If anything is as controversial to new mothers as “breastfeeding in public” it’s the discussion (or is it an argument) about sleeping with your baby.
In many cultures, it’s a given that the baby or infant sleeps with his/her mother for at least a few months. The thinking is that this is better for both overall:
- It tends to synchronize mother and baby sleep cycles
- It encourages breastfeeding during the night because it’s more convenient
- Because of this convenience to nourishing milk, baby will fall back asleep faster during the night – and they end up getting more sleep overall
- Co-sleeping adds intimacy back into the relationship between the baby and his/her parents if they are gone much of the day
These all seem to be pretty convincing arguments for co-sleeping. But the major counter-argument is that it might be dangerous – and there are several situations where it is dangerous. This is from Pediatrics (The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics):
There Are Specific Circumstances in Which Bed-Sharing Is Particularly Hazardous, and It Should Be Stressed to Parents That They Avoid the Following Situations at All Times
The task force emphasizes that certain circumstances greatly increase the risk with bed-sharing. Bed-sharing is especially dangerous when 1 or both parents are smokers (OR: 2.3–17.7)64,65,158,166,167; when the infant is younger than 3 months (OR: 4.7–10.4), regardless of parental smoking status64,66,143,158,168,169; when the infant is placed on excessively soft surfaces such as waterbeds, sofas, and armchairs (OR: 5.1–66.9)62,64,65,143,169; when soft bedding accessories such as pillows or blankets are used (OR: 2.8–4.1)62,170; when there are multiple bed-sharers (OR: 5.4)62; and when the parent has consumed alcohol (OR: 1.66).66,171 There is also a higher risk of SIDS when the infant is bed-sharing with someone who is not a parent (OR: 5.4).62
The net-net of this 2011 article (which should be required reading for all new mothers) is that, while having the infant share a room with you is fine, they shouldn’t share the bed. There’s too much risk of:
- Getting tangled up and suffocating on sheets, pillows, comforters, or blankets
- Being accidentally ”rolled on” while you’re asleep and unaware
Babies do die every year from this, and it would be a tragedy to let a little convenience trump infant safety.
Any opinions on this? I’d love to hear them!