Co-Sleeping is Safe, For Kids and Kitten

by Dagmar Bleasdale on June 7, 2011

How adorable is this cat mama co-sleeping and hugging her sleeping kitten!

I have co-slept with L for most of his life and am a hug fan of co-sleeping. L had a beautiful crib, but he hardly ever slept in it because it didn’t make sense to have him crying in his crib across the room or even in another room when he was so peacefully sleeping right next to me.

Happy baby equaled a very happy mama. I could attend to his needs at a moment’s notice, and I didn’t have to get up to get him or to make a bottle, since I was breastfeeding him.

I have written about co-sleeping before — Yes, We Co-Sleep. There, the Secret is Out. — and about how it is way more prevalent among families with small kids than most people realize.

I actually shouldn’t call what I’m doing co-sleeping — it’s bed sharing. Bed sharing happens when the child is in bed with mom and/or dad, and co-sleeping when the child sleeps in the same room with mom and dad. L now sleeps through the night in his own room, but he sometimes still come into our bed, which we love. I still bed-share with him sometimes when I fall asleep in his bed when I’m getting him to sleep.

It is so unfortunate that many public health organizations deem bed sharing and co-sleeping unsafe. I just recently saw a poster in my son’s preschool that said: “Babies are safest when they sleep alone.” That’s not true, and I’d love to know why money is being wasted to print those posters and on campaign that discourage bed-sharing/co-sleeping. Are crib manufacturers funding those campaigns?

According to Attachment Parenting International,

“advances in research have demonstrated that the proximity of the infant to the parents during sleep is a protective factor against both SIDS and unexplained infant death, as well as valuable for bonding and sleep-time parenting.”

Bed-sharing and co-sleeping is practiced safely all over the world, so don’t tell me that it is unsafe. The fact is that most bed sharing accidents that end up in the news involve a parent or caretaker under the influence of drugs, mostly alcohol. It should be common sense that you shouldn’t sleep next to a child when you are drunk.

In his article Sleeping Safely With Your Baby, Dr. Sear points out why bed-sharing and co-sleeping is safe:

“Until a legitimate survey is done to determine how many babies sleep with their parents, and this is factored into the rate of SIDS in a bed versus a crib, it is unwarranted to state that sleeping in a crib is safer than a bed.

If the incidence of SIDS is dramatically higher in crib versus a parent’s bed, and because the cases of accidental smothering and entrapment are only 1.5% of the total SIDS cases, then sleeping with a baby in your bed would be far safer than putting baby in a crib.

The answer is not to tell parents they shouldn’t sleep with their baby, but rather to educate them on how to sleep with their infants safely.”

A recent article about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome researcher Doctor James McKenna mentioned this:

Doctor James McKenna said that as long as co-sleeping is carried out in a responsible manner – not on a waterbed or couch and not by parents affected by drugs or alcohol – then babies up to 12 months old will reap the long-term benefits.

If parents are not able to sleep in the same bed as their baby then they should at least be in the same room, Dr McKenna said. “Co-sleeping is humankind’s oldest and most successful method of mother and baby sleeping,” he said.

“The push in the western world to get babies to sleep through the night on their own as young as possible is doing more harm than good.”

For more information and detailed guidelines on bed sharing and co-sleeping, I love PhD in Parenting’s extensive post Co-Sleeping Safety, and here are Ten Reasons to Sleep Next to Your Child at Night.

Do you practice bed sharing or co-sleeping? Were you surprised that you ended up bed sharing?

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Meg July 17, 2011 at 4:22 AM

It seems so normal and natural to me but then maybe because I’m out here in California! Everyone I know has done some version of co-sleeping or bed sharing and it just seems so obvious that keeping baby secure and happy is the priority, especially in those early months. It is also so soothing for a new mom to have baby nearby throughout the night. Children are more adaptable than we give them credit for, especially well-rested and secure children, so when it’s time to transition to a separate bed or room they can be helped into that next stage.
By the way I think it’s incredible how much your son age 4 looks like his baby photos! Just a smaller version of himself but definitely still that same little face.

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Mary Joan Koch June 29, 2011 at 2:16 PM

My daughters are grown, ages 38 to 29. I listened to the experts with my first daughter until I found her, at 2, asleep outside our closed door. We co-slept with the three others, and it makes things so much easier and more loving. I am delighted to see them co-sleeping with their own babies.

Most people I know who co-slept didn’t tell their pediatricians about it. That would certain skew any research on the subject.

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Jenn June 28, 2011 at 4:18 AM

Thanks so much for this post! I can’t imagine anything but bedsharing for my family.

I tried putting my baby in her own crib when she was just born and I ended up worried all night. I like to feel her belly rise and fall.

I know it’s not for everyone, but really wish critics would read some of McKenna’s work before discouraging parents from doing what I believe to be one of the sweetest parts of parenting.

Why would we stop parenting because the lights are out?

Anyways, thanks again for a great post.

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Dagmar June 28, 2011 at 4:25 AM

I love this: “Why would we stop parenting because the lights are out?” Thanks!

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