Unsure if your baby should be sleeping in your bed? MH lays down all you need to know on co-sleeping.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Nothing beats the joy of snuggling next to your little one in bed while both of you drift off to sleep, and waking up the next morning to a smiling baby. The bonding experience this gives between mother and baby is like no other.
Still, co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed as your baby) remains a controversial topic in the parenting world. Both experts and parents alike have widely conflicting views on whether parents should co-sleep with their baby due to the safety risks involved.
Whether you choose to co-sleep with your baby or not is ultimately up to you as the parent. If you are still unsure of which is best for you and your baby, let’s take a look at some of the reasons on both sides of the debate.
A popular reason for co-sleeping is the convenience of breastfeeding. Since the baby is lying on the bed right next to the mother, there is no hassle of getting out of bed to nurse the baby back to sleep. Thus, there is less disruption for both mother and baby, which allows the baby to fall back asleep easily, and the mother gets a better night’s rest too.
Furthermore, being able to breastfeed easily benefits the mother’s breast milk supply.
“Mum maintains a good breast milk supply through maintenance of breastfeeding, and possibly more
likely to continue to breastfeed for longer periods (up to the recommended six months of age),”
says Associate Professor Daniel Goh, senior consultant,
Division of Paediatric Pulmonary and Sleep,
National University Hospital.
The ability to continue breastfeeding for a longer period of time will consequently give added benefits to the baby. “The importance of breastfeeding cannot be underestimated – including benefits to the child’s health and development, immunological benefits and promoting bonding and closeness between mother and child,” says A/Prof Goh.
The advantages of co-sleeping do not just stop there. According to A/Prof Goh, there is evidence that co-sleeping “moderates the stress response in the infant and reduces response to physical stress”.
There are long term benefits to the baby as well as he grows older. “There is also evidence to suggest that co-sleeping may result in better-adjusted children who are more self-reliant and independent. Some studies suggest co-sleeping reduces tantrums, boosts self-esteem later in life, and helps both males and females become comfortable with intimacy as adults,” says A/Prof Goh.
Safety concerns to the baby mainly make up the other side of the sleeping debate. “Bedsharing is not recommended for safety reasons, as there is the risk of the baby being rolled over by a sleeping adult or an older child, resulting in suffocation of the baby. Studies have also shown that there is a higher incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in households where families practise bed sharing,” says paediatrician and child neurologist, Dr Wendy Liew Kein Meng, SBCC Baby & Child Clinic (Neurology Centre).
Apart from safety concerns, co-sleeping might also result in the baby relying on the breast to fall asleep – a condition known as sleep onset association disorder – due to the mother breastfeeding the baby to sleep in bed. This can make it difficult for the baby to stay asleep, which will also increase the interruptions to the mother’s sleep since she has to wake up frequently during night time.
If you wish for your baby to be in close proximity to you
while sleeping, let your baby sleep in your room,
but on a separate surface such as a crib instead of your bed.
In fact, the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends infants sleep in their parents’ room for the first six months up to, ideally, the first year of life. Room-sharing with your baby (but not in the same bed) actually lowers the risk of SIDS, so this is a great alternative to bed-sharing.