Can Co-Sleeping Help with Baby Sleep Problems?

By Misty on in Attachment Parenting Safety and Comfort with 6 Comments

Can Co-Sleeping Help with Baby Sleep Problems?
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I’ve been a fan of co-sleeping since my very first child back in 1993. With my first three children I would occasionally allow them to co-sleep with me and it was an enjoyable experience, especially when I was still breastfeeding. It made things much easier to have them laying right next to me and as a new mom, I felt better listening to them breathe and knowing they were okay (new moms, you know what I’m talking about here). All three of them co-slept with me at some point, but it wasn’t a regular routine, just more of an occasional comfort.

When my fourth baby came along, co-sleeping was a nightly ritual until she was about four months old. We didn’t plan on co-sleeping with her when we first brought her home from the hospital, in fact, I had a beautiful crib with all the matching bedding ready and waiting for our little bundle of joy. As with any newborn baby, you have to be ready for changes and be able to adjust your expectations as issues arise. We certainly adjusted our lifestyle for her.

After the first couple of nights that my husband and I took turns rocking her to sleep only to have her wake again 20 minutes later, I had to try something different. As I had experience in co-sleeping with my previous children, I decided to give it a try. Instead of laying her in her crib once she fell asleep, we snuggled up in bed together for some family sleep time. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful that first night of sleep was. We slept for a solid six hours before she woke needing to be fed.

Why Does Co-Sleeping Help Baby Sleep?

There are a number of reasons why people choose to co-sleep with their baby and why it seems to settle them down to keep them sleeping for a long period of time. For us, we never had problems getting our daughter to sleep. It was staying asleep that was the problem. With co-sleeping, she slept more soundly simply by being in close proximity to me, feeling my body heat and hearing me breathe. The security of mom being close kept her snoozing.

Other parents feel that co-sleeping allows them to respond to their baby quicker, which lets baby stay in a somewhat drowsy state instead of becoming fully awake when they simply need to be fed.

If you talk to some psychologists, many believe that co-sleeping can build higher self-esteem and can help children feel less anxiety as they get older.

Co-sleeping isn’t going to work for every baby or every family. There are also some longer term affects to consider such as how you will make the transition from co-sleeping to sleeping alone in a crib. Some children have a hard time moving to the crib after co-sleeping due to missing mom, which is why with all my children I’ve tried to stop co-sleeping fairly early to make the transition easier, usually by about four or five months old.

Co-Sleeping Safety Precautions

Co-Sleeping PadLike many parents who consider co-sleeping a baby sleep solution, we read all the horror stories about parents rolling on top of their babies. Accidents can happen and I wanted to make sure that we didn’t become part of a statistic. If you’re planning on co-sleeping with your baby take the following precautions to provide the safest environment for your baby.

  • Never co-sleep with your baby if you have taken medication that could make you drowsy or if you have been drinking alcohol (or any other drug that could keep you from waking easily)
  • Never smoke or allow anyone else to smoke around your baby…co-sleeping or not.
  • Always keep pets out of the bed, preferable out of the bedroom completely.
  • Don’t put your baby between mom and dad. Dad’s may not have the same sensitivity to your baby sleeping right next to them as a mother may. It’s best to put mom in the middle and baby next to mom.
  • Make sure baby can’t roll out of bed. To keep baby from getting close to the edge consider getting a co-sleeping pad to keep your baby safe
  • Don’t co-sleep if you are overly tired yourself. This could keep you from waking easily.
  • Don’t try co-sleeping in a small bed. They could easily fall of or get wedged between the bed and yourself. A king size bed is fantastic for co-sleeping but a queen bed could work as well with the right sleep aid. If a large bed isn’t an option, consider using an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bedside Bassinet to have baby sleeping right next to you. We had a king size bed but eventually moved to the co-sleeper bedside bassinet after about 3 months when our daughter started getting a bit more mobile.
  • Absolutely no waterbeds.

Remember that most of these precautions are simple common sense. Use your head and heart to tell you what is safe for your baby when sleeping next to you.

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  1. Missy Bell

    October 27, 2013 at 3:46 am · Reply

    Great article Misty!! My kids are grown but this subject is dear to my heart. I co-slept with both of them off and on. My oldest had a very hard time adjusting to his crib and we would occasionally let him sleep with us. The hardest part was the transition from the crib to the toddler bed. He kept crawling back into bed with us.

    I wish there were sites like this when my kids were born.

    Missy Bell

    1. Misty

      October 27, 2013 at 10:36 pm · Reply

      Well, I'm glad to provide the information! I know what you mean though, when my 3 older children were younger, there wasn't much information and the whole "online" thing just wasn't as popular as it is today.

      I will be posting an article soon on making the transition from crib to toddler bed, I used a few tricks and I had a rough time with it with 1 of my kids, the other 2 did great and my youngest is still in the crib so I will have to update when I hit that milestone with her. But definitely stop by that article when you see it and feel free to share your experience!

  2. Debbie

    October 27, 2013 at 4:46 am · Reply

    Hi Misty,

    I was a zombie for the first five weeks because my daughter couldn't sleep long at night. Then I fell into co-sleeping when we traveled to visit relatives, and there was no other option. She slept. I slept. It was all good from there on out! My mother nearly lost her mind over my decision to continue co-sleeping, but it certainly worked for us. In most countries, it is the norm and not the exception.

    Thanks for a great post!

    1. Misty

      October 27, 2013 at 10:46 pm · Reply

      That's absolutely right. Co-sleeping is popular all over the world. I know in Japan it's very common and even as the kids get older into teenage years they still sleep very close to their children.

      What I find even more interesting, especially hearing stories like this when our families freak out a bit on the thought, is that co-sleeping in the US is actually more common than people believe. I recently read an article that stated that 44% of babies in the US are co-sleeping. That led me to wondering how many people are afraid of letting people know about it.

  3. Tamsin

    October 27, 2013 at 9:38 am · Reply

    My kids are in their teens, and while they never officially co-slept with us, I never stopped them coming through and climbing into bed with us if it meant that I could get some sleep. I also never fought to make sure my babies slept in their cot. If they woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, I'd rather bring them into bed with me than fight and insist that they sleep in their own bed. Sleep was my priority!

    1. Misty

      October 27, 2013 at 10:52 pm · Reply

      Tamsin, that is one of my favorite times of night with my kids as they got a little older. I loved when they would come and climb in bed with me in the middle of the night. I never fought it either. My opinion is that if they are sleeping safely, and you are getting sleep, then I don't see a problem.

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