Co-sleeping means that you are within sensory range* of your baby. For some families this means sleeping in the same bed, for others, it's merely sleeping in the same room.
*Within sensory range means that you are close enough to your baby to recognize and respond to their needs or cues through touch, smell, and sound.
Cosleeping soon after birth is the norm throughout the world, except in some Western cultures. Why? Because of the introduction of cribs/cots and the way that our houses are laid out.
The truth is, babies were never designed to sleep in complete isolation, psychologically or biologically.
Your baby depends on you, day and night, to provide for their needs. They can not do it themselves.
So why is it that we tend to push them into becoming completely independent little beings long before they are ready for it?
Understanding the Different Terms
Here's a quick vocabulary overview to help you understand what each term means:
Co-sleeping: The baby sleeps close to one or both parents, whether in the same bed or in the same room, as opposed to the baby sleeping in a separate room.
Bed Sharing: When the baby sleeps in the same bed as one or both parents; this is one way of co-sleeping.
Co-Bedding: Typically refers to multiples (twins, trips, quads, etc.) sleeping in the same cot/crib/bed.
Room-Sharing: The baby's cot/crib/bed is in their parent's room. In other words, same room, different surfaces. The other form of co-sleeping.
Should I Co-sleep with my Baby?
Culture, socio-economic status, religion, circumstances, psychological reasons, feeding method and the infant-parent bond you have with your children, all play a huge roll in whether or not co-sleeping will work for you or not.
There are many ways in which you can practice co-sleeping. You can do it all night, or part of the night. In the same bed or the same room. Most likely, your attitude towards your sleeping arrangements will change as your baby grows and you get to know their needs and your needs better.
Co-sleeping does not necessarily mean that you and your child sleep in the same bed, all night, every single night from the day they are born until they are five years old.
Remember that no one, not even the "experts" know your baby and situation as well as you do. Do what works best for your family. Inform yourself, but then use your good judgment and follow your instincts. They are there for a reason.
What Happens When a Mother and her Baby Sleep Close to Each Other?
This is something many working parents love, as it helps to make up for the time they spend away from their children during the day.
Many people will tell you that you are spoiling your baby or allowing your baby to manipulate you when you let them sleep with you in your room or worse - your bed. But this is not true. You can NOT spoil a baby with love and by providing for their needs! Never.
Some pretty amazing things happen between a mother and her baby who sleep close to each other.
Their bodies start working in sync. Their movements, heartbeats, breathing and touches all fall into perfect harmony, without either one of them fully waking up.
The mother and her baby regulate each other's breathing. The carbon dioxide that the mother exhales will stimulate her baby to keep breathing, thus preventing apnea (periods in which a baby may stop breathing). This also results in fewer dips in a baby's blood oxygen level.
The mother and her baby will check on each other regularly, by reaching out and touching the other, without fully waking up. Nurturing touch is vital to a baby's survival. Co-sleeping provides this opportunity throughout the night as well.
You'll also discover that your baby is more likely to sleep on their back or side when they are close to you. One preventative measure for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is not to let your baby sleep on their tummy, but instead on their back.
The mother and her baby also sleep better when they know they are both safe and close to each other. A mother is more confident that she'll know when something is wrong with her baby because she's close enough to hear and sense any changes. She's not worried about the working order of a baby monitor; there's no need for one.
Breastfeeding and Co-Sleeping
Breastfeeding is so much easier when you co-sleep with baby!
Studies have shown that co-sleeping increases the frequency of feeds, which in turn increases the duration of the breastfeeding period.
Breastfeeding mothers who sleep close to their babies get more sleep than those who sleep in separate rooms.
It creates a bond between mother and baby in a way that's different from other bonding activities.
When is Co-Sleeping Not a Good Idea?
When a parent smokes, uses drugs, drinks alcohol, is on medication, is over-tired/exhausted, or is obese, they should not bed share as this increases the risk factors for SIDS, injury and suffocation of the baby.
Closeness Through Co-Sleeping (Anonymous)
I have often wondered how a single child could be this happy and independent? It might well be in the co-sleeping arrangement we have had since her birth.
My daughter is 8. She is independent, happy, and can spend hours playing on her own. We check on each other so every now and then. She'll skip along to give dad and me a hug or kiss when she feels the urge.
She has slept with us all her life. Now that she is too big and we can no longer sleep in the same bed, her bed is in our room. Once in a while, she'll want to sleep with daddy. I then get into her bed.
What joy, what bliss to sometimes wake up and hear her peaceful breathing and my husband's happy snoring. Wow - it is awesome and precious.
She has her own room and plays there and expresses her character and all she is in that space. Yet, tonight when all is quiet, and we all seek rest, she is nurtured, knowing that we are a breath away.
She can stay in our space as long as she needs for she is lent to us for such a short season.
Co-sleeping is meant to be.
I Cherished Co-Sleeping
From the moment my daughter was born, we co-slept! I quickly learned it was going to be the only way this sleep deprived mommy could get any rest. I hardly remember my daughter using her crib, I suppose except for times I needed to shower or use the potty :-)
When my daughter was born on August 30, 2009, after the nurses cleaned her up, she was put in my arms and immediately breastfed as if she waited nine months to show me that she craved a bond with me. All the nurses were astonished! My daughter displayed a natural ability to suck.
My favorite thing about co-sleeping were the times she would reach for me in reassurance that I was still beside her.
I would have to add that co-sleeping settled my fears about S.I.D.S.! There is no guarantee that an infant will stay on their backs. As it was mentioned in the excerpt, that time of the infant is a season, exhausting and rewarding as it is, I just couldn't part with my baby, for her safety in love.
Remember, your child most likely will not want to sleep close to you for the rest of their lives. It's a season that you get to cherish and enjoy for a short time, in relation to the rest of your lives.