Every new parent wishes they were getting more sleep or better sleep. Co-sleeping can be advantageous for the mother, baby, and the rest of the family. I know I felt much more rested and had more energy for my other child, my house, and my husband when I was co-sleeping. There are many benefits to co-sleeping and some key safety tips as well.
When you consider how helpless babies are at birth co-sleeping just makes sense. Babies are biologically made to stay close to their mothers! They are predesigned to survive, grow, and thrive on human milk. Infants are also born with very tiny tummies that require frequent feedings. All of these needs are much easier to attend to if baby is sleeping next to his mother. Also, from an evolutionary perspective, across all mammals humans are born very helpless and mature slowly. Thousands of years ago a baby left to sleep alone was not likely to survive very long. Keep in mind co-sleeping is still done in many parts or the world, especially in eastern countries. The western movement to push babies to sleep alone and toward independence as a whole, I believe, is a sign of our shift from a collectivist culture to an individualist one.
There are many things said about co-sleeping to the general public. We have been warned that it is dangerous. We know babies die from SIDS and they have been looking high and low for a cause. Everyone seems to want a neat and tidy answer for what has happened to these babies and I understand why. I believe co-sleeping has been given a bad reputation because people need something to blame and not based on actual scientific evidence.
Dr. William Sears suggests that, “In those infants at risk for SIDS, natural mothering [unrestricted breastfeeding and sharing sleep with baby] will lower the risk of SIDS” (Sears, "Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives"). Sears goes on to discuss the physiological reasons sharing sleep is beneficial. Babies who co-sleep will also breastfeed more often, giving them more immunity and, for the mother night nursing will increase prolactin production which can lead to an increased awareness of baby (Sears). Also, the mother’s body will provide heat regulation for baby (Sears). I have found that with my baby sleeping next to me I am better able to sleep and better able to meet the needs of my child.
Likewise, James J. McKenna says, “irrepressible (ancient) neurologically-based infant responses to maternal smells, movements and touch altogether reduce infant crying while positively regulating infant breathing, body temperature, absorption of calories, stress hormone levels, immune status, and oxygenation” ("Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives"). So a healthy and warm baby with an attentive mother, as a result of co-sleeping, is a very beneficial outcome! These are things that as mothers we may not be measuring but can truly be felt. When your baby is lying beside you, you might even wake to feed her before she cries. You will feel her wake and respond...