The concept of having a “family bed” is met with questions and controversy. To many people, though, this is a way of life and something that isn’t strange at all. In fact, bed sharing is considered the norm in most countries outside of the US (according to research done by Dr. Sears)! If this is something practice world round, then why is it so speculated about here? And what exactly is co-sleeping or bed sharing, anyway?
Bed sharing and co-sleeping are terms often used interchangeably, but incorrectly.
- Bed sharing is the act of a child and parent sharing the same bed.
- Co-sleeping is the act of a child and parent sleeping in the same room and within close proximity, but not necessarily in the same bed.
Many people have been negatively influenced about bed sharing by the government’s media campaign toting the slogan “babies sleep safest alone.” Their website, http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/babiessleepsafestalone, states:
Guess what? That’s true! It’s also true that a baby can be seriously injured or hurt if left to sleep in a crib alone, though. You see, sleeping arrangements are only safe if done correctly. Bed sharing is actually the safest option for your baby if done correctly, according to research done by many people, the most popular being Dr. James McKenna.
In case you want to know the guidelines for bed sharing before you find out all of the benefits, here they are:
- Infant must be breastfed.
- Parents should be the only people in the bed with the infant (no siblings).
- Mattresses should be stiff, have no spaces or gaps between it and a head/foot board, and should not be placed close enough to a wall as to provide a gap that the baby could get wedged in to.
- No one in the bed should be overly exhausted, on any medications that induce sleep, or have any alcohol or drugs in his or her system that would be desensitizing.
- Can only be done in an actual bed–not on a couch, seat, or waterbed.
- Parents cannot be smokers or obese.
- Infant should be placed on his or her back with light covers (no bulkiness) and without a pillow.
In my family’s experience, we were against bed sharing before Amara was born. We were fixated on the possibility of overlaying her and then adding to the statistics of bed sharing deaths. Little did we know what we do now! Our first night, we realized that we all slept better when the baby was in bed with us instead of next to us in her bassinet. We began to cautiously follow our mommy-daddy intuition and continue this practice. A week later, a county worker in a childhood development program began telling us of the benefits of sharing a bed! We were surprised to find out the health benefits (including a lower rate of SIDS and anxiety), sleep benefits, and the developmental benefits after doing some research. Six months later, we continue to happily and safely share a bed with our daughter. While I don’t anticipate us continuing this into her toddler years, it is definitely the best choice for us right now and we’re happy we followed our hearts.
Have you ever practiced co-sleeping? How, and for how long?
Read Part Two of this post here: