By Anne McEwan from WrapMyBaby
What is co sleeping?
Technically co sleeping when talking about infants/children merely indicates that you will be sharing your sleeping space with them. This can be sharing a surface or it can mean that your child sleeps on their own surface in your room or in a co sleeper attached to your bed. More commonly co sleeping is used to refer to bedsharing where the infant sleeps on the same surface as the parent(s). It can be very important to distinguish between the two as they each come with their own set of guidelines.
Humans are mammals, most mammals especially those who carry their young sleep with them too. It makes biological sense for the mother to be close to her young so that they have easy access to milk regardless of what time of day it is. Babies after all have not yet developed the ability to read clocks or understand that 3am is not a socially acceptable time to ask for sustenance and comfort.
NHS guidelines state that ‘For the first six months your baby should be in the same room as you when they’re asleep, both day and night. ‘(1). It does mention bed sharing as something to be avoided if you have consumed alcohol or drugs or if you are a smoker(2). Unicef has compiled a comprehensive baby sleep leaflet which details safety points for co sleeping http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendl…baby-at-night/ .
According to this wikipedia page(3) : ‘A study of a small population in North East England showed a variety of night time parenting strategies and that 65% of the sample had bed shared, 95% of them having done so with both parents.’ That is 2/3 of parents who choose to sleep with their baby as part of their night time parenting strategies. So if it appears to be a majority or at the very least large part of parents who use this why is it still taboo?
Opinions on bed sharing remain divided and like with most other parenting topics that will probably never change. Grandparents appear to be the main culprit in voicing negative opinions followed closely by family who choose to do something else. I could be argued that the former have forgotten how draining lack of sleep can be whilst the latter may be feeling judged on their own choices.
If you choose to co sleep and are worried about responses from others here are some tried and tested responses:
*Thank you for your input ( smile and change subject)
*We follow the Baby friendly safe co sleeping guidelines, would you like me to send you a copy?
*Have you seen how cute my babies smiles? ( sometimes it is just not even worth trying to explain or reason)
Co sleeping/bed sharing is not for everyone and if the idea of having a baby next to you in your bed scares you there are plenty of other ways you can make sure you still all get a decent sleep. If you have a child who is hard to settle you may want to explore a bedside cot or co sleeper so that the child has their own sleeping space but remains at touching distance. But most of all remember that it is a choice and a decision to be made by parents not something to be dictated to by others.
Links with information on co sleeping/ bed sharing
A huge thank you to everyone who contributed to the thread asking for pictures!