Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Jan

Co-Sleeping: How to Do It Safely

babymotherLast week, I broached the topic of co-sleeping. The reception was almost unanimously positive, with plenty of you chiming in with your own c0-sleeping success stories. Before you toss the crib, however, realize that co-sleeping isn’t as simple as flopping down in bed with your baby and drifting off to sleep. Co-sleeping is a healthy, effective, and arguably “natural” way to raise independent children, but it must be done safely. Remember those studies I cited last week where co-sleeping was associated with infant deaths? Yeah, when co-sleeping is done poorly or incorrectly or unsafely, it becomes an effective way to harm children. Sadly, most parents no longer have access to the “village,” that treasure trove of knowledge full of parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and infinite cousins with parenting advice for days, so we read books, and articles, and magazines, and blogs for tips and knowledge. These aren’t the same, sure, but they are helpful in their own way. Certainly better than left to fend for ourselves.

So, how does one co-sleep safely?

First off, let’s go over what not to do. Let’s identify unsafe co-sleeping. It may sound like a lot of don’ts, but c’mon – these are our kids!

Co-Sleeping DON’Ts

Do not smoke, drink, or use drugs that affect judgment and awareness (prescription, illegal, or over the counter – think Tylenol PM), especially before bed.

Overlaying (where a sleeping parent absentmindedly rolls over onto the child) is a rare occurrence that pretty much only happens when the parent is too messed up to wake up and realize they’ve just rolled over onto a small human. A sober, alert parent will wake up if it ever happens. Heck, I sometimes have to hide the ball from Buddha (my lab) in bed at night to keep him from pestering me to toss it, and if I roll over onto it, I wake up in a flash. A huge part of the benefit of co-sleeping is the increased awareness of the baby’s position and status, but being inebriated removes that entirely.

Avoid tobacco altogether. 

You know how when a smoker comes into the room, you know it just from sniffing? That smell only lingers because the smoke itself – with all the tars and toxins – lingers on the clothes, in the hair, and on the skin of the person who smokes. Now imagine how much of that smoke the baby will be ingesting, and just how little smoke is needed to hurt the little thing. This goes for mom, dad, and, you know what? Just make the entire house smoke-free and don’t let people smoke around the baby. They’re a lot more sensitive to the stuff than we are.

Don’t let babies sleep next to other children or pets.

As sensitive as your dog is, there’s a good chance he’ll think nothing of walking all over this strange new creature in the night, scratching its tender feet, or laying a fluffy tail across its nasal passageway. Toddlers, who are even less thoughtful than dogs and have opposable thumbs, are probably even worse.

Do not co-sleep on the couch, sofa, loveseat, or recliner.

Couches are plush and cushy, and they have cushions that infant heads slip between all too easily. They’re elevated off the ground and relatively narrow, meaning the baby can easily fall off and crack something. I’ll make an allowance for rickety wooden rocking chairs, but avoid doing so in a room full of cats.

Be careful with very small, very young infants.

By virtue of their diminutive size, very small infants are more susceptible to being smothered, crushed, or otherwise roughly manhandled. Plus, if this is your first kid, or your first attempt at co-sleeping, you’re already going to be nervous about what to do and how to do it and likely sleep-deprived. Consider room-sharing for the first few weeks to months, where the baby sleeps in an adjoining cot or mattress. You can still reach out and touch those cute puffy cheeks, but you won’t worry about making any catastrophic mistakes.

Don’t co-sleep if you’re a heavy sleeper, are excessively sleep deprived, are obese (disregard if you’re a bodybuilder with obese BMI; just cool it on the pec popping) and/or have sleep apnea.

These conditions will all reduce one’s ability to stay apprised of what’s going on in the bed. You need to be sensitive to your child if you’re going to share the bed safely. They may also make any mistakes made all the more damaging. If you’re severely sleep deprived – which will happen fairly often – consider keeping an adjoining cot/bed/crib in the room next to your bed so that you can still room share when necessary.

Don’t use thick bedding.

Huge frothy comforters full of imitation goose down are unnecessary for most people and downright dangerous (suffocation, smothering, overheating risk) for young babies. Even normal pillows and blankets can be excessive for infants; consider that most crib babies are bedded down with minimal bedding, a sheet or light blanket at most. That’s kinda what the adult co-sleeping bed should look like, too.

