Hands Up – Do you Share a Bed with Your Baby?
A fortnight ago I set out to investigate the incidence of co-sleeping a little, having commonly seen the 60% or 70% figures bandied around. Several research studies out there indicate the range to be somewhere between 40% and 80%, dependent on many factors including ethnicity, age of parent and age of baby.
I decided to run my own mini survey, conducted via Facebook and Twitter which elicited 250 replies from mothers in the UK in just over 24hrs. I’m giving over this blog post to the replies received from the survey.
First I asked simply:
“Have You Ever Slept in the Same Bed as Your Baby?”
Next I asked:
“How Often Do You Share a Bed With Your Baby?”
I also asked whether the mother was aware of the risks (SIDs) associated with bed-sharing – 98% replied “yes”. Naturally then I asked whether they were aware of how to reduce these risks – this time 95% replied yes, leaving 5% who share a bed with their baby unaware of how to reduce these risks, a small percentage, but 5% more than I would like to see. For their benefit here is how to reduce and SIDs risks associated with co-sleeping:
1) Only co-sleep if you are breastfeeding (breastfeeding mothers have a heightened sense of awareness to their babies and are therefore less likely to roll onto their baby, rather they tend to assume a protective “cradling” position around their baby)
2) Carefully plan your sleeping environment (sleep with your baby ONLY in bed, never a sofa or beanbag, and ensure the mattress is firm, that pillows, blankets and duvets are kept well out of the way of your baby and that the room is not too warm).
3) Carefully plan the position of yourself and your baby (you should sleep between your baby and partner – never put the baby in the middle of the bed – and ensure your baby is positioned in the crook of your arm – well below your pillows, your body should form a protective “frame” all around your baby, with you on your side similar to this photo. Never sleep with your baby laying on your chest. Check that your baby cannot get trapped between the bed and the wall, or in the side of a bedguard (if you use one). You can buy special guards designed specifically for co-sleeping like THIS ONE.
4) Never share a bed with your baby if you smoke.
5) Never share a bed with your baby if you have consumed alcohol.
6) Never share a bed with your baby if you are taking prescription or recreational drugs.
7) Never share a bed with your baby if you are overtired/exhausted.
8) Remove any necklaces, tie your hair up and don’t wear night clothes with ties that could present a choking hazard.
9) Do not share a bed with your baby if they were a low birth weight or born prematurely.
This leaflet is a great resource, produced by the UK’s UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative in association with FSID.
I wanted to end with some of your words. I finished my survey with the question:
“Why Did You Choose To C0-Sleep?”
Here are some of my favourite answers:
“We chose to co-sleep because our first child wouldn’t sleep longer than 45 minutes in his moses basket, after trying and failing to get him into a routine we decided it was best for our sanity to have him in the bed especially since I was breastfeeding. We co-slept until he was 8 months. Now our daughter has arrived we didn’t even try to put her in a cot/moses basket she was straight in our bed and she sleeps for 4 hours at night which means all of us get a good nights sleep.”
“My baby sleeps well both on her own and in bed with us. We don’t co-sleep every night, usually it’s after her 3am feeding when we keep her in bed with us the rest of the night. So I guess you could say it’s modified co-sleeping because she starts out in her crib. She doesn’t seem to mind either arrangement but I love having her near me, which I never thought would be the case. Before I had her, I was absolutely against co-sleeping and swore I would never do it.”
“Our twin boys are our first babies. We have an ArmsReach, so we planned to co-sleep from the beginning. We suspected it would be easier for my recovery and more comforting for the boys. The bed-sharing was a bit of a surprise to us. It happened in response to lack of sleep, probably. It continued because it felt natural to us. We only stopped bed-sharing regularly at 7 months when the boys became so active we couldn’t safely keep them in bed with us. (The monkeys crawl right for the edge every time they wake in the night.)”
“The bond is amazing. We both sleep better when co-sleeping, and the sleep apnea issues that my little one has dont happen when he is in the bed with me, we have found that while in the bed with me he gets in sync with my breathing pattern.”
“When he was first born he would not sleep on his own, so we started bringing him in bed with us in order to get some sleep! Now he is 6 months and has slept in his own cot for a while now, but still comes in bed with us after an early morning feed (6am ish)”.
“To improve sleep for mother and baby, for safety and baby’s health (physical and emotional), to benefit breastfeeding relationship. Because it’s the norm in most of the world and I know many families who successfully co-sleep. And because it’s nice.”
“Initially, it felt right. I just couldn’t imagine leaving my tiny baby on his own in a room in the dark all night. That felt really unnatural and wrong to me. As a bonus, I get so much more sleep now he’s older and breastfeeding through the night.”
“Because it is far easier for breastfeeding at night and much better for both mother and baby to be close when sleeping. My children are now 5 and 8 and regularly come and get into bed with us if they wake up early in the morning. Or indeed in the middle of the night! I think a family all sleeping together sometimes is a really nice, cosy thing to do, even if the children are watching telly while the parents attempt to sleep….”
“I believe that it is best for our baby and for us. I did a lot of research before she was born and realised that the literature which presents the ‘risks’ of co-sleeping is flawed in that it often does not distinguish between intentional and accidental co-sleeping. We have worked to create a safe sleeping environment (plenty of space, safe bedding etc) and are conscious of the risk factors (e.g. no alcohol). Co-sleeping ensures we all get a better night’s sleep even through growth spurts as I can breastfeed my baby as soon as she needs it, she doesn’t need to get upset in order to get my attention and neither of us has to wake up 100% so it’s easier to get back to sleep! Having a family bed also helps bonding between father and baby as they get more time close to each other despite him being out at work all day – she usually falls asleep holding his finger.”
“It felt beautiful and completely normal for me and my baby. He was happy and I was happy. We both slept well. It made life easy. I also felt entirely confident in following my instincts.”
“Why keep getting up out of bed for night feeds when I can have all night snuggles instead?”
“With my first, my instincts told me this was how my baby & I should sleep at night. I was a bit nervous about doing it so struggled along for a while, sometimes falling asleep on the sofa with him during night feeds! I was exhausted, nothing comforted him like being with me and I soon realised I was being silly ‘fighting’ it and far better & safer to embrace what I knew was right for us. I appeased my worries by reading up on how to do it safely.”
“I breastfed both children and I am too lazy to get out of a warm cosy bed to feed; easier to lie on my side, feed and then fall back to sleep…given that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS by roughly 1 third and I had no other independant risk factors i didn’t view it as ‘risky’ Some of the lowest rates of SIDS are to be found in cultures where co-sleeping is the norm.”
“I waited 15 years for her, and could not be apart from her. 8 IVF’s can do funny things to you.”
Sarah (Mum to Four, Parenting Author and Founder of BabyCalm Ltd)
You can read more of Sarah’s articles HERE.