Elizabeth Boyce posted about her beautiful family bed this week and it has (re?)sparked the co-sleeping/family bed discussion. Sleep is hands down the number one question we get from our postpartum clients and we always say the same thing…:
Public Health Agency of Canada and the American Academy of Pediatrics does not support sleeping with your baby in your bed. Period. They feel that this increases the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation. Sleep experts that support bedsharing feel that these government agencies are distributing incorrect information about SIDS. The State of Milwaukee recently did a large controversial anti-co-sleeping campaign that received very mixed reviews. We understand why that is the stance that they have to take, as they cannot police that everyone is bedsharing safely. Bedsharing is a wonderful practice, however, it needs to be done safely. What does this include according to co-sleeping expert Dr. James McKenna?
- No smoking in the bed
- No pets in the bed
- Avoid other children sleeping next to the infant
- No stuffed animals/toys
- No pillows under or around the infant
- Parents shouldn’t be taking over-the-counter or illicit drugs or alcohol that will affect their sleep
- Tie up long hair of the parent next to the baby
- Be mindful if the parent is obese – there may be less body boundary awareness
Dr. McKenna also urges parents to consider this before co-sleeping:
“It may be important to consider or reflect on whether you would think that you suffocated your baby if, under the most unlikely scenario, your baby died from SIDS while in your bed. Just as babies can die from SIDS in a risk free solitary sleep environment, it remains possible for a baby to die in a risk-free cosleeping/bed sharing environment. Just make sure, as much as this is possible, that you would not assume that, if the baby died, that either you or your spouse would think that bed-sharing contributed to the death, or that one of your really suffocated (by accident) the infant. It is worth thinking about.”
In an interesting article posted by EcoParent, they explain that 95% of the world’s population sleeps with their babies, and in Asian countries like China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand they have an almost unheard of SIDS Rate. Parents in Japan and Hong Kong universally sleep with their children and they have the lowest SIDS rate in the world!
What do we say?
Well, like always, we feel whatever keeps your mental health up is the best plan for you and your family.There is no simple answer or one right way to raise your child(ren). You need to make an informed decision that factors in all aspects of your lives such as:
- Are you on mat or pat leave?
- How many babies are there?
- Do you sleep better with your baby in your bed or in their own room?
- HINT: Studies show that mothers get more but lighter sleep when their babies are in their beds…
- Does your partner (if you have one) like having the baby in the bed?
- Are you breastfeeding?
We also want to highlight that co-sleeping is not necessarily your baby in your bed!
A bassinet or crib at arms length from the parents would also qualify, and is recommended by all! We also want to point out that babies sleep better when sleeping with a parent! Your baby knows they are safe and this aids in healthy attachment.
So let’s bring it back to Elizabeth’s nest she made for her, her husband Tom, and their 5 little ones ranging from 1 – 11 years of age. This works for her and her family. This gets them the most amount of sleep. My partner and I love having our king-sized bed to ourselves just as our daughter, Gray, loves her bed in her room. Gray ended the co-sleeping situation at 11 months of age, by curling up on the reading couch in her room for naps (she did not even have a crib in there). If she had her way she would spend all day in her bed with her books all around her, singing to herself. She has been like this her whole life.
I was raised in a house with parents that loved the family bed practice.
My three siblings and I all had different experiences around co-sleeping. I, like Gray, loved my own bed. Not that I did not love the Sunday morning family snuggle that always took place before our hike and I loved to be alone and read and sleep in my own space. My little sister, the baby of the family, still slept with my parents when she was going into high school. So there you have it, it depends on the parents and what the child wants.
Baby not born yet?
It is hard to say what you will want to do once your baby arrives. We suggest investing in nothing (or you can beg, borrow or steal a bassinet) and seeing how it goes the first few weeks, then you can make decisions after that. It is hard to know what will work for you and your family until you are in the trenches.
Have more questions about sleep options? We have created a true No-Cry Sleep Solution that supports healthy attachment for you and your baby. Comment below if you have any questions for us! We would also love to hear about your sleeping situations… What works for you?
Bianca Sprague is a birth doula, lactation educator, childbirth educator and business consultant. She and her partner Alana are the moms to their 8 year old daughter, Gray. Bianca is the co-owner of bebo mia and Baby & Me Fitness.
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