Don’t use overly soft mattresses.

Don’t use anything that you or the baby can “sink” into, like beanbag mattresses or those really soft beds that some people seem to like. Water beds are out, obviously, and not just because it’s no longer the 1980s.

Don’t co-sleep if not everyone is onboard. 

Co-sleeping is a family event. Both mom and dad need to be up for it for it to work. If there’s major anxiety about the method, I have to think it’s going to manifest as poor sleep (or worse).

Co-Sleeping DOs

Keep the bed low, preferably on the floor.

Make sure the bed is as low as you can manage it. This will make any falls less catastrophic, and as a bonus, it will force you to do more “floor living.” Those with carpeting can get away with higher beds, while those with hardwood flooring are advised to go a bit lower.

Use a firm mattress.

There should be minimal “give” to the sleeping surface. This will reduce the chance of suffocation.

Use a tight-fitting sheet.

Make sure the sheet fits well, without bunching up. Bunched up sheets can be a choking or suffocation hazard.

Breast feed.

Studies show that breast feeding makes for safe co-sleeping, while bottle feeding is associated with SIDS. According to James McKenna, the “breast feeding-bedsharing landscape is highly differentiated from the bottle feeding-bedsharing landscape.” (PDF) In his clinical experience, “breast feeding mothers typically keep their babies away from pillows, position their infants on their backs, placing them below their shoulders, while raising their arms above them,” and they “lay on their sides… in ways that can prevent accidental overlays.”

Put the kid next to mom, not wedged in between mom and dad.

By virtue of not having given birth, the dad is going to be less “connected” to the baby and possibly less aware during the night. Plus, a big advantage of co-sleeping is the ease of breast feeding, and you don’t want your baby getting confused in the middle of the night, reaching for the wrong breast, and ending up with a mouthful of hairy man nipple (although that would definitely establish a connection between father and child).

Place your baby on its back to sleep.

Sleeping in the supine position (on its back) is the safest way for a baby to sleep and reduces the risk of SIDS.

Eliminate any crevasses that the baby could fall into.

If the bed is up against a wall or headboard, make sure it is flush against the surface – no cracks or openings. Some people even pull their bed away from the wall to eliminate the possibility of getting stuck between the bed and the wall. If you can’t eliminate the crevasses, consider pulling the bed away from the wall. Products like these are also helpful for preventing falls or crevasse wedging.

Get a bigger bed.

When it comes to co-sleeping, bigger is usually better, particularly when you start introducing multiple co-sleepers.

Pay close attention to the list of don’ts up above.

Don’t do the don’ts.

I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of James McKenna’s book on the subject, Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping. It’s under $10, it’s a quick read, and it’s written by the premier expert.

And whatever happens, don’t feel like you have to co-sleep. Try room sharing, perhaps, which offers most of the same benefits as bed sharing. Convert cribs into side-cars that sit alongside the adult bed, thereby making it bigger. Just do what works for you and your family.

Now let’s hear from you guys. Co-sleepers: how did you do it? What did you learn? What didn’t you do? How did you determine co-sleeping was right for you? Everyone else: what made you choose the methods you chose? Let’s get a good discussion going. Let’s get our own village established.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great tips! We followed the same dos & don’ts and successfully co-slept with our daughter. I miss those days!

    When we transitioned her to sleep on her own, it was a rough start but she’s sleeping great on her own now (she’s 18 months) and is a happy, healthy girl & we’re a happy family.

