Co-sleeping is probably one of the more debated-about parental practices at the moment.
Much of this comes from the studies in the early 2000s that seemed to indicate that it raised the chances of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome significantly for a baby. That being said, more recent reviews of those studies have pointed out several caveats to that advice. As such, more new mums and dads are now asking if co-sleeping is safe after all.
Today, we’ll take a look at the topic to see if we can help you come to a conclusion.
Why Are People Re-evaluating Co-sleeping Again?
It’s not hard to guess why so many parents ask if co-sleeping is a possibility.
First, babies themselves are often fairly vocal about their desire to sleep near their mothers.
Mothers too tend to seek contact with the baby, which may be an instinct as old as the species itself.
But another key reason besides these is the growing awareness of the qualifications that should have been made to many of the previous studies on the subject.
Most of the research that concluded that co-sleeping was detrimental to the baby’s health made little distinction between co-sleeping with few risk factors and co-sleeping with many risk factors.
For instance, sleeping next to a drunk parent or one under the influence of behaviour-altering drugs was lumped into the same category as sleeping next to a parent who takes neither drink nor drugs.
In the same vein, co-sleeping on a sofa was lumped with co-sleeping in a proper bed.
Obviously, some of these factors altered the risks.
Co-sleeping with a drunk parent is almost certainly more dangerous than co-sleeping with a sober one, for instance, as the former is more likely to roll over the baby.
The same goes for risk factors like the baby’s health, weight, and so on.
Does This Mean There Are No Risks to Co-sleeping After All?
While we wouldn’t say earlier studies painted the most precise picture here, we wouldn’t say co-sleeping has zero risks either.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of studies to substantiate this just yet.
Two early studies suggest that co-sleeping with an absence of other risk factors (like those we mentioned in the previous section) only brings up the risk of SIDS by three times what it would be without co-sleeping.
That sounds alarming, certainly, and may feel like reason enough to say co-sleeping is a no-no after all.
But it does help to look at the numbers and put things in perspective. The regular risk of SIDS for a healthy baby is 1 in 46,000. Multiplying the risk by three only turns that into around 1 in 16,000. For comparison, the chance of developing a peanut allergy as a child is 1 in 50.
What Are the Pros and Cons Besides This?
Now if your baby is healthy and you don’t have risk factors of your own like a tendency to sleep too deeply or to roll over during sleep, it may seem as though co-sleeping isn’t as bad as previously thought.
But the question remains: should you do it? It may help to look at the pros and cons here.
The obvious pros are the following:
It helps you bond with your child.
It can soothe both you and the baby as you take comfort in each other’s presence.
It can even help you sleep better due to that comfort.
It may help some mothers recover from postnatal depression more quickly.
The obvious cons are these, on the other hand, besides the uptick in the chances of SIDS:
It may encourage your baby to become highly dependent on your presence, particularly during night-time.
It may lead to separation anxiety for either you or your baby.
It can lead to you sleeping less if your baby is fussy or you’re worried about hurting him.
It can have a detrimental impact on your time with your partner at night.
You have to weigh all of these carefully to make a decision on whether or not co-sleeping is for you and your family. And above all, you have to put your baby’s welfare first in that decision - don’t just co-sleep because you feel a little lonely without your baby at night, for example.
If you have to co-sleep, make sure it’s for your baby’s good too.