While western culture discourages it, studies have shown that co-sleeping with a breastfeeding infant promotes bonding, regulates the mother and baby’s sleep patterns, plays a role in helping the mother to become more responsive to her baby’s cues, and gives both the mother and baby needed rest. The co-sleeping environment also assists mothers in the continuation of breastfeeding on demand, an important step in maintaining the mother’s milk supply.
There are many ways of co-sleeping. Some parents keep their babies in bed with them all the time. Other parents set up the cot or bassinet in their room; their babies are brought to the mother’s bed when they wake. Others sleep with their babies on a mattress in the baby’s room.
This is a personal decision for every parent. If you decide to co-sleep with your baby, there are some guidelines for doing it effectively and safely.
- Parents should not sleep with their babies if they are smokers or have ingested alcohol or drugs. Do not co-sleep if you drink alcohol or medications that make you sleepy, take drugs, or smoke.
- Co-sleep only on beds, not on couches or recliners. Bedding should be tight fitting to the mattress and the mattress should be tight fitting to the headboard of the bed.
- There should not be any loose pillows or soft blankets near the baby’s face. There should not be any space between the bed and adjoining wall where the baby could roll and become trapped.
- The baby should not be placed on its stomach.
- If you have long hair, tie it back while you co-sleep.
There are as many options as there are parents and babies. As babies grow and changes their sleep patterns, families often respond by changing sleeping spaces. The only right choice is what works to give the whole family as much rest as possible.