When I was pregnant with Henry I read Gina Ford’s The New Contented Little Baby Book, and thought her ideas, including establishing a strict routine with very young babies and practicing controlled crying, were sensible, rational and logical, and we planned to practice her methods with our new baby.
I know Gina Ford’s book has saved many a parent’s sanity, and I’m not in any way criticising mamas out there who have chosen to follow her methods, but I realised very early on that it wouldn’t work for us. Frankly, I felt as high as a kite after Henry’s birth (thanks, Oxytocin!), which was followed by crashing post-natal depression, and all reason and logic (thankfully) went out of the window. My relationship with newborn Henry was a completely emotional one, and only worked if I felt that I was responding to all his needs and trusted my powerful mama instincts. And, for us, that meant breastfeeding on demand, baby wearing and, eventually, co-sleeping. I didn’t plan to do any of these things, they just, sort of… happened. And everything fell into place when my amazing health visitor pointed out that we seemed to be unconsciously following the principles of attachment parenting, something I hadn’t heard of at that point, and am now passionate about.
We continue to bedshare with 3 1/2 year old Henry, and we all love it. We have a wrought iron day bed pushed up against our king-size bed, which is super handy as the wrought iron rails around three sides of the smaller bed keep Henry safe. Ideally, I’d love to continue co-sleeping until Henry is ready and wants to move into his own room, but we’ll see.
I was excited to co-sleep with Noah right from birth. After my c-section Henry slept in a bedside cot whilst I was in hospital to help facilitate breastfeeding, but we had a standard Moses basket at home. We started bed sharing properly at around 5 or 6 months, and I found rolling over to feed him (at which point we’d both usually fall back to sleep) so much easier than groggily climbing out of bed to scoop him up and sit in a chair to nurse, multiple times every night.
This time, we have the Chicco Next2Me, a co-sleeping crib that attaches to the side of the bed, for safe bed sharing in the early months. Noah is right next to me, and I can respond quickly when he wakes, and I’m sure he’s more calm and content knowing that I’m close by.
There are other benefits, too. Co-sleeping babies tend to cry and startle less. Startling and crying releases adrenaline, which increases heart rate and blood pressure, interferes with restful sleep and can lead to long term sleep anxiety. Studies have also shown that babies that sleep next to their parents have more stable temperatures, regular heart rhythms and fewer long pauses in breathing.
Long term, it has been suggested that co-sleeping babies grow up with a higher self-esteem, are more comfortable with affection and become independent sooner, which I’m certain is due to the secure attachment and bond created by keeping young children physically close to their care givers.
There are guidelines to follow, of course, to keep your baby safe, and I read through them again in the run up to Noah’s birth.
The Lullaby Trust states that bed sharing with a baby of low birth weight (under 2.5kg/5 1/2 lbs) or a premature baby (37 weeks or less) carries an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and recommend that your baby sleeps in a separate Moses basket or cot for their first six months. We bought the Chicco Next2Me (with this adorable bedding) for Noah. It is pricey, but being able to keep our baby close and nurse easily during the night makes it worth it. I love the Snuzpod, but it is more expensive and the Chicco Next2Me is consistently award winning. The Next2Me is also larger than other co-sleeping costs, so we’re hopeful we can use it for the first six months. This way, Noah is right next to us, but still in his own crib.
- Make sure your baby can’t fall out of bed, or become trapped between the mattress and the wall. With Henry we used a bed rail like this to keep him safe, and now he’s older he sleeps in this day bed, pushed against our bed.
- Use your baby’s standard bedding rather than a large duvet, which can cause your baby to overheat. Cellular blankets are great, but we love the gro company’s Groswaddle as Noah startles easily and sleeps better swaddled), and we’ll use sleeping bags when he’s older.
- Ensure your baby’s face or head isn’t covered by pillows or bedding.
- Always put your baby to sleep on his back, never on his side or tummy.
- If you bed share with older children too, arrange for your older child to sleep next to Daddy and away from the baby, as they’re less conscious of a tiny baby and can move around a lot in their sleep.
- Never co-sleep in a chair or on a sofa.
- And, it goes without saying, never co-sleep with a young baby if you’ve been drinking. Studies have also found an increased link between SIDS and co-sleeping if either parent smokes.
Do you co-sleep? Do you plan to try it?