Sunday, February 19, 2012

Safe Co-sleeping

          A few days ago, I wrote a post on the benefits of co-sleeping. You can find that post here. As I mentioned in that post, when done safely, co-sleeping is actually safer and better for parents and babies than having baby sleep alone. But, what exactly does it mean to co-sleep safely? Let's take a look at the precautions that should be taken in order for co-sleeping to be safe for you and your family:

-Both mom and dad should become informed of the risks and benefits of co-sleeping as well as the safety precautions that should be taken before deciding whether or not co-sleeping is right for their family and particular situation.

-Both parents should be in agreement and both should be equally responsible for making sure baby is safe in their bed.

-Always place babies to sleep on their backs.

-Breastfeed. Breastfeeding provides protection against SIDS and studies show that mothers who breastfeed are more aware of baby during the night. Breastfeeding moms and babies also wake up more frequently at night for feedings.

-If you are bottle feeding, it is safest for baby to sleep near you on a separate surface such as a co-sleeper, cot, crib, or bassinet.

-Make sure your bed is large enough for everyone to fit comfortably.

-Make sure that your mattress is firm. Babies should not sleep on soft surfaces which can make it easy for them to suffocate.

-It is safest to put your mattress directly on the floor.

-If your bed is raised off the floor, you may use a mesh guardrail to prevent baby from rolling off the bed or make sure the bed is completely against the wall.

-Make sure there are no gaps between the bed and the wall, guardrail, headboard, or footboard where baby may become entrapped. fill in gaps with rolled up towels or blankets.

-Make sure your fitted sheet is fits the mattress snugly and won't come off during the night.

-It is safest for baby to sleep between mom and the wall or guardrail. A breastfeeding mom is most aware of baby's presence and movement. Many fathers also develop awareness of baby over time. It is up to you and your spouse to very carefully decide whether or not it is safe for baby to sleep next to dad.

-Make sure there are no drapes or blinds near your bed that baby may become entrapped in.

-Dress baby appropriately. Co-sleeping babies are warmed by their parents' body heat and should be dressed in lighter pajamas than babies sleeping alone to avoid overheating.

-Baby should be covered by a thin blanket only. Avoid having a lot of pillows or heavy blankets around baby.

-Do not wear any long jewelry or pajamas/lingerie with long strings as these are pose a risk of strangulation for baby.

-If mom has very long hair, it should be tied up to avoid the risk of strangulation for baby.

-Do not use strong perfumes or hair sprays that can irritate baby's delicate nasal passages and also mask mom's natural smell.

-You may choose to have baby sleep in a co-sleeper or bassinet next to your bed so that baby is within arm's reach of mom yet on a separate surface instead of having baby in your bed.

-You may also choose to sidecar the crib to your bed for the same reason. This means that you securely attach the crib to your bed, with the side facing your bed lowered so that mom can have easy access to baby. There are several articles online as well as You Tube videos to show you how to do this.

-Never sleep with your baby on a water bed. It is very easy for a baby to suffocate on such a surface.

-Never sleep with your baby on a sofa, couch, or chair. Baby can easily roll off and may also become entrapped between cushions and suffocate.

-Never sleep with your baby if you smoke, use alcohol or are taking any drugs or are on any medications that affect your sleep. You will not be as aware of baby and may cause injury to the child.

-Never sleep with your baby when you are extremely exhausted or suffering from sleep deprivation. You may sleep deeper than normal and have less awareness of baby.

-Never sleep with your baby if you are extremely obese. Obesity may cause sleep apnea in the parent, making them less aware of baby and there is also a risk of smothering baby.

-Never co-sleep with baby and animals at the same time. Although your pet might be considered art of the family, animals do not have that same sense of awareness that humans have. Also, you never know when your beloved Rover might turn on your baby.

-If you are co-sleeping with both baby and an older sibling, do not have the baby and older child sleeping next to each other. Children do not yet have the same awareness that adults do and may unconsciously kick or roll over on to the baby. It is best if one child is on each side of the mother.

-Do not leave baby alone in an adult bed unless both the bed and the room are completely safe and baby proof. The bed should be low enough that baby can't fall off and there should be nothing dangerous within baby's reach if he crawls out of bed to explore the room.

