. Louis University School of Medicine study but quotes the increased risk of suffocation as accounting for 20% of the risk. Hatty also claims a dramatic increase in deaths from co-sleeping in recent years, but offers no statistics on the percentage of the increase or the actual number of fatalities.
As for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), they take no official position on the issue of co-sleeping, but they tend to discourage it. A statement released in November of 2005 says, “A separate but proximate sleeping environment is recommended. Infants may be brought into the bed for nursing or comforting, but should be returned to their own bassinet when the parent is ready to return to sleep.”
In the comprehensive AAP guide The Complete and Authoritative Guide: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5, Editor-in-Chief Steven P. Shelov, MD, FAAP, says, “There is no reason to restrict your baby’s sleep to her crib. If, for any reason, you want her closer to you while she sleeps, use her infant seat or bassinet as a temporary crib and move it around the house with you.” The possibility of bringing baby into your bed is never mentioned at all.
As for the layperson, the most common objections to the practice are that you’ll roll over on baby or that you’ll “spoil” your child and create a sleeping habit that’s impossible to break. “I can’t sleep with my baby,” comments a new mother named Tania. “I’m a heavy sleeper and might roll over on her.”
Co-sleeping requires two parents who are willing to sacrifice privacy and alone time and share their bed with a potentially noisy, squirmy sleeper. If taking baby into your bed isn’t the right decision for your family, consider other options to keep baby close by. Use a bassinet and keep it a few feet away from your bed, or purchase a co-sleeper, a bassinet that’s open on one side and connects to your bed without actually having baby share your mattress. Even if baby sleeps in his own room, you can make nighttime special by snuggling and cuddling during and after nighttime feedings. The most important thing is finding a nighttime parenting style that works equally well for mom and baby.
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