A few weeks ago I was devastated to hear that there had been another death related to cosleeping. A mother accidentally suffocated her three week old twin boys while bedsharing. My heart breaks for this mom as well as any other mother who has suffered through this. Sadly, the majority of these deaths are preventable—and you don’t have to rule out cosleeping.
I have coslept with both of my children—my oldest (who is now two) and my nearly three month old son have both shared my bed. My oldest child actually still spends part of the night with us (although thankfully he’s starting to like his own bed better). There are a lot of pros to it. Studies show that mothers who bedshare have more successful breastfeeding experiences, get better sleep, and tend to bond better with their babies. The same is also true of parents who roomshare—keeping the baby in a bassinet or crib in the same room provides many of the same benefits. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends roomsharing until babies are about six months old as a preventative measure against SIDS.
So why cosleep at all, when you can get similar benefits by virtue of just having a crib in your room? Well, for me, I found that my oldest child would not sleep unless I was holding him. I remember very clearly that first night home from the hospital when I, bleary-eyed from exhaustion as I had only managed to sleep a few hours here and there during the previous five days, could not get him to go to sleep in his bassinet. Finally frustrated, I cleared all the pillows off of the bed, wrapped a blanket around my waist, rested my son’s head on the crook of my arm, and got my first four hour stretch of sleep with my newborn.
It was a magical night.
Cosleeping is practiced in many countries around the globe, including in Japan, which has the lowest incidence of SIDS in any developed country. So why does cosleeping work better in other nations, but there are so many hazards and recommendations against it here? It’s simple, really: we are a culture that likes fluffy blankets and pillows, which are extremely hazardous to babies. And I swear, babies are drawn to them. I was nursing my youngest this afternoon and I put him down on the bed to adjust my pillows and he immediately rolled into the nearby pillow and attempted to suffocate himself. So, if you are thinking about pursuing cosleeping, here are some guidelines to follow:
I have honestly found cosleeping to be a lifesaver, especially when I was pregnant. I could usually get my oldest to go back to sleep and I could enjoy my precious sleep when I could get it. There are a lot of great resources out there on cosleeping, and Dr. Sears has some fantastic resources on his page. All in all, I believe you have to do what works for you—and a few safety precautions will make your cosleeping experience more peaceful and enjoyable.