As with all aspects of parenting, determining where your baby sleeps is a decision that only you are fully qualified to make. The arrangement that works best for your family may not be what your friends or extended family practice, but that doesn’t make either sleeping arrangement better or worse. If a co-sleeping arrangement is something your family is considering, these are some of the benefits you can hope to reap:
1. Your baby will sleep better. The happy, healthy ritual of falling asleep at the breast of a mother or in the arms of a father makes bed time a pleasant experience for your baby, and eliminates the discomfort that some babies experience when spending the night away from you.
2. You will sleep better. The physical bond between a mother and her baby continues on after childbirth, and helps mothers and babies to sync their sleep cycles. When the baby in a co-sleeping arrangement begins to stir, the mother can easily reach out to calm her child without needing to get out of bed, and this instinctive behavior often occurs without wakening at all.
3. Breastfeeding is easier. For breastfeeding mothers who also co-sleep, the benefits of synced sleep cycles help to make breastfeeding easier too. A relaxed or sleeping mother often has an easier time producing milk, meaning she can feed her baby with more ease than a mother who needs to fully waken and leave bed in order to feed a fussing baby in another room.
4. It’s a modern necessity. For mothers who are separated from their baby during the day, co-sleeping offers a powerful way to establish physical reconnection with their child. Touch time during sleep is just as valuable as at other times during the day, and becomes many mothers’ only opportunity to spend a stretch of several hours close to her baby.
5. Babies thrive. A common observation in the study of co-sleeping families is that the babies thrive physically and emotionally, likely in response to the combination of extra touch, bonding, and feedings that co-sleeping babies receive.
6. Improved connection between parent and child. Going hand-in-hand with thriving physically and emotionally, the close contact between parents and children in a co-sleeping arrangement facilitates connection in the form of trust and bonding that can last long after a co-sleeping arrangement comes to an end.
7. The risk of SIDS is reduced. Some new research indicates that infants who sleep next to parents are at a lower risk for SIDS. The occurrence of this tragedy is rare enough (about 0.5 to 1 case per 1,000 infants) that this shouldn’t be the only reason you choose to sleep with your baby. Other factors, like how easily a baby is roused from sleep or a mother’s awareness of her child during sleep, can also reduce the risk of SIDS.
While co-sleeping comes with many benefits, it isn’t right for every family. Choosing different sleeping arrangements whether out of necessity or because you just aren’t interested in co-sleeping does not make you a bad parent. Alternate sleeping set-ups with similar benefits include arms reach sleepers or a sidecar arrangement with a crib that will keep your baby close by while still allowing for some separate space. Remember that whichever arrangement provides a good night’s sleep for both parents and baby is an arrangement you should feel good about!