Co-sleeping goes back centuries, if not millennia. The traditional norm for U.S. culture is a bedside bassinet or a crib in the nursery, but many other cultures swear by co-sleeping. For some families, co-sleeping sounds awesome, but in other homes, it simply isn’t practical. For some families, the big question is if co-sleeping is going to make your child more dependent. The truth is, there’s no real answer to that yet. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of co-sleeping with babies.
Pro: Your baby is only a young once.
Co-sleeping, when done appropriately, can be really great for bonding with your baby. Having your infant sleep on your chest is one of the best parts of being a new mom or dad. Eventually, your perfect newborn is going to be five and soon fifteen. The first few months or years are the only time your little son or daughter is going to willingly to sleep with you every night. And it gives you an extra eight to ten hours a day to spend with that new little bundle of joy.
Con: A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by.
Getting used to sleeping with a wiggly worm by your pillow can be difficult. Whether you set up a space for your baby to sleep between you and your partner, or between you and a pillow wall at the edge of the bed, babies don’t stay in roughly the same position while sleeping. Teething babies, in particular, tend to be pretty restless. It might take awhile to get used to sleeping with your little one, and even still there are bound to be nights when no one gets very good sleep. On the other hand, you might actually sleep easier, knowing you can reach out a hand to check on the little body next to you, instead of wondering what’s going on down the hall.
Pro: Late night feedings become much easier.
Conversely, for babies who tend to wake frequently for feedings, moms who breastfeed may find it much, much easier to co-sleep and breastfeed. While it’s important to be careful about positions, safety, and your baby’s ability to breathe, there’s no reason why you can’t just roll to the side and breastfeed without getting up. This is especially great because it makes it easier for you and your baby to get more sleep and/or fall back asleep quicker. Additionally, it allows for more breastfeeding, which means baby gets more antibodies from mom -- potentially getting sick less often.
Con: Less intimacy with your partner.
No matter how well your baby sleeps and how much easier the 4AM feedings become, unless you’re a single parent, it’s almost a guarantee that co-sleeping is going to put a damper in your sex life. New babies are pretty good at this even when they stay in their own crib. If you choose to co-sleep, you and your partner are probably going to have to come up with some creative ways of keeping your romantic life active. Just realize that it make take as long as five years for some kids to be comfortable sleeping alone.
Pro: There’s lots of physiological benefits.
Some studies have suggested that sleeping next to your partner can offer some great mood boosting benefits, and there’s no reason you don’t get those same bonuses from sleeping next to your baby instead. Additionally, having you right there all night is a great way to encourage bonding with your little one without any effort on either of your parts. Additionally, co-sleeping can actually help your baby learn to sleep better. Transitioning between sleep states can be disrupting for developing nervous systems, and having a parent within kicking distance can make that easier.
Con: The risk of SIDS can be higher.
Despite studies that show a correlation between more co-sleeping and lower rates of SIDS, it’s important to understand that there are bad ways to co-sleep. Breastfeeding can actually have a negative impact if the mother smokes, drinks, or uses medication that tends to induce deeper sleeping. Experts recommend babies younger than about six months (around the time big muscles develop, and they can do things like move their neck at will, roll over, or crawl out of an uncomfortable position) always be placed in a bassinet or crib with no pillows, lovies, or loose blankets. Ultimately, the American Academy of Pediatrics says there isn’t enough proof to say co-sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS, and that it’s entirely possible it increases the risk instead.