As you give birth to your baby, you receive so many recommendations, advice, and critics that it is hard to know the best way to parent your child. Each kid is different, so it’s important to remember to do what feels best for you and your child. However, there are some recommendations given by expert pediatricians and other health care professionals who study infant development and safety that will be important to consider incorporating into raising your family.
One subject that you will likely hear a lot about, if you haven’t already, is child sleep. Specifically the topic of “co-sleeping” will be brought to your attention and different recommendations will be given. To best understand what people are recommending it’s important to know there are actually a few different definitions of co-sleeping. The main three are:
Sharing a room This is where the infant sleeps in the same room as the parent/caregiver but the child sleeps in their own bassinet or crib. The bassinet or crib can be right up next to the parent’s bed for easy access to the infant but it is a different sleeping surface all together.
Bed sharing This is often what people imagine when they think of co-sleeping. This is when an infant sleeps on the same sleeping surface, such as a bed or couch, as a parent or caregiver.
Rooming-in at the hospital. This is when the newborn infant sleeps in a bassinet in the same room as the parent or parents in the hospital right after birth. Many hospitals will allow you to send the baby to a nursery for a few hours so the new parents can rest without worrying about the baby, but if the baby stays with the new parents while they sleep, this is considered “rooming-in”. It is important to note that some hospitals have changed their nursery policies since the Covid-19 pandemic, so it would be beneficial to talk to your doctor beforehand if you were hoping to send your baby to the nursery.
When reading or talking about co-sleeping I usually hear people referring to the first two definitions, sharing a room or bed sharing. There are admittedly benefits and risks to both sleeping arrangements. The Sleep Foundation provides a web page that gives a good idea of the benefits and risks presented in each of the three practices. Despite there being benefits to all forms of co-sleeping, it is important to note that bed sharing is highly discouraged amongst American healthcare professionals because of the much higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). There is evidence that sharing a room until the baby is at least 6 months old greatly decreases the chance of SIDS, while bed sharing can significantly increase the chance of SIDS. The CDC advises “Have baby share your room, not your bed“.
It can be hard to make the right choice for you and your infant, especially when family and culture are greatly involved in your decision. With that being said it’s important to remember that as the parent you get to decide, and the safety of your baby and your personal goals and needs as a parent are of significant importance.
Other important and highly recommended sleeping tips for infants, as well as demographic statistics on “co-sleeping” practices, are shared on the CDC’s website, which can be found here.
Another article on the benefits and risks of co-sleeping: bed sharing/room sharing is this one from KidsHealth.
– Kailie, Community Outreach Intern