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Many parents claim that co-sleeping is a wonderful source of intimacy and bonding with their infant. Find out how to enjoy the many benefits of co-sleeping while minimizing its inherent risks.

Mother sleeping with her baby | PregnancyAndBaby.com

Co-sleeping defined

Simply put, co-sleeping is the practice of parents sharing a bed with their baby or toddler. The baby is able to spend the night sleeping soundly next to Mom and Dad rather than in a crib. This practice certainly has potential benefits, but it remains controversial in the U.S. due to concerns about an increased risk of SIDS in co-sleeping babies. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against parents co-sleeping with their babies due to SIDS concerns.

Before you make up your mind about whether or not to co-sleep with your baby, it's important to weigh the many potential benefits against its risks.

Potential benefits of co-sleeping

The benefits of co-sleeping aren't just reserved for your baby. In fact, Mom, Dad and baby may benefit in substantial ways from sharing the family bed. According to What to Expect, supporters of co-sleeping claim the following benefits of the practice:

  1. Breastfeeding moms who co-sleep have an increased supply of milk and tend to breastfeed their babies longer than do moms who don't share the family bed.
  2. Babies who sleep next to Mom tend to fall asleep faster at night and return to their sleep cycle faster if they stir during the night.
  3. Parents who share a bed with baby feel a sense of intimacy and connection with their child, particularly if they're gone during the day for work.
  4. Moms and dads get more sleep at night when they don't have to get out of bed to soothe a crying baby.
Pediatrician Dr. Sears claims that there are benefits to co-sleeping beyond those mentioned above. Although some experts disagree with Dr. Sears' opinions and recommendations, he posits the following benefits of the family bed:
  1. Infants who co-sleep have more stable physiology than do solo sleepers. Their temperatures are more stable, and their heart and breathing rates are steadier.
  2. Babies are less likely to be injured in a shared bed than in a crib.
  3. A co-sleeping child tends to have better self-esteem, less anxiety and fewer behavioral problems than do children who sleep solo.
  4. Finally, Dr. Sears asserts that SIDS risks are actually reduced by co-sleeping — when safety precautions are taken.

How to make it safe

If you're interested in the benefits of co-sleeping but you still feel nervous about the risks, there are ways to make the practice safer for your baby.

  1. Use a bassinet. Rather than actually sharing your bed with your baby, you can attach a bassinet to the side of the bed. This way, your baby can enjoy the benefits of sleeping next to you without the risk of being trapped in sheets or pillows.
  2. Remove traps. Make sure the bed is free of cushy pillows and excess linens. Also, make sure that there are no gaps between the headboard and the bed.
  3. Place your baby on his or her back next to you. Babies should sleep on their back to reduce the risk of SIDS. Don't place your baby between you and your partner. Instead, place the baby between you and a guardrail so you reduce the likelihood of you or your partner rolling onto your baby.
  4. Never co-sleep after you've been drinking. You will be less likely to wake up if you roll over on your baby. Furthermore, never co-sleep if you have taken medications, if you're a smoker or if you're obese.

Do your due diligence to make co-sleeping safe for your baby, and you may find that the practice is a wonderfully intimate time for you and your family!

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