The Co-Sleeping Controversy [What You Need To Know]
If you are new to parenthood, knowing which child-rearing practices to follow can be an absolute nightmare. We all want the best for our babies but with the wealth of (and often contradicting) information on the internet, it can be hard to decide which to practice and what best suits your situation and family’s needs.
Let’s start this off by saying, that no matter which practice you choose, it will always be beneficial to know all sides of the story. I don’t think we need any evidence to say that being informed, will help you be more confident and at ease in the decisions that you make as parents. Parenthood is crazy enough as it is, so we’re here to save you a bit of time and energy!
With that in mind, we’ve done research to help you make a decision, not to persuade you in any way, but to keep you in the know about any details you may have missed during your own research.
What is Co-Sleeping?
Co-sleeping is an umbrella term for ways in which you can sleep together with your child and attend to them in times of need during the night. We most commonly know co-sleeping to be the practice of sharing the same sleep surface with your baby, but in truth, it’s essentially “any situation where the infant and parent are within sensory range of each other” (Divecha). We’ve found there are a couple of other options that we think are worth looking into.
Bed Extension - a cot that allows itself to be attached to your own bed, but is essentially a separate space for your baby to sleep within close proximity.
Room Sharing - placing your baby in a bassinet or crib inside your bedroom.
Situational Co-Sleeping - bringing your child back to the parent’s bedroom when they are upset, crying, etc., and placing them in a bed extension, crib, or bassinet.
Some parents, however, may choose to “Ferberize” their child, “by allowing them to cry alone in their cribs for timed intervals, then offering them short periods of verbal consolation” (Commons, et al.). It's the act of conditioning your baby to sleep on its own by ignoring the crying for a minimum of 20 minutes, returning, patting the baby while they lay in their crib, and leaving quietly and quickly. The procedure is then repeated each night, with the waiting time increased slowly by increments of five minutes. This is thought to promote self-reliance in the child, but through our research, we’ve found that there are in fact some advantages to co-sleeping.
Photo by Helena Lopes via Unsplash, find more or hire through here.
The Benefits of Co-Sleeping
Aside from the fact that you no longer need to get up and head for your child’s crib, or room; thereby increasing your own rest and tendency “to make better decisions and, importantly, have better emotion regulation” (Divecha), studies show that co-sleeping comes with plenty of other benefits for your child:
- Breathing regulation between mother and child, reminds your little one to breathe
- Increases the sense of intimacy and bond with your baby
- Lowers cortisol levels, which will lead to them crying less during the night
- It can help them to develop better emotionally and psychologically
- Promotes synaptogenesis through light sleep, the rapid growth of connections between neurons, in new-born's
- May lower a father’s testosterone, which may lead to sensitive and responsive parenting
- Provides a chance to check up more often on your baby
Photo by Aditya Romansa via Unsplash, find more or hire through here.
Developmental scientist and assistant clinical professor at the Yale Child Study Centre and Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence Diana Divecha, Ph.D. delves more into the subject here. Professor James Mckenna, Ph.D. has also done some interesting work on researching the cultural and primal roots of co-sleeping, and how this benefits us and our children. To know more and if you are interested in his book, please click here.
This, however, does not take away the very real risks of co-sleeping, which we’ve explained below.
The Risks of Co-Sleeping
Chances are, your paediatrician has talked to you about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS which is the unexplained passing of a child under a year old, usually during sleep. According to the NHS however, this is a very rare occurrence as an estimated total of 200 babies pass away each year due to SIDS in comparison to the 613,936 live births in England and Wales alone in 2020. At this time, SIDS is an issue that many organisations and laboratories are studying to determine more causes and ways to prevent this from happening. Thankfully, we have dedicated health professionals all over the UK that can discuss and give advice completely personal to your situation.
We understand it can be a terrifying thought, but there are in fact some concrete ways in which we as parents can take to prevent this from happening.
Multiple studies have shown that the following under all circumstances, should not be done when trying to co-sleep with your baby. Do not sleep with your baby if:
- You are intoxicated (narcotics and alcohol)
- You are a smoker
- The room or environment is experiencing high temperatures
- The baby is swaddled
- The baby is placed on a sofa or any uneven, or extremely soft surface
As you may have noticed, most of these risks have to do with breathing. It is important to make sure nothing is affecting the ability to breathe, whether it’s hair, pillows, the slats of a bed, a blanket, etc. which we can easily avoid with the right amount of care and awareness.
If any of the above applies to your situation, however, the NHS strongly recommends considering placing your baby in a crib in another room.
All things considered, many organisations such as The Lullaby Trust, are working hard to spread awareness and support the research of SIDS, and there are many ways in which we can continue to help and aid in the continuous research being done. On the other hand, many baby brands are not only supporting these campaigns but are also continuously looking for ways to design better and safer furniture to not only prevent the cause of SIDS, but be able to provide parents with a safer way to enjoy the benefits of co-sleeping.
Photo from The Lullaby Trust. To learn more or donate, please contact them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7802 3200.
Above all, let’s make informed decisions as parents, and to all the lovely parents in our Bambini and Bo family, we encourage you to leave a comment about your experience with co-sleeping. We’d love to discuss this very important topic with you all!
To know more about how you can support The Lullaby Trust, please click here.
Commons, Michael Lamport, and Patrice Marie Miller. “Emotional Learning in Infants: A Cross-Cultural Examination.” Harvard Medical School and Salem State College, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1998.
Diana Divecha. “How Cosleeping Can Help You and Your Baby.” Greater Good Magazine, 7 Feb. 2020.
NHS, NHS, 27 Oct. 2021, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids/.
Synowiec, Peter. “Births in England and Wales: 2020.” Births in England and Wales - Office for National Statistics, Office for National Statistics, 13 Oct. 2021, https://www.ons.gov.uk/