Co-sleeping is a practice where parents and their children sleep together in the same bed or the same room. While co-sleeping is a common practice in many cultures around the world, it has been a controversial topic in Western countries, with some experts advocating for it and others advising against it. In this blog post, we'll explore the benefits and drawbacks of co-sleeping and provide some tips for safe co-sleeping.
In Ireland, the official recommendation for safe sleep for infants is to place them on their back to sleep, in their own crib or bassinet, in the same room as the caregiver for at least the first six months of life. This recommendation is based on evidence that shows that this sleeping arrangement is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths.
The Health Service Executive (HSE), which is the Irish government's health service, provides guidance on safe sleep practices for infants, which includes the recommendation for room-sharing without bed-sharing. The HSE states that "the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months" and advises against bed-sharing due to the increased risk of accidental suffocation or overheating.
Additionally, the HSE recommends that parents avoid co-sleeping with their infant if they have been drinking alcohol, taking medication or drugs that make them drowsy, or if they smoke.
It's worth noting that some families choose to co-sleep with their infants despite the official recommendations. However, experts emphasize the importance of practicing safe sleep habits if co-sleeping is chosen, including using a separate sleep surface for the infant and avoiding soft bedding, such as pillows and blankets, that could pose a suffocation risk.
Benefits of Co-Sleeping:
One of the most significant benefits of co-sleeping is the opportunity for increased bonding between parents and their children. Sleeping together can help parents feel more connected to their children, and it can also help children feel more secure and comforted. Co-sleeping has been shown to promote healthy attachment between parents and children, which can have positive effects on children's emotional and social development.
Another benefit of co-sleeping is that it can make nighttime breastfeeding easier. When the baby is in the same room or bed as the mother, she can easily breastfeed without having to get out of bed. This can help both the mother and baby get more sleep and can be especially beneficial in the early months when babies need to feed frequently.
Drawbacks of Co-Sleeping:
One of the most significant drawbacks of co-sleeping is the potential for accidental suffocation or other sleep-related injuries. Infants who sleep in the same bed as adults are at higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation, especially if parents are heavy sleepers, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if the baby is sleeping on a soft surface.
Another potential drawback of co-sleeping is that it can disrupt parents' sleep patterns. Babies often wake up frequently during the night, and having them in the same room or bed can make it difficult for parents to get a good night's sleep. Anyone with a little one who has shared a room will them will know that they make ALOT of noises throughout the night and not all warrant a parents attention. This can lead to sleep deprivation, which can have negative effects on parents' health and well-being.
In general the recommendations would be to room share until your little one is 6months old. This would mean your little one is in the same room as you but has their own sleeping space/surface i.e. crib or next to me bassinet.
Tips for Safe Co-Sleeping:
If you decide to co-sleep with your baby, there are several steps you can take to ensure that it is done safely:
Follow safe sleep guidelines: Make sure that your baby is sleeping on a firm, flat surface with no soft bedding, pillows, or toys. Also, make sure that your baby is sleeping on their back to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Avoid drugs and alcohol: Never co-sleep if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as this can impair your ability to wake up if your baby is in distress.
Keep your baby close: If you're co-sleeping, keep your baby within arm's reach so that you can easily monitor them.
Use a co-sleeper: A co-sleeper is a crib or bassinet that attaches to the side of the bed, allowing your baby to sleep in their own space but still be close to you.
Listen to your instincts: If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy about co-sleeping, it's okay to choose another sleep arrangement that works better for you and your family.
Co-sleeping can be a beneficial practice for parents and children, but it's important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks and take steps to ensure that it is done safely. By following safe sleep guidelines and listening to your instincts, you can make an informed decision about whether co-sleeping is the right choice for your family.
Health Service Executive. (2018). Your baby's sleep. https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/your-babys-sleep.html
The Irish Times. (2017). Baby on board: The five safest sleeping options. https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/baby-on-board-the-five-safest-sleeping-options-1.3080529
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. (2016). Pediatrics, 138(5). https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162938