Top 5 Benefits of Co-Sleeping

Top 5 Benefits of Co-Sleeping

Co-Sleeping as a Conscious Parenting Choice

When I became pregnant with my first child we were living in a rather small house at the time. I was a bit concerned about all the “stuff” that usually accompanies a baby. How would all of it comfortably fit into our small space? I decided I would research to determine the top 5 pieces of baby equipment to purchase and limit ourselves to those. Surely I would discover if a swing was more important than a bouncy chair or an Exersaucer. Or perhaps I would find out if a changing table was really necessary.

Well, my research ended up taking me in a very different direction as I happened upon the concept of a “Family Bed” in an article questioning the need for a crib. See, I had assumed a crib was an essential, non-negotiable piece of baby equipment but here was this article that offered the idea of a “Family Bed” as an alternative. Needless to say my interest was definitely peaked and I googled “Family Bed” to learn more. Eventually I came across the term Co-Sleeping and the more I read, the more enchanted I became with the idea. So instead of buying a crib and associated nursery furniture, we upgraded to a king-sized bed to allow plenty of room for our soon-to-be co-sleeping baby. As I shared our co-sleeping intentions with others, I quickly realized what a controversial topic it can be from people thinking it’s unsafe, inappropriate, or just plain weird to sleep with your baby.

Thankfully there is a rather extensive body of research available that supports co-sleeping as not only a safe practice but also a beneficial one. Additionally, when we examine the anthropology of co-sleeping, we discover an innate desire to sleep close to our young has prevailed up until more recently. A shift has occurred in our cultural expectation of a baby to sleep independently through the night at a very young age. Where did this cultural expectation derive from and who does it benefit? While it might ensure parents get more sleep, I believe this cultural expectation to be potentially disruptive to the biological function and physiological sleep patterns of infants and young children.

Historically speaking, humans are a co-sleeping species just like all other mammals. A multitude of factors have influenced the current mainstream practice to have infants sleep independently. A few possible influences include medical institutions, consumerism, business entities, social class, as well as changes in family structure and dynamics. Of course, all of these factors are a valuable part of our culture and society, but they do not surpass the need for individuals to make educated, empowered, and personal decisions in regard to any parenting approach. In other words, if you feel drawn to the idea of co-sleeping explore it fully to make an informed decision for your family. Don’t be scared off by one individual claiming it to be unsafe and/or unhealthy. Honor the instinctual intuition you have to keep your little one close to you during the night knowing it is an enjoyable, beneficial and inherent tradition. The more you listen to your intuition as a parent, the stronger it becomes.

Daddy co-sleeping with his one week old son

Here’s a few ways co-sleeping has benefited my family:
1. Supported successful breastfeeding.
2. Allowed for bonding time and physical contact with working parent
3. Ease of traveling and flexibility in sleep space. We travel often and have never needed to pack a portable crib or request one at a hotel
4. Fostered sibling relationships
5. Made room-sharing an easy, practical arrangement. If every kid had their own bedroom it would impact the size of home we are comfortable in. A smaller living space has both economical and ecological benefits.

What are your thoughts on co-sleeping? Do you or did you co-sleep? In what ways has it benefitted your family? I would love to hear from you!

– Sarah

PS. When my second son was a few months old we participated in a co-sleeping study that was a collaborative effort between the State Department of Health and the local University. I was quite honored to be a part of an exciting project that aimed to re-evaluate state recommendations around safe sleeping arrangements for infants. Ultimately their agenda was to improve breastfeeding statistics and they recognized co-sleeping positively impacted a breastfeeding relationship.

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20 Responses to “Top 5 Benefits of Co-Sleeping”

  1. Holly says:

    I enjoyed your article. I do have a question though. I have been co-sleeping with my 5 month old son, in our full sized mattress (just moved the box spring away) on the floor, very few pillows (he sleeps at breast level), one blanket, the mattress is free on all sides except for the head which is up against the wall (I frequently push the mattress back up against the wall), tight fitting sheet, ect. He recently discovered the joy of rolling. In the last day he has fallen out of bed twice. The first time was kind of traumatic, he some how fell out near the foot of the bed and seemed quite scarred (and possibly a little sore, but who knows really?), the second time he awoke from his nap and was “playing” hanging his head and torso upside down off the side of the bed. Though this was cute, it was also scarry for me. I stood back and watched to see what he would do; he ended up falling slowly as I guided him to the floor, but it looked like it really could have hurt his neck if I had not been there to ease his fall. I keep a baby monitor on and check on him freaquently when he is napping (or goes to bed before I do). I am considering getting mesh gard ralls, however I am a little hesitant because he seems to be wiggling/ rolling to the foot of the bed. I am not prepared to transition him out of ‘our’ bed, I enjoy co-sleeping, and untill now felt that it was a safe choice for us. Any suggestions? have you ever heard of a baby being injured from falling off a mattress that is already on the floor? If I do go with gaurd rails, are they safe to use with out a boxspring? thanks for your help!

