It’s bedtime, but where?
One of the biggest undertakings a pregnant couple engages in is “ the baby’s room.” Picking the perfect crib, décor and accessories is important to parents, and not just moms.
The baby’s room often causes a lot of stress in the last month of pregnancy. Mom declares, “I can’t have the baby yet, his room isn’t ready!”
I remember thinking the same with my first child. With my second child, however, we didn’t even assemble the crib until she was five months old. My third child eventually had his assembled in our large bedroom several months after his birth.
As a breastfeeding mother, it didn’t take long for me to realize that my children didn’t need their own rooms or gigantic cribs to lay alone in.
At night, I would often lay down with them to nurse and we would almost always fall asleep together. Co-bedding is never something we intended outright, though we did plan to keep the baby in the room with us for the first several months.
But co-bedding is what we did, and what we still often do.
It’s the reason we bought a king size bed. It’s the reason I was able to function while nightnursing my second and pregnant with my third. It could also be the reason why our children are still alive.
Researchers have found that co-sleeping (sharing a bedroom, if not necessarily a bed) and co-bedding (sharing a bed, whether parents’ or child’s) reduce a child’s chance of dying from SIDS.
Children who co-sleep are more easily roused. Also, parents are more acutely aware of their child’s breathing and movement patterns. These are both protective against SIDS.
Co-sleeping helps establish breastfeeding, provides skin-to-skin bonding time, is something daddies can do to establish physical closeness with their child, and saves money that may have been spent on cribs, bassinettes, and heating a second bedroom.
So why is it frowned upon by medical professionals and others? Most nursing mothers I know have done it and most are not willing to admit to it. They are told not to co-sleep right from the moment their baby is born and they fall asleep with them in the hospital bed.
There are some risks of co-bedding. Despite being protected from SIDS, children who sleep in their parents’ bed are at a higher risk of suffocation than children who sleep in a crib. However, there are many ways parents can limit this risk. Never co-bed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Don’t co-bed on a soft mattress or waterbed. Keep blankets and pillows away from the baby. Never, ever sleep on a sofa or unsafe bed with a child.
The idea that a parent might “roll over” on their baby is common. However, it’s not a common occurrence. If you sleep so deeply that you fall out of bed or can lie on your spouse’s arm and not realize it, than co-bedding is not for you.
Even for parents who can’t share a bed with their child, they can still share a room. Our daughter slept in our room first with us, occasionally in a bassinette and finally in a crib until she was almost two. Our son stayed with us until he was sleeping through the night.
Our youngest is now two and hardly ever comes into bed with us. Our eldest still ends up in our bed about once a week — usually when he has wet his own. Our four-year-old is in there almost every night.
They all start in their own beds, but if they wake in the night it is often easier to just bring them into bed with us, or lie down with them than it would be to convince them to go back to sleep on their own.
Some believe that sharing a bed or sleeping with your child limits their independence or makes it impossible for them to sleep on their own. Our family is proof that such statements are not based in reality. We have three very different children with three very different personalities and sleep habits. On the subject of cosleeping they were all treated the same.
Our daughter requires the most nighttime coddling, but she also requires the most daytime coddling. She has been like that since the day she was born. Our youngest, who sleeps through the night in his own bed now, has always been the more independent of our children. And our eldest, who once slept with us regularly, is now reaching the age where he both wants us and wants independence — thus his occasional requests to sleep with us, but his more often calls of “good night” as he cuddles into his own blankets on his own bed.
Some studies show that co-sleeping children suffer from sleep-disorders, but these studies have neglected to differentiate between customary co-sleeping and the co-sleeping that arises from parents trying to cope with child sleep disorders. They don’t prove that the co-sleeping caused the sleep disorders, just that there is a correlation between the two. It could very well be the opposite, that sleep disorders cause parents to consider co-sleeping as a coping technique.
To say that this one aspect of parenting could “ruin” your child is as ridiculous as saying that substituting lemon for vanilla will ruin a cake. It’s not a single ingredient or practice, but the sum total that makes the child, or the cake.
We’ve all heard the stories of the 11-year-old that still sleeps with her parents, but I’ve never met anyone like that. Trudy, a mom of two in St. John’s, approached sleeping and beds much the same as us. Her children went to sleep in their own beds and had strict bedtimes from infancy on. As babies, she would bring them into her bed to nurse and fall asleep with them. As they got older, they would sometimes come into bed with their parents to sleep. As she reports, “ both eventually outgrew it quite naturally at about age nine.”
Co-sleeping with infants can help prevent SIDS, aid in establishing breastfeeding and maintaining milk supply, provide physical bonding time, and help tired parents cope with night-wakings. Co-sleeping with older children has been shown to improve independence and social skills as well as improve quality of sleep. Better sleep in older children has been shown to improve school performance, health and immunity and to decrease the risk of obesity.
Yes, like anything, there are circumstances under which co-sleeping can be dangerous, but for the majority of parents it offers a real alternative to ferberizing — or sleep training — your child. So, to pregnant parents out there concerned about whether the crib will be put together in time, relax, enjoy your final moments of pregnancy. You might not need that crib for some time yet.