Sharing Sleep with Your Baby

co sleeping

It might surprise you to know that putting your baby in a crib is a cultural idea. Families all over the world consider the best place for an infant to sleep, to be in the parents‘ bed. Co-sleeping with your infant does encourage breast feeding and it may buy you at least a few more hours of sleep. That can be a precious commodity in those early days. Many moms and dads report that they sleep more soundly with their babies in their bed through the night.

Furthermore, sleep sharing is more common than you might think. An informal survey done by Dr. Sears revealed that many, many parents practice sleep sharing with their infants. But they don’t tell their pediatricians or their in-laws! Consider some of the benefits of sleep sharing:

Babies breathe better
Babies who sleep with their parents breathe better while sleeping. Early research indicates that infants breathe irregularly in their sleep. Babies who sleep alone, however, experience more erratic sleep than do babies who are sleeping with their mothers. Some studies indicate that erratic breathing patterns are reduced by as much as 95% by putting the baby with mother during sleep.

One theory is that the mother acts as a sort of “pace maker” to help regulate an infant’s breathing. If you have an infant, try placing him/ her on your chest or next to your face as you breathe. You will notice that the infant will start to breath in synch with you. It is thought that the mother in effect, “reminds” the baby to breathe.

Mom sleeps better
In research studies, sleep-sharing pairs tended to arouse at the same time. Mothers and babies would frequently arouse together, without either fully awakening. It seems that the baby senses mother’s presence and is frequently able to settle back into a sleep.

Also, many moms are able to breast feed an infant without really waking up. Also many infants are soothed simply by sensing mom’s presence. Mom is able to touch the infant during sleep which results in less crying and night waking and more rest for everyone!

Co-sleeping Can Reduce the risk of SIDS

There are several mechanisms that contribute to this. The first is that by co-sleeping, infants generally sleep on their back and side which in itself lowers the risks of SIDS. It is also thought that parents who allow their babies to sleep in their beds with them are in tune with their babies. Many parents who practice sleep sharing have witnessed episodes where an infant has stopped breathing and they are able to arouse their baby. . .because they were right there.

Sleep sharing is not for everyone. Although my husband and I have found that we get the most sleep by sleeping with our infants in our bed or near our bed, I firmly believe every family should figure out the arrangement that allows the most family members to get the most sleep!

Image by kids-center.org