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Cosleeping Safety

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:

  1. Take a good, hard look at your bed. Remove the fluff—pillows, fluffy blankets, etc. I have always found that the best thing for my kids has either been a swaddler or a sleep sack. Babies tend to overheat easily, and adult coverings can contribute to this. Feel free to use a blanket for yourself, but make sure it doesn’t cover your baby. Also, the firmer the mattress, the better. And remember, always put baby to sleep on his back.
  2. Consider your breastfeeding relationship. Dr.  Sears recommends cosleeping ONLY IF the mother and infant are engaged in a breastfeeding relationship, because that way the two of them are more in sync with each other, precluding the event of the mother rolling over onto the baby and suffocating him.
  3.  Do not ever share a bed with your baby if you are incapacitated in any sort of way. This includes drinking too much alcohol or even cold medicine that may cause you to sleep too deeply and be unaware of your baby. If you have any doubts about your condition, haul a pack-n-play into your room and let baby sleep there.
  4. Alert your partner if you are going to leave the bed. I can honestly tell you that this is a necessity. I used to drive my husband crazy doing this, until one night when my oldest was about nine months old and he decided that my absence from the bed was a good opportunity to see if he could launch himself off of it. Needless to say, my husband has since appreciated my alerts if I go use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

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.

 

Amanda Romine Lynch is the Prime Parents’ Club Green Living Contributor. She was forced to re-evaluate her lifestyle choices after her son had a reaction to disposable diapers, and has been finding ways to go green and save green ever since. She is also the author of ANABEL UNRAVELED, which is available on Amazon and its sequel ANABEL DIVIDED. You can find her on Facebook at Facebook, or on Twitter as @thebookprincess.