Co-Sleeping with Babies And What You Should Know
What makes us a good parent? Are the societal norms creating an image of unattainable heights? Around eight to ten percent of women face anxiety after they have given birth, which can ever so often interfere with mood changes.
Parenthood is both a rewarding and a challenging journey, and as new arguments and thesis emerge, it often leaves us wondering if we are making an appropriate decision for our young ones. A lot of debates circle around how children should be raised with methods that require a shift in our lifestyle, and this might leave parents feeling overwhelmed. Co-sleeping is one such elephant in the room that has drawn the attention of researchers. We see ourselves labelling a newborn being ‘good’ depending on their sleep cycle and judge the parents negatively if they are unable to sleep train. How do you set an infants’ sleep schedule? Where should the child sleep, and what are the tricks for making them sleep throughout the night?
What is Co-sleeping?
By definition, Co-sleeping is a practice in which babies and young children sleep close to one or both parents, be it sleeping on the same bed or sleeping on a cot in the same room, as opposed to in a separate room. It had been an accepting habit until the 19th century, henceforth the initiation of providing the child with their own ‘space’, be it a room or a crib, began. According to James Joseph McKenna, (an American biological anthropologist who founded and directed the Mother-Baby Behavioural Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame) “our beliefs and decisions about children’s sleep are more a reflection of the culture we live in than the scientific evidence for what’s best for children”
What is the debate?
Paediatricians and researchers have advised against co-sleeping because of various reasons, SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome) being one of them. In 1963, SIDS was coined as a medical term, as three to four out of 1,000 babies died from it. Reports of mothers ‘overlaying’ on the child in their sleep became a cause of concern and doctors did not recommend co-sleeping.
However, as wealth spread in the western economies, more and more people were educated. It drove the sense of individual privacy. Sleeping in separate rooms came to be known as civilized, and only ‘invalids’ or animals were thought to be sleeping in herds. Another reason why solitary sleeping at a very young age began was because of the belief that children should not be pampered or spoiled, rather disciplined so they grow up as individuals with strong personality traits; showing affection and coddling a child was frowned upon. Furthermore, Sigmund Freud proposed that a marriage bed was for husband and wife, and babies would be harmed if they were to witness their parents’ sexuality.
Advantage of Co-sleeping
- Helps regulate the baby’s breathing
- Babies grow faster and use energy more efficiently
- They experience less stress
- Easier for mother to monitor the baby- to check if they are sleeping correctly, are not cold or if they have to be fed
Anthropologists who study human biology say that co-sleeping facilitates an offspring’s growth, which is believed to occur most safely near the caregiver’s body. This is especially applicable for the first few months while the baby’s own physiology is the most immature. A small study was conducted where twenty-five 4- to 10-month-old babies were chosen for an experiment. They were separated from their mothers for sleep training. Even though the babies’ behaviour quieted on the third night, their levels of cortisol remained high, indicating a rise in the stress hormone.
McKenna writes that in human history, parents have slept close to their children for their safety and for their own ease of breastfeeding. When adults and babies sleep together, McKenna and his colleagues found, they do sleep more lightly and rouse more often. It is safer, especially in the first few months of life. For an added benefit, that lighter sleep, or REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, is also important for synaptogenesis, the rapid growth of connections between neurons, in newborns.
A small study was conducted on 83 preschoolers, and it found that children who slept alone from an early age fell asleep more on their own and slept more through the night, but the pre-schoolers who co-slept from an early age were more likely to dress themselves, entertain themselves, and work out problems with peers. Another study of 205 families showed that by age 18, children who bedshared did not differ from solitary sleepers in their sleep problems or mental health. In other words, as children grow, many different factors contribute to their well-being.
As a new parent, the sleeping arrangement with the little one should be such that the mother feels at ease. Even though sleeping separately has been encouraged for a long time now, so much that it has become a societal norm, data suggest that co-sleeping is on the increase since parents have a natural inclination to sleep protectively near their babies. Every family has a different structure and needs, and like McKenna points out, parents should feel comfortable in making the choices that best serves them.
What has been your take on co-sleeping? Is it a practice you believe in or do you believe in children sleeping in their own room? At what age do you believe children should be separated from their parents room? Share your thoughts with us!
Apoorva Panwar has done her Major in English Literature and has been a freelance writer and content creator for website and social media. She is a stay-at-home mother and a professional trouble shooter when it comes to finding the right pair of socks.
You can connect with her on Instagram at @simply.apoorva
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mom Store.