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The Family Bed: The Benefits of Bed Sharing

Co-sleeping-with-your-baby

By Dinah Torres Castro

Having your children sleep in your bed is usually frowned upon. If the subject ever comes up, there’s always someone who shakes their head sadly and whispers, “She should know better….” Actually, Americans are in the minority who think this way, while the rest of the world believes in co-sleeping or bed sharing. Throughout history, families have kept their young in their beds or at least in close proximity when they slept. In fact, many traditional cultures in Asia, Africa, Europe, Central and South America still practice this. In the U.S. we consider it very controversial. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend that infants sleep in the same bed as their parents, citing it as a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In contrast, Dr. James McKenna from University of Notre Dame has conducted and reviewed extensive studies, and he found that most of the cases studied where co-sleeping was blamed for infant deaths involved circumstances such as intoxicated or overly obese parents. He concluded that bed sharing under the appropriate conditions actually decreases the likelihood of SIDS. Bed sharing can also be protective when connected to breastfeeding. Breast feeding mothers often choose to bed share precisely because they get more sleep, manage their milk supply better, and attach more intensely with their babies. He goes on to say that when done safely, bed sharing makes mothers, fathers, and babies happy and has positive effects on growing children. Safe Co-sleeping Guidelines: http://cosleeping.nd.edu/safe-co-sleeping-guidelines/

The benefits of bed sharing:

  • Promotes bonding—Three things encourage mother-child bonding: sleeping nearby, touching the baby, and breastfeeding
  • Helps baby go to sleep easier—In the early months, infants need to be parented to sleep (not just put down which can be traumatic if left alone to cry). Co-sleeping helps to create a healthy attitude toward sleep. Babies learn to regard sleep as a pleasant state to enter, and a fearless state in which to remain.
  • Helps babies sleep better—It’s a myth that young infants can be trained to sleep through the night in the first six months. Babies naturally wake up every couple of hours, regardless of where they sleep. Many find it hard to resettle after these periods of night waking. If a baby is sleeping next to his mother, her very presence conveys that it’s safe to go back to sleep. Since the baby feels calm, he either doesn’t fully awaken, or resettles easily and quickly with the help of her touch and perhaps a few minutes of nursing.
  • Helps parents sleep better—Night feedings become less of a chore (of course breastfeeding is ideal), and mom and baby can quickly fall back into a deep sleep.
  • Helps working parents reconnect with baby—For mothers and babies who are separated during the day, sleep sharing allows them to be reunited at night. This is especially beneficial for moms who continue to breastfeed after they return to work. Frequent nighttime nursing will maintain mom’s milk supply, and ensure that baby gets plenty of nutritious breast milk. In addition, the act of sucking stimulates hormones that have a relaxing effect on the mother, helping her to unwind, and enabling her to get a better night’s sleep.
  • Helps babies thrive—For years we have known that a newborn who is not gaining weight fast enough improves if his mother takes him to bed and nurses him. Today we have scientific studies that confirm this: good and healthy things happen when babies sleep with their parents.

Check out the links below and decide if bed sharing works for your family:

AAP Guidelines for infant sleep safety and SIDS reduction:

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/aap-expands-guidelines-for-infant-sleep-safety-and-sids-risk-reduction.aspx

Ten Reasons to Sleep Next to Your Child:

http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/familybed.html

Dinah Castro is a Bilingual Family Well-Being Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 351 or at dc258@cornell.edu.

Comments

One Response to “ The Family Bed: The Benefits of Bed Sharing ”

  • Kelly c

    I bed shared with my oldest until he was 4/5, he’ll be 10 in september. I helped transition into his own bed, then own room after that point and he’s grown into the sweetest, calm, well natured, giving child and we have such an amazing mother-son bond. He’s always known I’m there for him no matter what and tells me everything, makes straight As in school, and just an amazing kid… I began transitioning when I felt he was showing me small signs he was ready.

    He now has a little sister who just turned a year and we bed share with her to except she’s independent enough to nap on her own with no help or force, or crying! She’ll be in the bed with us as long as it takes that she’s ready to move to her own bed (in our room) then into her ‘big girl’ room.
    I’m also a mom who allows blankets and bottles in the bed early on for BOTH of my kids and it’s really the best decision for us. I know all these topics are controversial but they are only little once, there’s no one out there still sleeping with mom at 30, or drinking a bottle at work lol! Everything doesn’t have to be by the book, just use common sense with it all and your baby and family will be happier and best of all everyone will be able drift back off into a deep sleep easier and faster.

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