Co-sleeping with your baby is a part of culture in a few countries. However, in many other cultures, it is not acceptable. Many parents also choose to put their baby away while sleeping because they fear they could smother their little one during sleep. In fact, several babies have been reported to have died of suffocation while sleeping.
In England and Wales alone, more than 200 babies unexpectedly die every year.
At the end of 2014, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence or NICE stated that the Department of Health advised the best way to put a baby to sleep; on her back and in her cot or Moses basket for the first six months.
Sarah Ockwell-Smith, from Gentle Parenting, has a different approach. She conducted a study on six hundred parents, 46 percent concealed that they shared a bed with their newborn, for the fear of being judged. The study was also commissioned for Sarah’s new book, “Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters”, which stirs debate on why allowing babies on the parents bed is far better (if you do it the right way) than putting your baby in her cot. Sarah says that most others are keeping quiet about co-sleeping with their babies because it is considered taboo. Such women won’t even tell their friends or family. But, Sarah stresses that co-sleeping with your baby is entirely safe as long as you follow some guidelines. She also says that NICE never disapproved of parents sharing a bed with their babies, rather they emphasize on parents making an ‘informed choice.”
On the contrary, many health professionals are misinterpreting the directive, and deterring parents from co-sleeping with their babies stating that it could put more babies at risk.
Sarah suggests that one should put the pillows and duvet away and that the baby should be on the outside of the bed beside its mother while separate from its father or siblings. Putting the baby in the middle of the bed, so she doesn’t fall out might increase the risk of being rolled on or invite risks like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. Mothers should also make sure they tie their hair back and not let any cords dangle from her nightwear.
Some experts feel that only breastfed babies must sleep beside their mothers. It turns out that mothers who have put their babies on a bottle feed might be placing their babies near their face, as opposed to their chest, and increasing the risk of suffocation. In fact, breastfeeding mothers have a different sleeping pattern. Sarah adds that breastfeeding mothers sleep lightly and are in tune with their baby and are likely to make a protective frame around the baby.
So when is co-sleeping not recommended? Well, research suggests that mothers who are smokers or have smoked during pregnancy or who have a partner who smokes must avoid co-sleeping with their baby as it could be dangerous for the baby. Total abstinence from smoking and alcohol is the key to having the baby sleep beside you. The other factor you need to think of is medication such as post-birth analgesics for pain relief that you are taking.
The other advantage of bed-sharing with babies is supported by research that co-sleeping babies were twice as likely to be breastfed for at least the first six months of life compared to babies who began breastfeeding but didn’t bed-share.
Babies simply won’t settle in their beds and sleep well rather instantly when in close contact with the mother in her bed. Many moms testify to the same.
While Sarah believes that co-sleeping promotes breastfeeding, she admonishes that it could reduce the risk of SIDS. The biggest benefit, according to her, is that babies sleep well in this position, owing to their natural mammal instinct.
Moreover, research concludes that babies who share a bed with mom are less likely to be obese, and have a slightly higher IQ than their peers.