Some families start co-sleeping by necessity. Many women will bring baby into bed to nurse, and henceforth keep falling asleep. In the long term, it is easier and safer to plan for co-sleeping than for it to happen inadvertently.
Many nursing moms find this is the only way to nurse successfully, helping babies who have trouble latching gain the skill necessary to breastfeed, and in turn get better quality and quantity of sleep when baby is near.
Co-Sleeping Is the Biological Norm
Attachment experts agree that the practice of sleeping separately from babies is a recent phenomenon and only a Western ideal. The majority of the world’s cultural norms are for mum and baby to sleep close to each other. In fact, in most parts of the world this isn’t even something that comes into question.
This co-sleeping biological norm makes for greater attachment and bonding to the parent, and therefore instils better sleep and sleep patterns that can last a lifetime. Oftentimes, for an infant, co-sleeping creates a type of physiological support and regulation, making for better quality sleep.
Who Is Getting More Sleep?
Studies have shown that breastfeeding parents who co-sleep with their baby get more quality sleep than those who don’t share a sleep space with their child. Those families who sleep together tend to share the same sleep rhythms, oftentimes moving and stirring simultaneously.
Babies who co-sleep, sleep longer but in a lighter state, allowing for protection against adverse night time sleep events, such as sleep apnoea and SIDS. While the baby might not be getting as much total sleep as mum is, this is their mechanism for protection and arousal to nurse. And most mums know instinctively that when they co-sleep, they get much better sleep.
Research has shown that co-sleeping babies almost never startle during sleep. They also rarely cry during night time sleep. This is compared with babies who sleep in a separate room who repeatedly startle through the night and spend up to four times the minutes crying.
Crying and startling releases adrenaline which in turn increases blood pressure and heart rate.
These things combined interfere with restful sleep and can lead to long term anxiety related to sleep.
Emotional Health in the Long Term
Getting good quantity and quality of sleep is important to long term emotional health for both parents and baby. Co-sleeping infants tend to grow up with less anxiety and are better behaved in school due to stable sleep patterns.
Other emotional benefits of good sleep habits include: more independence sooner, more comfortable with affection, and higher self-esteem. It has also been noted that quality sleep leads to less psychiatric problems.
Sleeping on the Back
It is a widely known fact that putting babies to sleep on their back decreases the instances of SIDS. Babies who co-sleep and get good quality sleep spend more time sleeping on their back than those who sleep solo.
Further research also suggests that the carbon dioxide exhaled by mum or dad works to stimulate the baby’s breathing, leading to fewer instances of night time breathing problems. In fact, worldwide research has shown that babies who get quality co-sleeping time with parents have the lowest SIDS rates than in those countries where babies sleep in a separate room.
Co-Sleeping Cots and Cribs
Co-sleeping cots and cribs are an ideal way to keep baby close to you while protecting them from some of the typical dangers of sleeping in the same bed.
In this scenario, baby gets to sleep right near you, as the cot attaches to the side of your bed. This allows for baby to be easily soothed, making for better sleep for both mum and baby.
With baby sleeping in a cot nearby, there doesn’t have to be worry about falling asleep while nursing, because you can safely breastfeed on your side and fall asleep without worrying that the baby will roll off the bed or that you will roll on top of her. This is incredibly important and will add to the quantity and quality of sleep for both parties.
Co-sleeping cots are especially made for good sleep because it takes the worry out of sleeping in the bed with baby. You don’t have to worry about falling asleep with the baby in your arms, about bed coverings getting entangled with the baby, or about rolling over on the baby, and you don’t have to get up multiple times during the night to nurse.
All of these combined lead to less worry and more restful, peaceful sleep for both mum and baby.
Physiology of Co-sleeping
Research reveals that babies who sleep in close proximity to their parents develop more regulated heart rhythms, more stable temperatures, and experience fewer long pauses in their breathing. Statistics also demonstrate the emotional and mental health that develops in the long-term in part as a result of healthy co-sleeping.
This is compared with babies who sleep alone. This all simply means that babies physiologically feel safer when sleeping next to a parent, which translates to better sleep for all and easier healthy development.
When aided by something like a co-sleeper cot, that makes co-sleeping so easy yet so safe, there is no longer any reason to fear establishing this habit with your baby.
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