Things To Consider When Co-Sleeping With Baby, Including Safety Tips And Deciding If It Is An Option For You And Your Husband.

Studies indicate that co-sleeping may be beneficial for babies, but what about the parents? Many families enjoy sharing their bed, but for others it could cause a rift in mom and dad’s relationship. Here are some tips to navigate the co-sleeping issue and how it may affect you – and your partner.
Ami Burns

Many parents make the decision to co-sleep with their babies during pregnancy. Some decide to try it after the baby is born. Only you and your spouse know what is right for you, but here are some co-sleeping tips to consider.

Choosing to co-sleep
Janet Zinn (JanetZinn.com), LCSW, a relationship therapist in New York City, suggests parents talk about co-sleeping before the baby is born, understanding that some decisions might change once the baby is born. She also recommends parents observe their baby to see if co-sleeping is best. “This way they start their parenting understanding that they are co-parenting, and making decisions together. They're experiencing how things change even when they may have thought it would be one way.”

Zinn says the parents’ relationship can benefit from co-sleeping, including an expansion of the family unit so that the relationship expands to include the child, a growing love with the parents because they can witness how much they both share in the love of their child  and intimacy that isn't sex based.

Changing your mind
Jennifer and Bill M., new parents in Chicago, had no plans to co-sleep when their daughter was born, but their plans changed after six weeks of sleepless nights. “She was extremely fussy and would only sleep when lying on or next to one of us," Jennifer explains. “We had been taking shifts, one of us sleeping while the other held the baby. We were losing our minds with sleep deprivation and also missed sleeping in the same bed together.” It was a mutual decision, but for some couples it’s not that easy.

According to Zinn, parents may be divided and lose their connection, one or the other parent can feel jealous of the parent-child bond with the other, or one could be afraid for the child in bed. (For more information about safe co-sleeping guidelines, click here.)

What if one parent doesn’t want to co-sleep?
Unlike Jen and Bill, some couples may disagree about whether or not to co-sleep. “If there is one parent who feels very strongly about co-sleeping and is not able to budge,” explains Zinn, “my suggestion is to be open in another area of their relationship in which the partner can take the lead.  This way they both feel heard and appreciated in a respective area of their relationship.”

On his website, James C. McKenna, Ph.D. Professor of Biological Anthropology, Director, Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory, University of Notre Dame recommends the following to parents:

“If bed-sharing, ideally, both parents should agree and feel comfortable with the decision. Each bed-sharer should agree that he or she is equally responsible for the infant and acknowledge that the infant is present. My feeling is that both parents should think of themselves as primary caregivers.”

Zinn adds, “If parents want completely different things, they should discuss it so they both feel heard and it's not about being right or wrong.  This will also help them as new parents because it communicates problem solving skills rather than perpetuating conflicts.” 

As for Jen M., the new mom in Chicago, co-sleeping was a short-term solution that worked well for the entire family.“When she was older and the colic had passed, we moved her to her own crib.”

 



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