-Do not sleep with a baby if you are not the baby's parent. Other caregivers such as siblings, grandparents, babysitters, etc. do not have the same awareness of baby that parents, especially mothers, do.

-It is safest to either always co-sleep, or never co-sleep. When you only bring your baby into bed occasionally because you had a rough night, etc. you do not develop that same sense of awareness as when you co-sleep regularly. Also, if one parent brings baby to bed in the middle of the night while the other is sleeping, that other parent, who is not used to baby being in bed, has no idea baby is there and may accidentally roll over and harm baby.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Co-Sleeping: Should You Or Should You Not Sleep With Your Baby?

          Co-sleeping seems to be generating a lot of controversy lately. There have been a few infant deaths in the news recently which have been erroneously blamed on co-sleeping as well as the Milwaukee anti-co-sleeping campaign which uses pictures of babies sleeping on an adult bed alone, with pillows and blankets and a knife next to them stating "Your baby sleeping  with you can be just as dangerous". All of these incidents along with the campaign, have been giving co-sleeping a bad name in the media. However, when certain precautions are taken, co-sleeping is actually safer and better for babies than sleeping alone in a crib far from their parents. It is also important to note that the the term co-sleeping refers not only to bed-sharing but to baby sleeping next to your  bed in a crib, cot, so-sleeper,etc. Let's take a look at the many benefits of sleeping with your baby.

Benefits of co-sleeping:

-A reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) : Shocking, right? Contrary to popular belief, babies who sleep either in their parents' bed or next to it (in cot, crib, bassinet, co-sleeper, etc) have a fourfold decrease in their risk of SIDS. Furthermore, SIDS rates are much lower and even non-existent in countries where co-sleeping is common practice. It is believed that mom's breathing helps to regulate the baby's breathing and baby also spends more time on his back or side, therefore, reducing the risk of SIDS.

-Better sleep: Babies who co-sleep cry and startle less throughout the night than babies who sleep alone. In addition, parents don't have to get up to get get baby when he wakes during the night and, therefore, experience less sleep disruption.

-Easier breastfeeding: Since baby is already next to mom, mom can easily help baby get latched on while laying down and without either of them even fully waking up.

-Mom can respond to baby easier and faster. Because the baby is so close to mom, he does not need to resort to crying to get mom's attention, simple movement will wake mom up. Since baby is already right there, his needs can be met faster by mom.

-Higher self-esteem for baby in the future.

-Children grow up to be more independent: another shocker! Since babies needs for closeness, comfort, and security are being met, he learns to trust his parents and develops a secure attachment to them, which leads to independence as he gets older. Ignoring a child's needs and attempting to force him into independence actually causes stress and anxiety which lead to over-dependency later in life.

-Greater physiological stability: Babies who co-sleep have fewer long pauses in their breathing, a more stable temperature, and a more regular heartbeat.

-Reduced guilt and anxiety for children.

-Children grow up with less discomfort about affection and physical contact which leads to better relationships as adults.

-Mothers who co-sleep tend to breastfeed longer than those who do not.

-Parents are more attuned to their children and a more secure attachment is formed.

-There are less bedtime struggles when the child is older. Because the child has formed positive sleep associations by having his needs met from infancy, he is less likely to be afraid or have nightmares or other forms of sleep disturbance in the future.

-Co-sleeping allows working parents to have more bonding time with their child.

-When done safely, co-sleeping is actually safer for babies than sleeping alone.

          As we can see, these media campaigns using scare tactics are based on faulty information. Oftentimes, they ignore the other factors that led to the infant's death such as drug abuse by the parent. In fact, sleeping with or near your baby can have many benefits for both you and baby. It is important to note, however, that certain precautions need to be taken in order to make co-sleeping safe. I will be writing about safe co-sleeping in a future post.


Dr. William Sears (Ask Dr. Sears)

Attachment Parenting International

Further Reading:

The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Rest for the Whole Family by William Sears, M.D.m Robert Sears, M. D., James Sears, M. D., and Martha Sears, R.N.

The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. (covers co-sleeping along with breastfeeding, babywearing, and other attachment parenting practices)

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices by Sara J. Buckley, M.D. (not specifically about sleeping but has a whole chapter dedicated to the research studies on co-sleeping)

There are man other books that cover the research on co-sleeping but I can only recommend those that I have personally read.