I had a lot of issues with this idea at the start mainly because hubby and I are rather violent sleepers. We swing wildly in our sleep and have been known to punch, slap and kick each other on occasion. I feared that if our son slept in the same bed, he might end up the victim of such nocturnal flailing of limbs.
What changed my mind?
In the first month, Gavin would be up all hours of the night. He would only fall asleep in arms or on the breast. Sometimes when we tried to put him down in his cot after he had fallen asleep, he would instantly wake up almost as if the touch of the mattress against his back was like lying on needles. Even if we did manage to get him into the cot, he would be awake again shortly after.
Despite my violent protests against having one, I did eventually agree to having a confinement lady. She slept in the same room as baby and me, while hubby got relegated to the spare bedroom. Whenever Gavin woke up, she would either bring him to me to nurse or carry him to soothe him while I rested.
I guess she must have gotten tired of having to constantly wake up to pick him up from the cot because I woke up one night to find that she had tucked him in beside her and the two of them were sleeping happily side by side on the floor. There was no denying the fact that Gavin slept better with company than alone by himself in a cot even if we were also in the same room.
It was then that I figured if Gavin was going to sleep beside someone, that someone might as well be me. After all, I was sleeping alone on a king size bed pushed against the wall while the confinement lady slept on a mattress on the floor. Surely with all the space that I had on that bed, there would be room for Mummy and a little baby who hardly even moved in his sleep?
The other thing that I noticed which bothered me a lot was that the more the confinement lady handled Gavin, the more he seemed to prefer her company to mine – even though I was Mum and I had the milk! So rather than let him build a bond with a woman would be gone after a month, I figured I had better handle him whenever possible.
How Does Co-Sleeping Build a Bond?
After all, if you’re asleep, you’re asleep, right? Well, not if you’re a baby. Being close to someone obviously seems to make a difference to Gavin because he did sleep longer by my side than he did when he was relegated to the cot. In fact, one night he slept all the way through the night (this was in his first month, by the way) and I woke up in the morning with rocks in my breasts because they were so full of milk.
This is my own interpretation of it, but it stands to reason that if Gavin was able to sleep longer, it meant he felt more secure, and if he felt more secure with my presence, we were clearing building a bond.
As for my concerns about accidentally hurting him while I was asleep, they seemed to have been unfounded because I was intensely aware of Gavin’s presence even while I was asleep. When he twitched, I would wake up.
After I started co-sleeping with Gavin, I also noticed that he was more appreciative of my company even though my confinement lady was still handling him constantly during the waking hours. I also noticed that when I fell asleep, Gavin did, too. How do I know if I was asleep? Because he would have woken me up by fussing or crying for my attention. And also because I would open my eyes shortly after nodding off to find him asleep.
What About the Risk of SIDS?
This was one of the concerns I had read about while I was pregnant. There was a lot of advice against co-sleeping because it was believed to increase the risk of SIDS. However, it is interesting to note this graph from the International Child Care Practices Study: infant sleeping environment that showed a negative correlation between SIDS and co-sleeping. Countries with the highest practice of co-sleeping had the lowest incidence of SIDS.
There was also a whole assortment of studies conducted during 2005 on co-sleeping and SIDS which you may be interested to review to gain a better understanding of the relationship between SIDS and co-sleeping. Alternatively, you might prefer to take a look at the SIDS fact sheet for an easier read.
If you do decide to co-sleep, here are some tips on safe sleeping with your baby from Dr Sears:
- take precautions to avoid baby rolling out of bed
- sleep on a queen or king size bed; or use a co-sleeper attachment to the bed
- place baby to sleep on his/her back
- place baby next to mother rather than between mother and father because mothers are usually more aware of baby than father
Do not co-sleep if:
- you are taking drugs that impair your sensitivity to baby’s presence, e.g. alcohol, sedating medications
- you are extremely obsese
- you are exhausted from sleep deprivation
- you are on a soft/fluffy surface like a waterbed or couch
- you are the child’s baby-sitter
Other things to avoid when co-sleeping:
- don’t allow older siblings to sleep with a baby under nine months
- don’t fall asleep with baby on a couch
- do not sleep with baby on a free-floating, wavy waterbed or similar “sinky” surface in which baby could suffocate
- don’t overheat or overbundle baby
- don’t wear night clothes with string ties longer than eight inches, dangling jewelry
- avoid pungent hair sprays, deodorants, and perfumes