Are There Benefits Of CoSleeping? Everything You Need To Know To Actually Get Sleep With A Newborn.

mom reaching over to pat babys belly - benefits of cosleeping

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8 minute read

“Will I ever sleep again?” This question is often top of mind for many expecting and new parents. Sleep is critical to the healthy development of your newborn. You may be surprised to find out they can sleep up to 14-19 hours a day! 

But you and your partner will inevitably sleep less as you care for your bundle of joy nearly around the clock. 

You ALL deserve to get a little shut eye… But how do you set your baby up for success so that they get the sleep they need…safely? 

If you’re trying to decide if you should use your adorable nursery from the beginning, room-in, room-share, or co-sleep — you’re in the right place. We’re taking a look at the benefits of co sleeping and risks of co sleeping and other sleep arrangements so that you can ultimately make the best decision for your family. 

What is Rooming-in & Room Sharing?

If this is your first child, you may be a little unfamiliar with these topics. Let’s take a look at the basics of rooming-in, room sharing, and co-sleeping. 

two babies in hospital nursery not cosleeping or rooming in

Rooming-in:

If you’ve watched any movie where a mother gives birth, you’ll most likely see a scene where the baby is in the hospital nursery, surrounded by all the other new babies. 

Sound familiar? This is a heart-warming sight, but separating a mother from her baby — doesn’t support her physical and emotional need to be with her baby after birth.

Whether you’re giving birth at home, at a birth center, or in the hospital…It’s a natural instinct for mothers and birthing parents to want to be close to their newly born babies. 

This is much easier to accomplish if you’re giving birth at home, or if you’re at a birth center that supports the “golden hour” immediately after birth. 

But hospitals have been a bit slower to adapt this healthy birth practice

Thankfully, today there are more and more hospitals following Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) recommendations supported by the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control & Prevention. 

Instead of being whisked away to the nursery, your baby stays with you in your hospital room, often referred to as: rooming-in

There are numerous benefits from having your baby stay with you after labor and birth. This includes:

  • More skin-to-skin contact which enhances bonding and also helps your baby stay warm and cry less.
  • Promoting breastfeeding and ultimately increased exclusive breastfeeding.
  • Better sleep for you and your newborn.

But what happens once you’re discharged from the hospital and head home with your bundle of joy? 

Let’s take a look at the practice of room sharing. 

What Is Room Sharing? And Are There Benefits?

baby in cosleeping side car crib - benefit of cosleeping

After months spent decorating, preparing and organizing your nursery… It may be a little confusing to hear that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends sleeping in the same room as your new baby for the first 6 months — and maybe even up to a year. 

And while you may not spend as much time in your nursery during those first few weeks and months with your baby… The practice of room sharing has many benefits for both you and your baby. Let’s look at the top 3. 

Benefits Of Room Sharing with Your Baby:

1. Decrease Your Baby’s Risk Of SIDS

The main benefit that room sharing offers is decreasing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by up to 50% (AAP)

SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants under 6 months old…and one of a new parent’s worst fears. So taking any step that you can to protect your baby and create a safe sleep environment is a no-brainer. 

2. More Successful Chest/Breastfeeding

For many new parents, chest/breastfeeding can be a challenging journey. 

It can become that much harder when you have to pull yourself out of bed and trek to your baby’s nursery countless times a night… On top of any struggles that you and your baby are having trying to get into a rhythm of nursing. 

But room sharing — especially if your baby is within arm’s reach — can save you the hassle of getting out of bed. This makes it easier to enjoy the process of chest/breastfeeding and can lead to more success. 

These challenges can make some new moms or birthing parents give up chest/breastfeeding altogether and change to formula

3. Helps Ease Your Postpartum Recovery 

Whether you had a vaginal birth or a c-section — the first 6 weeks after your baby’s birth are an important time of rest, healing, and recovery. Even if you had a super smooth birth experience, your body will need time to adjust to the many changes that have taken place since you gave birth. 

Room-sharing with your baby can help with this process by: 

  • Reducing stress.
  • Promoting more sleep for you and your baby which allows you time to heal. 
  • Enhancing feelings of bonding and closeness with your baby. 

How to Successfully Room-Share with Your Baby:

So where does your baby sleep in your room? 

