Many attachment parenting advocates support the practice of co sleeping. For new parents, that means having your baby sleep in bed with you and your spouse. Their claim is that sleeping beside a parent gives baby a feeling of safety and security. Babies, like adults, have several short wakening episodes while they are sleeping. During these times, which we generally don’t remember, we can experience positive or negative emotions based on what we see, hear, or otherwise experience.
For babies, this means that they may feel scared or insecure if you are not there with them. Certainly, none of us wants our baby to feel distressed when they are sleeping, but is it really a good idea to have them sleep in the same bed with us?
There is some debate on this question, though most pediatricians advise against having a baby or toddler sleep in the same bed with you. There are several key reasons for this:
• Soft mattresses have been shown to contribute to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Babies should be laid down on their backs on a firm mattress.
• Sleeping in the same bed poses a risk of suffocation if a parent rolls over onto the child. Attachment parenting advocates claim that this won’t happen because parents are alert to their baby’s needs, but the fact is that it has happened. Don’t get us wrong, the vast majority of co sleeping parents will NOT roll over onto their baby. We would just hate for you to be the exception.
• Your baby will have to occasionally sleep without you sometimes anyway, unless you are planning on sleeping fourteen to sixteen hours with her. Since most of us can’t do that and continue to manage our other household affairs, it’s safe to say none of us are going to sleep with baby all of the time.
• Having baby in bed can negatively impact your sexual relationship with your spouse or partner. This may seem a bit selfish, but one of the greatest gifts you can give your baby is a happy home, and a healthy sex life between partners is part of the equation.
None of this is to say that baby’s don’t genuinely feel some anxiety when they wake up and can’t see you. However, we have a couple of suggestions we believe are better for you and baby:
• Place baby’s crib close to your bed so she can see you when she is sleeping, if you are in bed.
• Lay baby down for naps where she can see you when she wakes up. When she is too old for the bassinette, she will also be old enough to be comforted by hearing your voice. If baby is in her crib and you are in another part of the house, sing softly, or otherwise make some mild noise, and she will know you’re there.