In many countries of the world, bed sharing is not an option, it is the norm. Not all people are blessed with homes that have more than one room and more than one bed. So they would have a hard time wondering why we here in the United States are concerned about our babies sleeping in a separate room. Why are we worried about it?
Many new parents have found that it is a convenient way to breast feed their baby on demand, and to ensure the bonding process that is so important to infants and mothers. In fact, a recent study reported by JAMA Pediatrics discovered that there are twice as many families co-sleeping with infants in 2010 than there were in 1993.
Medical professionals are alarmed about this trend. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that bed sharing with infants increases the risk of SIDS fivefold according to a 2013 study, and also the risk of suffocation, particularly during the first three months.
To better understand the debate, it is necessary to understand the complexities of the issue. Co-sleeping is a situation where family members are within sensory distance – touching, seeing or hearing distance of each other. Then there is room sharing with all family members in the same room, but different beds and finally there is bed sharing, where everyone is in the same bed.
Bed sharing is the most controversial, but according to supporters, has the most benefits. Those who are doing it, explain that it bed-sharing supporters believe — and some studies support their beliefs — that bed-sharing helps breastfeeding by making nighttime feedings convenient, and helps the mother and child to get their sleep cycles in sync.
Babies wake, nurse and go back to sleep. They awaken more often, and nurse for shorter periods, but actually get more sleep and so does the mother, who does not have to get out of bed. There is a rhythm and pattern that develops that provides security to the child, so the infant and mother are both calmer.
It is also important to realize that many families who are practicing bed sharing started it because what they were doing was not working. Their child was distraught and would not settle into a crib. Often there are medical problems that make it easier for the parents to be close. Whatever the reasons, many more are doing it than statistics reveal because they are not reporting the practice to their doctors.
Those who are not sure what they want to do, yet don’t feel comfortable with their baby in a crib in another room are choosing the practice of co-sleeping. They put a baby basinet right next to their bed and are so close that they can respond immediately to their baby and tend and nurse on demand and go back to sleep. This seems a good option. Your baby is close, yet you don’t have to worry about rolling over on him.
The most important thing to remember is that every child is different and you know your baby better than anyone else. You need to make a decision based on what works best for you and your child.