Cosleeping and Your Baby

In the US, the cosleeping or the practice of sharing your bed with your infant is a controversial issue, with regards to the child’s safety.

Why people choose to cosleep

According to some studies, cosleeping:

  • encourage breastfeeding because it makes nighttime breastfeeding more convenient.
  • makes it easier for the nursing mother to get her sleep cycle in sync with her baby’s.
  • help babies fall asleep more easily.
  • help babies get more sleep at night; since they wake up more often with shorter feeding intervals that can add up to a longer nighttime sleep.
  • help busy parents regain the closeness with their baby that they feel they missed (during the day).

Cosleeping risks

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), despite possible pros, warns against cosleeping, citing that the practice puts babies at risk of suffocation and strangulation. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees.

Cosleeping is a common practice in many non-Western cultures. But, the differences in mattresses, bedding, and cultural practices may explain the lower risk in these countries.

According to the CPSC, at least 515 deaths are associated to infants and toddlers under 2 years of age sleeping in adult beds form January 1990 to December 1997.

  • Of that number, 121 were attributed to a parent, caregiver, or sibling rolling on top of or against a baby while sleeping.
  • More than 75 percent of the deaths involved infants aged 3 months old and younger.

Advocates of cosleeping say that the practice is not inherently dangerous, adding that the CSPC went to far in recommending that parents never sleep with children below 2 years old. According to cosleeping supporters, parents won’t roll over onto a baby because they are conscious of the baby’s presence even during sleep.

However, those who should not cosleep with an infant are:

  • other children, especially toddlers, because they might not be aware of the baby’s presence.
  • Parents who are under the influence of alcohol or any drug, because that would greatly reduce their awareness of the baby
  • Parents who smoke, because this increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.

Can cosleeping cause SIDS?

The link between cosleeping and SIDS is still unclear and research is still ongoing. However, some cosleeping researchers suggested that it can decrease the risk of SIDS because cosleeping parents and babies are inclined to wakeup more often throughout the night. But according the AAP reports that some studies suggest that, under certain conditions, cosleeping may increase the risk of SIDS, particularly cosleeping environments involving mothers who smoke.

The CSPC also reported that more than 100 infant deaths between January 1999 and December 2001 were attributable to hidden hazards on adult beds, including:

  • Suffocation when an infant gets trapped or wedged between a mattress and headboard, wall or other object
  • Suffocation from being face-down on a waterbed, a regular mattress, or on soft pillows, blankets, or quilts
  • Strangulation in a bed frame that allows part of an infant’s body to pass through an area while trapping the head.

In addition to potential safety hazards, cosleeping can sometimes keep parents from getting a good night’s sleep. Also, infants who cosleep can learn to associate sleep with being close to a parent in the parents’ bed. This could become a problem at naptime or when the baby needs to go to sleep before the parent is ready.

Source: MSN Health