    • Sarah says:

      HI! Sorry for my delayed reply. I just saw this now. Have you had any more issues with him falling out of the bed? I hope not. I personally have not experienced the need for guardrails, but I know of families that have used a mesh guardrail to help keep active sleepers safe. Hope you find something that works…please let us know if you do. Best wishes!

  2. Mona says:

    That top picture has to be one of the CUTEST I have ever seen. 🙂 Glad I found your blog.

  3. Jamie says:

    I thought for sure we would have babies that slept in cribs, but then my son came along and everything I “thought” I’d do flew out the window. I went with what came most naturally to me (and what got me the most sleep). Co-sleeping just worked (and does still work) for us. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

    • Sarah says:

      It’s neat to hear examples of families who adapt to baby when baby arrives! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sarah says:

    I breastfed my son for 22months and he slept in our room in a basinet pushed right up to the bed for 6 months. I’m absolutely pro-breastfeeding and I think you’re going to get your nursing cues from your baby who is near you. My issue with co-sleeping is that it is sometimes used until later in a child’s life and intimacy is taken away from you and your spouse. I think it is wonderful for a season and then the seasons will change. What age do you think is appropriate for a child to have a bed of their own, given one has a home with space for a room?

    • Sarah says:

      Great question! I struggle with knowing that myself. Right now in our family my older two boys (ages 4.5 and 2.5) share a queen bed in their room so essentially they are still co-sleeping…just with each other and not mom and dad. 🙂 I think having each other made the transition to their own sleep space easier? At this point we do have an “open-bed” mindset meaning that if they want to come in our bed during the middle the night for whatever reason they can. My children are still very young (under 5) so it’s hard to know what will feel comfortable as they grow? It is unlikely we will have a house where it’s possible for everyone to have their own room so some form of same-gender room-sharing is likely going to exist in our family long-term.

  5. Michelle says:

    What a beautiful photo! It speaks for itself. I co sleep and I hear lots of nay saying. Like I even asked for an opinion from these people. I love the comments on more people sleeping with their pets (which is gross). So true. Awesome to hear about a daddy initiating co sleeping.

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for the comment on the picture. My hubby snapped it. At the time I was a little peeved because he woke me up while taking it, but after seeing the picture I thought ‘okay I guess it was worth being woken up from a nap’. It’s one of my favorite pics of the 4 of us.

  6. Amarrah says:

    I had my daughter in my bedroom until she was 4 months. I co-slept with her on and off during that time (she had a bassinet in my room as well). I loved waking up next to her, the closeness, the cuddling, and overall the comfort I experienced from knowing she was safe. I also loved how much more sleep I was able to get while still being able to breastfeed and a lot more easier as well. One of the reasons I stopped cosleeping was because whenever she would wake up to nurse, I would still be half asleep & would wake up only enough to feed her. In other words, her diapers weren’t getting changed enough. After a couple cases of very mild diaper rash, I decided that sacrificing more of my sleep was what was needed. I knew that if I had to get up to get her, her diaper would definitely get changed. So my daughter then slept solely in her bassinet except for naps when we would cosleep. My daughter then outgrew her bassinet and was moved to her crib in her bedroom. The first night was terrible, I had more anxiety then she did about sleeping out of my room. Anyways, my point is cosleeping is fantastic… As long as diapers are also being changed consistently… I myself could only wake up enough periodically to make sure this was done.

