Move Over, Mom and Dad
Can Co-sleeping Work For Your Family?
One of the benefits of sleeping with your baby is that it's much easier to
handle nighttime feedings if you don't have to drag yourself out of bed to
rescue a hungry infant.
"We planned not to sleep with the baby," says Jessica Huff, a
mother of two from New York, "but within a week the baby was in the bed --
it was just so much easier." The choice between getting up to sit in a
chair and nurse or rolling over to do it was a no-brainer, she says.
Breast-feeding carries all sorts of benefits, of course. Besides the
closeness between mother and infant, nursing lowers a baby's risk of bacterial
and viral illnesses and may provide longer-term protection against ear
infections, diabetes, asthma, allergies and obesity. For moms, it reduces the
risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and hip fractures.
"The increased duration and success of breast-feeding is very positive
... and that's one reason I'm in favor of co-sleeping, if a mother really
really wants to do it," says Dr. John Kennell, professor of pediatrics at
Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who pioneered research in
For nursing mothers who worry about the potential hazards of co-sleeping,
putting a crib or bassinet next to your bed offers almost the same convenience
and immediacy and may even give nervous parents a better night's sleep.
Together, Again and Again
Many co-sleeping parents describe the closeness they feel to their babies,
their rhythmic breathing and warm bodies nestled close. Even elbows or feet in
the face, for these parents, pale in comparison to the joy shared sleep brings.
The children may even become more secure and self-confident.
However, some studies have shown that adults who share a bed don't sleep as
"I'm actually supportive of people who want to co-sleep -- I think
there's an emotional closeness to it, and it's good for babies," says Dr.
Barbara Howard, assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University
in Baltimore and the mother of two children and two stepchildren. "But I
didn't sleep with my own babies because I needed my sleep too badly."
It's essential that both parents agree on the idea of the family bed;
otherwise, resentment could brew. Carefully examine your motives, advises Dr.
Howard, to make sure it's not a strategy to avoid intimacy with a spouse.
While some may worry that a child in the adult bed is a surefire recipe for
abstinence, some parents who co-sleep say the arrangement simply fosters more
romance and creativity.
In a recent Mothering magazine essay, a co-sleeping mother of two from
Huntington Beach, Calif., Joylyn Fowler, noted that "If the kids are in the
family bed, well, that means they aren't in the living room, bathroom, kitchen,
guest bedroom, hallway, on top of the fridge ... you get the idea."