After 9 months of pregnancy, feeling each other’s presence and being so close, it can be difficult to part with your infant once you give birth. I found that co-sleeping was beneficial for my baby and I for the first few months of life. It made me feel happier, less anxious and more comfortable. I could cuddle my baby, hear him breathe and provide breast milk with ease – as he was lying within inches of me.
Research shows co-sleeping/bed sharing can benefit breastfeeding and provide the mother with more sleep than she otherwise might obtain. However, there is also a strong body of evidence that supports the fact that co-sleeping puts your baby at a much higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Therefore the general recommendation from health care professionals is not to co-sleep. I felt a sense of shame and guilt when I was discovered with the baby sleeping next to me in the hospital a few days after he was born. When I decided co-sleeping was the way to go for us, I disclosed that we co-slept to the midwife at a routine health check a few weeks later. She proceeded to tell me, that if co-sleeping was what we wanted to do, there were measures we could put in place to make it safer and reduce risk of SIDS.
The following are recommendations for safer co-sleeping:
– The person/people sharing the bed with the infant should not drink, smoke or take drugs.
– Never sleep on a couch/sofa or waterbed.
– It is important the sleeping surface is firm, flat and not soft and lumpy with covers and padding (overheating, smothering and suffocation risk).
– The bed needs to be clear of covers/duvet so the baby does not become smothered. Keep bedding minimal (overheating, smothering and suffocation risk).
– The bed should not be against a wall or somewhere where a baby can wedge themselves and suffocate (no gaps).
– The baby should only sleep next to one person – not between two people (by doing this it halves the risk on someone rolling over and smothering them).
– Don’t wrap your infant (overheating risk).
– Don’t give your infant a pillow to sleep on (suffocation risk).
After sleeping with our infant for three and a half months – we decided to put him in his own cot – as he was moving a lot during the night, taking up too much space and pushing my husband and I right to the edge of our bed. If I were to have another child, I would co-sleep again – but I would place a cot next to our bed and remove the rails on one side, abutting this to our bed. There are also specifically made co-sleeping cots which provide for this option. The research I have done suggests this is much safer, yet it still provides the closeness which co-sleeping provides.