  7. Michelle Suttle says:

    I have a 7 month old who is my first child. My husband and I are considered an “older couple” as he is 40 and I am 39. Naturally starting our family so late we have plenty of friends with children well into their school years and willing to give us LOTS of advice… even when it is unwanted. Naturally when I decided to breast feed I got an onslaught of “nay-sayers” who were well meaning when they told me “Don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t work”
    I was sort of shocked that most of these mothers trying to live “healthy lifestyles” within their family, stocking their shopping carts full of overpriced foods and eco-wise products would not be in support of trying to find a way to make breast feeding work. I have nothing against eating organic and being safe for our earth, but it seems like a no-brainer here that breast feeding would be the best and most natural not to mention economical ideal and that you would want to go to great lengths to make sure that it “works”. It blew my mind that these women I had considered to be “super-moms” would be so cynical about something so natural.
    Needless to say after receiving such not so positive support over breast feeding I have been very hesitant to admit that a large part of my success with breast feeding my daughter has been because of co-sleeping. The looks of horror I get when the subject has come up! At times I have been talked to like I am some sort of ignorant baby smothering monster. I have even had someone go so far as to question my commitment as a wife and partner to my husband as there could not possibly be any way that we could have a “healthy sex life” if we shared our bed with our child. Someone asked me how I could be so selfish to take away my husbands ability to participate in feeding our child and then be willing to intrude on his space and expect him to get any sleep with a baby in the bed.
    The reality is, it was just a natural thing that sort of happened by “accident” when our baby was born. I had had a c-section and had some negative reactions to the spinal which kept me bed bound the first week she was born. We spent the first few weeks of her life with her only leaving my chest to give me time to shower and use the bathroom or for her diaper to be changed. Me, my husband and our new baby snuggled so close those first few weeks and I have to say it was one of the most intimate, loving and beautiful things we could ever have shared as a new family. As a breast feeding mother this time in bed together gives my husband that feeling of helping to feed his child by being an added support to our child while she is on my chest. It also gives him that closeness time with her when she has finnished eating and can lay skin to skin on his chest snuggled under his chin.
    I think because of this, as new parents we got MORE sleep rather than less. I can not deny that your level of “sound” sleep changes, but as a parent shouldn’t that be happening? As mothers our natural instinct is to be aware of our children at all times including when we are asleep. I find the same is true for my husband. It is very hard to get people who are insistant that we are doing something unsafe for our child to understand that we are so aware of where and how our child is sleeping that we are more relaxed and get more rest and our child is in fact safer because we see feel hear every whimper, cough, or grumble from her which would not happen if she were in another room in a crib.
    I need to add, that I was ten years old myself, when my mother had my brother who nearly ended up as a SIDS statistic. My youngest brother spent the first two years of his life on monitors, and we were all taught infant CPR which at one point I assisted my mother with on my brother. As a result my first 24 hours as a mother I spent glued to watching my own child’s chest rise and fall. I still wake up at night to watch her breathing. If there is any link between SIDS and co-sleeping, I can only say that I believe that it would be far less likely to happen if you are holding your child.
    It is sad that we as a society have let statistics devised by marketing take away our natural instincts as the creatures we are to parent our children the way nature intended. To most women who claim they “can’t breast feed” I feel sorry for them and their children. They are missing out on something that given half a chance can be one of the most beautiful natural things they could ever do as a woman. To those who make me feel “wrong” for sleeping with my child or shake their finger at me looking down saying in their best “Tisk tisk” voices, “You need to nip that in the bud as soon as possible” … I think I will continue to do what feels right to me and my little family. It is not like any of them will be invited to a sleep over any time soon any how.

    • Sarah says:

      I really enjoyed reading your reply! And I agree on the ‘getting more sleep’ when co-sleeping. Another huge benefit for sure!
      Sweet co-sleeping dreams to you. 🙂

  8. Chantelle Koontz says:

    I love co-sleeping with my little guy! He’s my first and is 6 weeks old today. We have a co-sleeper that attaches to the side of the bed, but that idea went out the window on about day 5 or 6 of his life and he moved into our bed next to me. The snuggle time is great and I like knowing he’s right there. It has definitely helped me get more sleep and made breastfeeding very easy! My husband is a very heavy sleeper and startles very easily when something wakes him up, so he doesn’t get to enjoy it as much. He feels more comfortable knowing that I’m between him and our son, and I respect that. We had to make decisions based on what would work for us and our specific situation. Once our son gets a little bigger, I don’t think my husband will feel so uncomfortable anymore, but for now, we do what makes co-sleeping comfortable for him.

    • Sarah says:

      Making decisions based on what works and is comfortable for your family is what conscious parenting is all about. Glad you found a sleep solution that works well for your family. And congrats on new baby! Enjoy the journey!

  9. jeannie mcdonald says:

    I did co-sleep with my older children 20 yrs ago but now have 18mo old twins and new husband who didn’t approve of co sleep and I chose to not argue. Also with twins, I thought it would be very hard to nurse simultaniously (sp) in our bed. I do have a very comfy couch and a great rocker recliner that I have learned to sleep in and nurse my twins in every night since they were born. There are now nights they sleep in their own bed (all night on occasion) and I don’t as much sleep as if they were still waking and we slept and nursed. I lay there anticipating them waking. Anyway, I do believe in co sleeping for many reasons and it’s many benefits.
    More people sleep with their pets than they do with their human child….that is disturbing!

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Congrats on nursing twins!! 🙂 Sounds like you are practicing a form of co-sleeping with them, just not bed-sharing. And I had to laugh at the pet comment…sad, but true.

  10. Caroline says:

    I never, ever thought I’d be a co-sleeper. In fact, I was a little horrified when my husband began co-sleeping with our first son. (I work overnights, so he was at home overnight with the baby) But I quickly came to appreciate it. It’s a very special time. We did end up weaning our older son into his crib around 14 months, partly because we had a second son (whom we co-sleep with now) and partly because he was at an age where he was no longer napping or sleeping well with us. I think it was harder on my husband than it was on our son! I don’t think we’ll ever be people who co-sleep past about that age, but I fully support people co-sleeping after our experience. I do love that I can have one-on-one time with our younger son now that our older son is happily snoozing in his own space, and you are right…it has really helped my breastfeeding to have him close by.

    • Sarah says:

      What a neat story to hear co-sleeping intiated by a daddy! Thanks for sharing. Enjoy this special time with your second co-sleeping nursling. 🙂