I get asked a lot by family and friends how my children sleep. Do they wake up during the night? How long do they sleep for? When do they go to bed and get up? My response for the last 3 years has been generally the same; 7.30pm-7am is on average the hours my eldest sleeps and he doesn’t get up during the night. Obviously that can vary depending on what occurrences are also going on in our lives. After the questioner has this information they ask what the hell I do to get that much sleep. My answer; I co-sleep or more specifically, bed-share.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I planned on putting him in a bassinet next to my bed and then transferring him into a cot when he was about 3 months old. Why? Because this is what my parents did for me and my siblings. I never even knew bed-sharing existed. I know, how clueless was I that I didn’t even know there were other places for babies to sleep. As I read various parenting books and talked to other Mums the idea of co-sleeping appealed a lot to me. I liked the idea that it helps form secure infant-parent attachment, lowers the risk of SIDS (more on this later) and that you don’t need to get out of bed to meet your babies physical needs such as nappy change, feeding and closeness. It seemed like the perfect win-win situation and one my husband was fully on board with because as I found out he co-slept with his Mum.
On the market there are products called “co-sleepers” which either go next to and level to your bed or in the middle of the bed. The idea is so that they provide a safe place for your baby to sleep next to or in your bed. I started off with one of the ones you put in your bed. I positioned it between my husband and I, and it wasn’t long before we realised that it had more room in the bed than we did. I used this co-sleeper for about 3 weeks before one sleep deprived night where my son just would not go to sleep. Every time I went to put him down in the co-sleeper – literally a centimetre from me – he would scream bloody murder until my husband or I picked him up again. In sheer desperation, I chucked the co-sleeper across the room, placed my son right next to me in bed, we both promptly fell asleep and had the best night sleep in the first 3 weeks of his life.
He is now 3.5 years old, we still co-sleep and have introduced a new little baby to the mix.
So how do we fit 4 in the bed? Our bedroom is basically one big bed. We have a queen and single bed pushed together. My eldest son sleeps in the single bed and myself, husband and baby sleep in the queen. Do I think my son is too old to sleep with us? Not really, it works for us. On the rare occasion he has a nightmare we are right there to let him know he is safe. We have asked him if he wants his own room, but he prefers to bed-share. Does this mean he will never want to sleep in his own bed, in his own room? Absolutely not.
Now to the research and technicalities. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that babies who sleep in their parents’ room have a reduced risk of them dying from SIDs as well as other types of sleep-related infant deaths such as suffocation. The researchers concluded that babies who sleep in their parents room for the first 6 months, preferably 1 year of their life, reduce their risk of SIDs by 50%. Why is this? It is suggested that the baby syncs their breathing and heart rate to their parents. If you notice a baby has uneven breathing, sometimes fast, sometimes they pause. If they are in the presence of their parent when they are asleep it reminds their body to breath.
Research also shows that children who co-sleep for at least the first year of their life grow up to be more independent and cooperative as they have met these needs for secure attachment early in their life.
When it comes to bed-sharing to ensure the safety of your baby never sleep with a baby if you have been drinking alcohol, have taken medication that induces drowsiness, are extremely obese or smoke. The safest place for a baby is in the middle of the bed or you can do what I do and put a bedrail on the side. One parent then forms a letter “C” around the baby by lying on your side facing the baby, placing your lower arm above the baby’s head (so the baby’s head is near your armpit) and then bending your knees up form the bottom. Your baby is now safely nestled in your C shaped body. You cannot roll onto you baby in this position. Your partner cannot roll onto you baby in this position without first rolling onto your arms and legs first.
What I love about co-sleeping, specifically bed-sharing
- Knowing my child is safe
- Getting a lot more sleep because I don’t need to get up during the night
- Breastfeeding while sleeping
- Waking up every morning to a beautiful face smiling at you – seriously this is the best start to my everyday
I know co-sleeping isn’t for every parent and that is completely fine. I absolutely love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. If you have been considering it why not give it a try and see how you go.
What are your techniques for a good night's sleep? Let me know in the comments below.