Co-sleeping is practiced by millions of parents all around the world, and is defined as “the practice of parents and young children sleeping in the same bed”. Safe co-sleeping is absolutely possible, although many people would have you believe differently.
In many cultures, co-sleeping is encouraged and viewed as the norm, but in more western medicalised cultures such as the UK and USA, it has become something to be advised against and frowned upon.
Despite the fact that sharing a sleeping space with your child is the biological norm for humans, we live in a culture nowadays where parents natural instincts are questioned and vilified. Instead of educating new parents on how to co-sleep safely, our entire medical system seems to employ scare tactics from the moment they give birth.
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Why Do People Co-sleep?
Many people prefer to create a separate sleeping space for their baby in a cot or Moses basket from the very beginning. However, lots of parents chose to co-sleep with their baby for a number of reasons. These could include:
By practicing safe co-sleeping you are able to respond to your child’s needs throughout the night without getting out of bed or rousing them unnecessarily.
Dream Feeding is the act of feeding your baby whilst they are still asleep. This can be done very easily if you co-sleep as you don’t need to get them out of a cot or Moses basket in order to do so.
This can mean fewer stressful night wake ups from your baby and much less noise and hassle throughout the night, plus many women find side feeding their baby to a be a comfortable breastfeeding position.
Safe co-sleeping can be very comforting for both mother and baby, especially in the early weeks. Your baby has spent nine months snug and warm inside your stomach, so the world must seem like a very big, cold place for them.
Sleeping cuddled up against you, with food readily available whenever they stir, is very comforting for them. Similarly, knowing your baby is safe and with you can be relaxing and comforting for many mothers.
From personal experience, practicing safe co-sleeping can lead to more sleep for both mum and baby, particularly if you’re breastfeeding.
If you co-sleep with your baby you are able to feed them lying down throughout the night and can, therefore, sleep as you do so. Providing you have created a safe space (see below) around your baby and that you’re following the rules for safe co-sleeping, falling asleep whilst side feeding is totally safe and can lead to a much better night’s sleep.
When is co-sleeping dangerous?
Whilst co-sleeping can be a great choice for parents, there are a number of situations where cosleeping is not advised and can be dangerous. Do not co-sleep if any of the following can be applied to either you or your partner:
- You have consumed alcohol or drugs, including any medication that could lead to drowsiness.
- Anyone in the bed smokes, even if you don’t do it in the bedroom.
- Your baby was born before 37 weeks gestation.
- Your baby was born weighing less than 5.5lbs
- You are extremely exhausted
- It is not safe to fall asleep with your baby on the sofa or in an armchair.
- Do not cosleep with pets in the bed
How To Practice Safe Co-sleeping
Avoid All Risk Factors
So long as you have made sure that none of the above risk factors apply to you, for instance, that you have not consumed alcohol or smoked, then you can co-sleep.
Create a Safe Sleeping Environment
Safe co-sleeping requires a safe sleep environment for the baby. Keep any loose covers, sheets or pillows away from the baby to avoid the baby overheating or suffocating. According to The Lullaby Trust babies should be on firm, flat surfaces even when cosleeping so do not use sleep nests to cosleep.
If you want to have your baby close, but don’t want to have them in between you and your partner or directly in your bed, you can buy a co-sleeping cot!
Follow All Other Safe Sleeping Advice
Whether you’re co-sleeping or not there are a number of general guidelines for safe sleep that should be followed.
Make Sure The Baby Won’t Fall Off The Bed
When co-sleeping you need to make sure that the baby is not at risk of falling off the side of the bed or getting stuck between the bed and another surface such as the wall or another mattress.
When all of the safe sleeping guidelines are followed along with the safe co-sleeping advice given by professional bodies such as The Lullaby Trust, co-sleeping is no more dangerous than having your baby in a cot. Whatsmore it comes with its own set of amazing benefits! Co-sleeping isn’t right for everyone and not all mums and dads feel comfortable doing it for a variety of reasons, but for many, it is a godsend!
Whatever you do, if you are worried that you’re going to fall asleep with your baby make sure that you have first created a safe environment for them to avoid any accidents and keep everyone safe and happy.
For more information on how to co-sleep safely, plus everything you need to know about safe sleep for your baby visit The Lullaby Trust.