Today I want to share with you more about why we co-sleep with baby. Babies spend more time sleeping than awake, especially in the early months of their lives. As parents, it is no surprise that making good decisions about our baby’s sleep practices is a top priority. However, there are so many different sleep options that sometimes the information overload can feel paralyzing. I hope that sharing the sleep choices we have made with Bibi will help you as you decide what sleeping arrangements are best for your family.
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Co-Sleep vs. Bed Share
When people hear the word “co-sleep” many think of it only as bed-sharing. However, co-sleeping is the umbrella term under which bed-sharing lies.
Co-sleeping means sleeping in close proximity to your baby or child. It can include bed-sharing where baby sleeps in the bed with parent(s) also known as a “family bed,” but it also includes the type of sleep practice we have chosen with Bibi.
Our co-sleeping arrangement means that our baby is right next to our bed in her own crib. Co-sleeping possibilities include:
- Bed-Sharing/Family Bed Baby sleeps in the bed with parents. The use of a baby nest or other in bed co-sleeper ensures that the baby is in their own space within the bed.
- Co-sleeper or Sidecar Bed By using a commercially available co-sleeper bed like this one, baby isn’t sleeping directly in parents bed but is within arms reach.
- Crib or Bassinet in parents room baby is next to parents’ bed but in their own sleeping space. (This is our arrangement with Bibi).
- Welcome to the bed Baby sleeps in their own bed/own room but are welcome to his/her parents’ bed as needed.
The resources I used and referenced in all my baby sleep posts are:
• The Happy Sleeper Book – Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Newborn to School Age
• Taking Cara Baby Paid Sleep Program
• Bringing Up Bebe Book: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting
• One-on-one meetings with lactation consultants at BC Women’s Hospital
• 7-week Pre-natal Class at the Childbearing Society
• Local La Leche Meetings in Vancouver
• Today’s Parent: Cry-it-out sleep training will not harm your baby
• Baby Sleep Site: The Ferber Method Explained
• Today’s Parent: Giving your baby morning breastmilk at bedtime might be ruining his sleep
• Taking Cara Babies: 5-25 Months Sleep Schedule
• Baby’s Breath Canada: What is SIDS
• CDC.GOV: Learn what parents and caregivers can do to help babies sleep safely
• American Academy of Pediatrics Journal: SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths
• It’s all in the timing: kids’ bedtimes
• Top Culprits for Early Morning Wakings
SIDS Risk During First Year
Our decision to have Bibi co-sleep was influenced by recommendations to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) during her first year by creating a safe sleeping environment.
SIDS is “the sudden, unexpected death of a baby younger than 1 year of age that doesn’t have a known cause even after a complete investigation.” (CDC)
It is estimated that three babies die of SIDS every week in Canada. In the United States the number of babies that pass away each year from SIDS is around 3500. (CDC)
Babies are at the highest risk of SIDS between 2-4 months of age, although older and younger babies can still pass away from SIDS. It is rare in babies under one month and also rare in babies over one year. (Babysbreathcanada)
Although the overall percentages are not very high, these statistics made us vigilant about doing everything within our power to lower the risk of anything happening to Bibi.
We felt better knowing she was right next to us and we could attend to her.
Mirroring & Sleep Training
Co-sleeping also has distinct benefits for sleep training.
Baby learns through mirroring. Co-sleeping allows Bibi to see her dad and me sleeping and triggers her instinct to copy us. There were many nights when she would wake up and see us still sleeping and she’d want to get our attention to wake up. We would pretend to be asleep until she would lie back down and eventually learned that night time is for sleep.
Co-sleeping is beneficial for sleep training for both parents and baby. As we try to teach our children to self-soothe and return to sleep on their own, the natural comfort they will receive from hearing parents in the room will decrease their anxiety.
Many aspects of sleep training, including sleep regression, are physically demanding for parents. The closer proximity of baby when you co-sleep make the middle-of-the-night sleep training a little less tiring.
How We Do It
Bibi’s crib is right next to our bed and we lay her down awake in her crib at her bedtime and do all the other things as per the sleep training practices we’ve adopted when we first sleep trained her to sleep through the night at 3 months. We turn the sound machine on so that she won’t be easily disturbed in the middle of the night when we come in to the bedroom. In the morning after about 10-11 hours, she will call us to wake up. When she was under 11 months old, she even played by herself until we went to get her. But once she started walking, she wanted to be lifted out of her crib to start her day as soon as she was awake.
Creating Safe Space for Baby
Along with our decision to have Bibi co-sleep in our bedroom, we also followed recommendations from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics to create a safe sleeping environment and reduce the chance of SIDS. These recommendations include:
- Have baby’s sleep area located in your room for a minimum of six months, with one year being ideal. This alone can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%. (AAP)
- Always place your baby to sleep on his or her back (for both naps and nighttime sleep)
- Use a firm, flat surface (like a safety-approved crib mattress)
- Eliminate soft bedding, including pillows, bumpers and soft toys
- Keep baby’s head uncovered
- Ensure that baby isn’t getting overheated. Baby is safest in a fitted, one-piece sleepwear that is comfortable for the room’s temperature
- Put baby to sleep with a pacifier
- Regular doctor check-ups for baby
- Do not smoke or allow others to smoke near baby
Influence of Attachment Parenting
Besides lowering the risks of SIDS and increasing the positive effects on sleep training, I was also drawn to the ongoing situation of co-sleeping with baby past one years old due to my own interpretation of the attachment parenting philosophy. In particular, this passage by Dr. Gordon Nuefeld from the book, Hold Onto Your Kids, really spoke to me:
“The key to activating maturation is to take care of the attachment needs of the child. To foster independence, we must first invite dependence; to help the child separate we must assume the responsibility for keep the child close….We help a child face the separation involved in going to sleep… by satisfying his need for closeness…. dependence and attachment foster independence and genuine separation. Children need to have their attachment needs satiated; only then can a shift of energy occur toward individuation.”Neufeld, Gordon. Hold Onto Your Kids. Toronto: Random House of Canada, 2004. Print
Bibi always seemed genuinely comforted when she woke in the middle of the night to find mom and dad were right next to her. After getting married, I cannot imagine sleeping in a separate room from my husband. The closeness and connection we get while sleeping together in one place makes me wonder why I would ask my baby to sleep by herself. I personally think that babies with secure attachments to their parents/caretakers gain more confidence in themselves and this paves the way for a naturally developed form of independence.
As of yet, I am not sure when we plan to move her into her own bedroom. For now, I am content letting one year old Bibi sleep with us in the same room granted she doesn’t have any negative sleep associations like not being able to fall asleep on her own or self-soothe back to sleep when aroused. I love hearing her flip flop around at night and waking up to her calling me “mama” while standing in an upright position, waiting for me to pick her up.
More Sleep for Everyone
One of the biggest benefits of co-sleeping for our family is more sleep for everyone. Baby gets more sleep because he/she feels secure, can mirror mom and dad’s sleeping habits, and can more easily be sleep trained. Mom gets more sleep knowing baby is safe, has a decreased risk of SIDS, and can be attended to quickly. A happy well-rested mom is very important.
As you navigate through decisions about sleep for your baby, please recognize that different families thrive in different ways. What may work for us might not work for you. By following your instincts and safety recommendations you can find a sleep practice that will keep your baby and family, happy and healthy.
Wishing your family happy and healthy sleep.