Worldwide, co-sleeping is a way of bonding, nurturing, warming and, most importantly, sharing love. Do you ever wonder if your new baby should sleep share the same room for a few months? So do many other parents. New babies are more content and fair well if they are close to their parents. A more comfortable, accessible sleep area is more convenient for nipple feeding through the night. (Yes, I said “nipple feeding.” Nipple feeding is defined as a mother who is breastfeeding by nipple or bottle-feeding with pumped breast milk or formula.)
Co-sleeping. This is quite different from “bed sharing.” But in my eyes, the two are very similar. Co-sleeping is placing the baby in his own sleep area very close to the parent. Bed sharing is laying the baby next to a sleeping adult, and does not give the baby his own safe sleep area.
Why not bed sharing? Multiple studies have advised against bed sharing due to increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommendation is to not put your baby next to you in the bed while you are asleep.
There are some who adamantly debate this research. What?! Many countries around the world bed share! I totally get that. But allow me to point out that different cultures have their own sleep environment. Looking at other cultures who safely co-sleep, what I see time and time again is that the baby has his own sleep space with good ventilation.
You CAN co-sleep with no health risks to the baby. Here are the methods to use for safe co-sleeping.
Bassinet – The most popular method of co-sleeping is a bassinet next to your bed. This can be part of a play yard next to your bed, or a bassinet that sits independently by your bed. Your baby is nearby. Enjoy watching her, and you can roll over and touch her any time you like.
Co-Sleeper attached to your bed – There are various co-sleepers that become part of your bed so that your baby can be separated from blankets, soft mattress and pillows. This is an expensive option, but does work for closer baby comfort.
Co-sleeper in the bed – This is a portable sleeper that can be moved around the house and placed in your bed. This co-sleeper must be isolated from pillows and blankets that may otherwise impair your child’s ventilation.
Blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and any other items should always be out of the baby’s sleep area. Babies should sleep on their back. If you are in the room watching your baby, he can sleep on sides, belly–any position you would like. It is good to change the baby’s positions to strengthen all the muscles in the body. But when you are leaving the room or going to sleep, the baby belongs on his back.
I don’t sit in judgment of others, as we all make mistakes many times in our lives. My goal as a pediatrician is information sharing and feedback. I notice too many children sitting in the front seat, or in the rear of the car with no booster.
Any child who is 8 years and older but not 4 foot 9 should remain in a belt-positioning booster seat. If your child is not 4 foot 9 and riding without a booster, note the strap positioned over his neck. This is a choking and neck injury hazard.
Our children beg to get out of the booster, and “all their friends” are not in one. That argument doesn’t stand, especially when safety is involved. Our children need loving limits, even if listening to the complaining is painful at times.
Our cultural view is often that new moms should “handle most everything.” What this attitude can breed is isolation, loneliness and even Post-Partum Depression. What’s wrong with a home support system, whether it’s family, friends, a neighbor… or…. a home nurse.
Just as other countries learn from our health care system, we can also learn from theirs. Having an interest in “what other cultures do,” I follow and enjoy the work of writer Olga Mecking, who blogs at The European Mama. Olga has kindly helped me with a project, and shared this great article she wrote for Babble. Enjoy!