Many moms and dads who want to engage in natural parenting are torn on the issue of sleep. There have been many studies done regarding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and how bed-sharing can affect it, but the reports are conflicting. Some sites say that in many cultures where parents sleep in the same bed with their baby, SIDS is nearly non-existent, while other statistics reveal that baby is safest in his own bed. According to the CDC, nearly 3,500 children die every year from SIDS, an alarming number that has some natural parents worried. Many healthcare providers say that bed-sharing parents who smoke, drink, or fail to make sure the bed is completely safe for baby are at greater risk for losing their child to SIDS. Some of the complications can include having loose blankets or sheets that the child can get tangled up in or having wide gaps around the bed that the baby could accidentally fall into.
Co-sleeping is a much better option for many parents. This involves sleeping in the same room as your child but not in the same bed. Because children can have such varying sleep patterns from infancy to toddlerhood–due to teething, growth spurts, illness, nightmares, or because of changes in everyday life, such as a move or a parent changing jobs–it can be difficult to establish one routine and stick with it. That’s okay; just keep in mind that your nighttime patterns will be in flux for a little while. Natural parenting ideologies state that it’s important not to force a child to sleep when they aren’t tired or keep them awake when they are clearly ready for sleep just to stick to a routine. While it can cause changes in your own sleep patterns–and your frustration level–you can try to find ways to move with it. Establish a nighttime ritual with your little one, such as reading a bedtime story or singing a song, brushing teeth together, or having skin-to-skin contact during quiet, winding-down time. This can be especially beneficial to toddlers who are wound up from a busy day.
Many natural parents believe it’s important not to engage in the practice of letting your infant “cry it out” at bedtime, which some parenting sites suggest as a way for parents to train the child in order to get everyone on the same schedule. Self-soothing can reportedly lead to increased stress levels that may affect the baby well into childhood.
If you want to practice co-sleeping with your child but are unsure of what the safest option is, there are some choices that don’t involve the baby being in your bed, such as using a bassinet, side-bed (a small bed that has only three walls so it can be pushed up against an adult bed), or a toddler bed that is simply in the same room with you. For infants six months and younger, be sure to keep pillows and soft, fluffy bedding away. It may seem cruel to make your child sleep on a flat surface–such as a thin mattress– but it’s the safest route.
Benefits of sharing a room with your baby include extra bonding time for Dad, especially if you are breastfeeding. It can also make feeding times much easier during the night, although some breastfeeding moms may find it more difficult to wean the baby off the breast. Sharing a room also lets you use the other bedroom for other purposes, and who doesn’t like getting the most out of their home’s space (particularly as all that comes with an expanding family begins to take up more of it)?
Some parents find it difficult to retain intimacy with one another while sharing a room with a child, so it’s important to talk openly with your spouse or significant other about the pros and cons of co-sleeping so that you are both on the same page. Co-sleeping can be a huge life change, and it’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about any decisions you make regarding your child. Together, you can find a routine that’s right for you and your family.
About Paige Johnson