Co-sleeping is associated with more night wakings than solitary sleeping. On average, babies who bed-share with their mother were found to wake almost 6 times a night (averaged across ages 3-15 months), compared to an average of just over 3 for solitary sleeping infants (Mao et al 2004). However, both groups of babies spent the same percentage of the night awake, suggesting that co-sleeping infants fell back asleep faster than solitary infants.
Co-sleeping and Child Development
You don’t need to worry that co-sleeping is stifling independence or ability to self-settle. Your physical comfort helps your child to learn to regulate emotions, which will make self settling easier when it is required. There is also some evidence that co-sleeping can help to lower children’s stress (Wayneforth 2007). The only thing is that your child will be used to co-sleeping and may fight against any changes to that. When the time comes, this can be approached like any other necessary change (such as moving from a cot to a bed), with good communication and clear expectations.
Co-sleeping should be practiced safely. Check out these guidelines:
Is Co-sleeping right for me?
Sharing a room with your baby is recommended for the first 6 months. If your baby can hear you breath while they sleep, it reduces the risk of SIDS. If bed-sharing isn’t working for you in the first 6 months, you can try a cot next to the bed, or side car. Beyond 6 months of age, co-sleeping can lead to more disrupted sleep or better sleep depending on a number of factors:
- Light sleepers might sleep better in separate rooms (beyond 6 months).
- If your child has difficulty self-settling, co-sleeping may be more restive for both parent and child.
- Highly active sleepers might benefit from separate sleep surfaces.
- Children suffering from separation anxiety might sleep better with company.
Co-sleeping as a sleep-saving option
Bed-sharing doesn’t work for everyone, but for some people, it can reduce the feeling of sleep deprivation. Although bed-sharing children wake more frequently than solo-sleeping children, they tend to fall back asleep faster and it can be less disruptive for the mother’s sleep. Not everyone can bed-share safely (see the guidelines linked to below), but there are other options such as co-sleepers that attach to the bed (up to about 4 or 5 months; e.g. the Arms Reach Co-sleeper – Affiliate link, thank you), or having the cot right up beside the bed. This allows you to pat your child without getting up.
If you choose to bed-share, or if there is any chance that you will bed-share in desperation, read the safety guidelines and risk factors above, so that you can make it safe.
Please add your experiences with co-sleeping in the comments below. Please provide the age of your child when you tried it. Let us know how long you tried it it for. If it helped, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t help, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?