Why is co-sleeping beneficial?
In Part One of my co-sleeping series we looked at what co-sleeping is and isn’t, the differences between co-sleeping and bed sharing, and more. In Part Two, I’ve pulled together 10 reasons you should at least consider co-sleeping with a newborn, even if full-on bed sharing isn’t for you. Research shows infants who at least sleep in the same room as their primary caregiver do better – like 50% reduction in SIDS risk better. But what other benefits are there and why?
Here are 10 reasons why you should consider co-sleeping with a newborn (and beyond).
Supports neurological and intellectual development –
Several of an infant’s body systems are underdeveloped at birth and sleeping within close range of caregivers, close enough for them to quickly respond to an infant’s needs, supports their neurological and intellectual development.
Helps with temperature regulation –
At birth, an infant does not have the ability to shiver to help regulate body temperature. Sleeping near mother provides support with temperature regulation.
Improves respiratory regulation –
Since a newborn’s respiratory system is underdeveloped, sleeping next to a mother can help compensate. Often a newborn will stop breathing for an extended period of time and by sleeping close enough to his/her caregiver, the exhalation of carbon dioxide leads the infant to take a breath. Dr. McKenna has recorded an improved respiratory regulation in bed sharing infants.
There are so many co-sleeping benefits to a breastfeeding relationship it requires its own post. In short, keeping baby close through the night improves breast milk production, increases the amount of milk an infant consumes, makes it easier for a mother to nurse through the night (resulting in more sleep for her), and delays ovluation. In October 2015, Dr. McKenna and his colleagues published a series of papers on a new term, breastsleeping, saying that co-sleeping is imperative for a successful breastfeeding relationship. For more on the breastfeeding benefits of co-sleeping, check out part 3 of this series.
Decreases chances of SIDS –
According to Dr. Sears, here’s how it helps – “Worldwide research shows that the SIDS rate is lowest (and even unheard of) in countries where co-sleeping is the norm, rather than the exception (See SIDS: The Latest Research on How Sleeping With Your Baby is Safe). Babies who sleep either in or next to their parents’ bed have a fourfold decrease in the chance of SIDS . Co-sleeping babies actually spend more time sleeping on their back or side 1 which decreases the risk of SIDS. Further research shows that the carbon dioxide exhaled by a parent actually works to stimulate baby’s breathing.” It’s important to note that while some agencies still recommend against bed sharing, they all recommend co-sleeping as a tool to lower SIDS rates.
More sleep for mom and baby –
Since baby is close, a mother can respond to his/her cries quickly, before they escalate, and can quickly nurse baby and return to bed. This is especially the case for families bed sharing or using a sidecar where mom can lay down next to baby and return to sleep. And sometimes I would just fall asleep with V and get a few extra hours of sleep in, hours I would normally spend doing chores or watching TV. Read more about why sleeping through the night is not necessarily in everyone’s best interest.
Stay in your bed all night –
When you are co-sleeping or bed sharing, your journey to calm baby is either to roll over and pull baby to you or to walk a few steps across your room to baby’s crib – either is much less than going to the next room or down the hall to baby’s nursery. Quicker to baby means they won’t rouse as much and get as upset so they are easier to get back to sleep and quicker for you to get back to bed. Admittedly it was nearly impossible for me to sneak out from under V for the first year of her life. The few times I did manage it she would wake within 20 minutes of my leaving. I think this tends to be common for young infants as they sleep lighter in order to rouse if their underdeveloped respiratory systems start to have issues. I started getting e-books from our library and we moved a TV into the bedroom. I know you aren’t supposed to have screen time that close to bedtime but I just couldn’t handle just lying in bed for several hours every night before falling asleep myself.
Early Independence –
It seems one of the biggest questions parents have when considering co-sleeping or bed sharing is if their child will ever get out of their bed and want his/her own independent space. Research shows not only does this happen but that children who routinely bed share have less anxiety and feel more confident to solve problems on their own. Personally, I can certainly understand this fear but I think it is born from an incorrect understanding of what “independence” looks like in a child. I like this quote from Dr. McKenna: “Some people confuse an infant’s willingness to sooth itself back to sleep as a sign of ‘independence’, autonomy and/or a life long sense of confidence. But life long self sufficiency and/or confidence (and, trust, for that matter) has absolutely nothing to do with the age at which an infant puts its self back to sleep without its parent or loved one, i.e. to ‘self soothe’.”
Higher levels of self-confidence –
Several studies have shown correlation between children who co-slept and their levels of self-confidence in their teens and into adulthood. (see #15 in the link)
More snuggles and bonding time –
This was a huge benefit in our experience with bed sharing with V. I went back to work at 10wks PP and she was ready for bed within an hour or two of my returning home. I struggled a ton with missing so much of her day but having all night long to snuggle, touch and smell each other, reconnect and bond was a God-send. Even if I felt like my sleep was suffering, I think I would still have wanted to continue bed sharing for this alone.
What benefits have you found to co-sleeping or bed sharing? Or what concerns have kept you from giving it a try?