Many new parenting guidelines come with a heavy dose of fear surrounded by horror stories, and co-sleeping is no exception. There are quite a few myths about co-sleeping. Not that there aren’t risks, but the benefits far outweigh them. It’s more dangerous to put your child in a car but you don’t see most people avoiding that. I’ve co-slept with all my children and believe we are all the better for it but I’m not the only one. Studies show there are many benefits to co-sleeping and most other countries find it to be totally normal.
In America we have reputable companies like the American Academy of Pediatrics telling us that we are increasing the risk of SIDS and suffocation by co-sleeping with our infants. Harvard researchers, Robert and Sarah LeVine explain in the LA Times that in other countries like Africa, Asia and Latin America, co-sleeping is the norm. But Western cultures have higher infant mortality rates. How could that be? The LeVine’s use Japan as a good example of why they feel co-sleeping is beneficial. Their infant mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world, despite the fact that universally parents sleep with their infants (and have low maternal smoking rates). There are 2.8 per 1k infant deaths in Japan and 6.2 per 1k in the US. Plus, their rate of SIDS is nearly half! That’s quite a difference.
A baby spends 9 months inside their mother’s womb. It doesn’t make sense that they should sleep in another bed, let alone another room. Keeping them close day and night transitions them into independent active toddlers. Plus, being able to breastfeed and sleep means more rest for everyone in the house. Breastfeeding your child and sleeping even has a name “breastsleeping”, coined by anthropologist James McKenna. He came up with this term while doing his research of mother-child co-sleeping at the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory.
Co-Sleeping Regulates Infant Body Temp and Sleep Phases
An article by James McKenna on the La Leche League website explains how dependent babies are on their mothers. A great point is that infants cannot regulate their own body temperatures, hence why we wrap them in blankets and put hats on their heads. Infants that sleep alone were found to have a lower body temp. which lowers immunity. Babies need their mothers nearby and co-sleeping does just that. It’s actually a very old practice among human beings.
Babies spend more time in lighter sleep phases while with their mothers. This keeps them from being in such a deep stage of sleep they are harder to wake, which protects them during a possible apnea episode (in which one stops breathing). Apnea is thought to be a factor in SIDS. So, you could say that co-sleeping may actually help reduce SIDS. Being awoken by the mother moving, talking or just by her smell is good practice for an infant.
Co-Sleeping Can Help Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is governed by the super important hormone oxytocin. It’s also know as the “love hormone” because it helps you to bond with others. All the skin-to-skin contact during co-sleeping helps to increase this hormone even more. This will lead to more milk flowing, benefiting mother and child. It has even been found to reduce anxiety, again aiding in breastfeeding. Most importantly though, mom gets more sleep and can care for herself and her child better. Co-sleeping and breastfeeding go hand-in-hand.
In conclusion; co-sleeping is amazing and actually beneficial. It’s not for everyone but if you think you want to do it, give it a try!
Do you or did you co-sleep with your baby?