Your baby should sleep on a firm, separate sleep surface. This could be a bassinet, crib, or even a portable playpen. 

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Keeping your baby’s sleep area close to your bed — within arm’s reach — can make it that much easier to watch or breastfeed your little one. 

But with how often you need to feed your baby and how wonderful it feels to snuggle your little one… You may be wondering if it’s ok to let your baby sleep in your bed from time to time. This is known as co-sleeping

Is Room Sharing the Same as Co-Sleeping?

mom cosleeping with baby -benefit of cosleeping being close

Co-sleeping is not the same as room-sharing and is hotly debated. Families all over the world sleep with their baby in their bed, but it’s not right for everyone and in some cases can actually put your baby at risk. 

For example, in Japan, where there is the lowest rate of SIDS in the world, bed sharing is a common and accepted sleep arrangement. This directly contradicts the warning from the AAP which claims that babies under three months old are five times more likely to pass away suddenly if they sleep in their parents’ bed (AAP). And your little one is also at a greater risk of SIDS, suffocation, or strangulation.

It’s important to note that maternal care is significantly different in Japan than in the United States, from preconception, through pregnancy, birth and the first year of life. Everything from the foods suggested, the lifestyle encouraged, the vaccinations given, and the typical sleep arrangements  are different. So looking at sleep as a factor on it’s own in this comparison may not be accurate or fair. 

Because of that, if you are planning on sleeping with baby in your bed, you should read up on safe cosleeping practices from La Leche League and those from the Mother-Baby sleep lab at the University of Notre Dame. 

And to be honest, whether planned or not, more than 60% of babies end up sleeping in their parents bed at some point in the first 6 months. So it makes a lot of sense for most parents to learn about safe cosleeping practices. 

So you may be asking yourself, why do so many parents choose to cosleep? 

There Are Many Benefits Of Co Sleeping:

Well, there are many benefits of cosleeping that some parents enjoy: 

Some parents may want their baby to sleep in their bed because it:

  • Encourages breastfeeding by making nighttime breastfeeding more convenient.
  • Increases how many months a mother breastfeeds her baby.
  • May help your baby fall asleep more easily.
  • May help you and your baby get more sIeep in the first few months. 
  • Gives you more time to be close to your baby. 

However, the risks of sharing your bed with your little can’t be ignored: 

  • You or your partner may accidentally roll onto your baby while you’re asleep.
  • Your baby might flip onto their tummy, unable to move their head enough to breathe. 
  • Your baby might get stuck and accidentally smothered by a blanket or pillow.
  • Your baby might fall off the bed or get stuck between the bed and a wall.

Just like we take extra precautions to keep babies safe when we drive, by buckling them into safe car seats and not driving while intoxicated or while using drugs that can affect our awareness, if a baby is in bed with you, you need to be sure you are doing it as safely as possible. 

And, just like driving comes with risk, but is generally considered safe, for many familis, cosleeping, can be safe as well. That is why The Academy of Breast Feeding Medicine, the USA Breast Feeding Committee, the Breast Feeding section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, La Leche League International, UNICEF and WHO, which are all prestigious organizations who use the latest science in mother and baby health,  support bedsharing when done safely. 

Like Dr. McKenna, the world’s leading SIDS researcher – I do not have a specific recommendation for or against bed sharing. There are many benefits of co-sleeping. But, there are many benefits to other sleeping arrangements as well. It is up to you as a committed and thoughtful parent to evaluate your family, your individual needs and to thoughtfully make an educated decision about what is best for your family. 

Can My Baby Sleep In Their Nursery From Birth? 

baby in crib playing with mom - benefit of different rooms instead of benefit of cosleeping

But, what if you don’t sleep well when your baby is in your room? Do you have to have your baby that close when they are sleeping? Can you use that adorable nursery you took the time to set up? 

Well, just as there benefits to co sleeping, there are benefits of other sleep arrangements as well.

Having your baby sleep in their own room since birth is also a very appealing decision for many families. 

  • You can create a sense of routine and normalcy sooner. 
  • Moms are more likely to get support around bedtime 
  • Babies are more likely to be sleep 6 to 7 continuous hours by 3-4 months of age. 

According to Dr. Craig Capinari of the Yale Sleep lab, the evidence from the AAP about SIDS and roomsharing is weak and the potential for creating bad sleep habits is much higher. 

Craig cites many studies in his book It’s Never Too Late To Sleep Train Your Child that parents who roomshare are more likely to put their children in unsafe sleeping situations such as on a couch or chair and less likely to have predictable routines that will cue a baby to go to sleep and create healthy sleep habits. 

Also, research conducted in 2017 found that around the 4-6 month mark, parents and babies don’t sleep as well in the same room. 

The study found that room-sharing beyond 4-6 months leads to:

  • Less night time sleep
  • More night time wakings

That’s because infants make a lot of noise and move around a lot while they sleep! This can cause major sleep disruptions for you as a parent.

…Not exactly ideal if you’re trying to avoid sleep-deprivation and make healthy decisions! 

And when you — and your baby — don’t get adequate amounts of sleep this can affect your emotional regulation, mood, and behavior both now and down the line. 

A lack of sleep can affect you and your partner by:

  • Leading to less closeness between you and your significant other. 
  • Increasing the risks of accidents, postpartum depression, and an inability to effectively care for your baby. These incidents actually occur more frequently than SIDS.

Plus, sleep-deprived parents don’t always make the best decisions… the choices you make when you haven’t had enough sleep can lead to poor sleep habits for your baby like:

  • Giving in to the temptation of pulling your baby into bed — without the proper thought of safety actions taken.
  • Falling into the habit of co-sleeping — instead of working with your baby to learn sleep skills. 
  • Preventing your baby from learning how to fall asleep independently.
  • Developing sleep associations that make your baby depend on you. 
  • More frequent feedings for comfort instead of nutritional needs — which means less sleep for everyone.

On top of these risks…the study concluded that there is simply not enough evidence that room sharing prevents SIDS for older babies.

And do you know who this study was conducted by? The American Academy of Pediatrics! Yep — the same group that recommended having your baby sleep in your room for at least 6 months, but ideally until your baby’s first birthday!

Kind of confusing right? 

Knowing that room-sharing can reduce SIDS, but that it also decreases the quality of sleep for you and your baby…can leave you feeling torn and unsure of what to do.

You may be wondering, is room sharing the best or only way to reduce the risks for Sids? The answer is no. 

Is Room Sharing The Only Way To Reduce Risk For SIDS?

The good news is that the AAP’s recommendation to room-share with your baby is just one of the ways you can create a safe sleep environment for your little one. 

There are also 3 important steps you can take to protect your baby from SIDS that involve how you put your little one to sleep. 

When you put your baby to sleep: 

  • Only place them on a flat, firm surface (avoid beds or couches).
  • Practice back to sleep for every sleep.
  • Avoid any soft covers or blankets (including crib bumpers or crib blankets).

You can also reduce the risk of SIDS by:

  • Avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy and afterwards.
  • Avoiding exposure to alcohol or drugs.
  • Using a pacifier.
  • Breastfeeding.

These small steps will help your baby to grow up healthy and strong while giving you peace of mind that you’re doing all you can to protect them when they drift off into dreamland…

How Long Should You Room Share with Your Baby?

mom and baby playing smiling, bonded. benefit of cosleeping

The answer to this question is ultimately a personal decision. You may choose to room-share for the first year because you love having your little one close and want to do everything you can to decrease the risk of SIDS. You may choose to have your baby in their own room to focus on building healthy and sustainable sleep habits and routines.

Personally, as a parent, if I were to be doing things over, I would rethink room sharing after the first 2 weeks. I loved those first snuggly weeks when I needed to be in bed resting myself. However, beyond that, it did not necessarily help us establish a routine or find a sense of normalcy. 

My children did not begin to be healthy sleepers until after I moved them into their own room and created simple, solid, steady bedtime routines. If I were to do everything again, I would follow Dr. Craig Canapari’s 8 rules to help your baby sleep better and avoid sleep training.  Until I made it a point to help my kids learn to sleep, they were very needy sleepers, and we all felt sleep deprived during the day.

The great thing about different strategies being recommended and endorsed by the leading experts in the world, is that there is a lot of room for you to think about your family’s needs and confidently pick a strategy that reflects you. What sleep arrangement do you think will work best for you?

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