    Sam wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  2. I didn’t co sleep with my first but we shared a room. Unfortunately, it was still far enough from me where I had to get up to nurse and it wasn’t working for us. I was exhausted and non-functional. With my second, we co-slept. My husband slept in a different room so he could get enough rest for work. He is also a heavy sleeper and I didn’t want to have to worry about him and his whereabouts in the bed. Honestly, I felt like I slept so much better when I co-slept with my second because I was able to nurse through the night and not fully wake up. However, I believe when you breastfeed (and obviously not under the influence) you are more aware of your child’s location, breathing, and general well-being without sleeping too deeply. When I felt like I needed to really sleep, I placed my daughter in a pack-n-play nearby. I am due with number 3 here any day and plan to co-sleep and nurse through the night. I already have the pack-n-play setup just in case! The idea is to do it safely… no blankets, pillows, within your comfort zone. I always kept my arm around my child at all times and I am just not a deep sleeper by nature. I think that it’s quite amazing how the baby matches your breathing and even as a newborn can wiggle itself to your breast in the middle of the night. I whole-heartily believe it’s the way that it’s supposed to be done. We just need to make sure our modern equipment (pillows, mattress, etc) do not make it dangerous.

    Jessica wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  3. I co-slept and breastfed all 3 of my babies.

    From what I understand, tragedies that happen during co-sleeping are almost always due to someone who co-sleeps *by accident.* Meaning, the sleep deprived mom who is up and down several times a night to feed her baby and put him back in the crib and then is so exhausted she falls asleep with him on the couch.

    When co-sleeping is done from day one, is intentional and the guidelines (no heavy bedding, mom not under the influence of medication, etc.) are followed, it is safe.

    Tiffany wrote on January 23rd, 2013
    • Formula also played a vital roll in the deaths of th babies that co-sleep.

      Megan @ The Ipps wrote on January 23rd, 2013
      • Hi Megan, I’m genuinely curious as to how formula puts babies at higher risk? My babies were all formula fed due to severe supply issues on my part, but were successfully breastfed for 8 weeks (my eldest) and 6 weeks (my twins) respectively – do you believe that even such short periods of exclusive breastfeeding means they had a better chance as co-sleepers? Just a genuine question, I’ve often seen people mention that formula was problematic under the circumstances, but I’ve never heard why :)

        Nix wrote on January 23rd, 2013
        • I believe someone else said in another comment that formula makes babies sleep deeper and they don’t wake up when they need to, which I assume puts them at higher risk for SIDS. Not vouching for the information, just passing along what someone else had said. =)

          Stacie wrote on January 23rd, 2013
        • i think it’s partly the instinct of a nursing mother and partly other factors. nursing mothers will naturally position baby at boob level whereas the bottle feeder might position at face level and then baby gets involved in the pillows. propping a bottle for a sleepy baby/mom is bad news too. we are now weaned but when she comes to bed with me for a short time she’s still at boob level and i’m watchful for her safety.

          Hilary wrote on January 23rd, 2013
      • The subtle knocks against those of us that have had problems and couldn’t breastfeed for long (I held on for 6 weeks, but my supply was too low, I was stressing, and my son was hungry!) always get my dander up. And I consider Megan’s constant harping on a point that hasn’t been validated by science a knock against us.

        Correlation does not equal causation.

        Maureen wrote on January 23rd, 2013
        • I don’t think it’s a knock against formula use in general. I think it’s more to do with those that argue against co-sleeping, suggesting that it’s dangerous – when formula-feeding has been shown to play a role in a few co-sleeping arrangements gone wrong. Co-sleeping isn’t inherently dangerous, just as formula-feeding isn’t inherently dangerous. We all do what can. =)

          Kristin wrote on January 23rd, 2013
      • propping bottles probably played a role there too. babies shouldn’t have a propped bottle, they can’t turn their head away, might choke, etc

        Hilary wrote on January 23rd, 2013
        • Hi Everyone,
          I apologize if it sounded like as I was harping about formula being bad and all. It was more to be aware of the difference between a breastfed and formula fed co-sleeping baby.
          I only mention formula in one comment if I recall correctly. The other comment was in regards to being more alert to my daughter breathing. With that being said…It’s exactly what Stacie, Kristin, and Hilary said. It’s that baby sleeps deeper, which is linked to SIDS. Also, the propping of baby with a bottle, that baby is usually positioned differently than a breastfed baby against the mother. I am not knocking on those who formula feed and didn’t ever say that those who formula fed their babies were bad.
          All us mamas have to stick together and encourage each other. In a Milwaukee study of co-sleeping deaths all the babies were bottle or formula fed. Please correct me if I am wrong. Breast is best, but I say do what is best for baby, you, and your family.

          Megan @ The Ipps wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  4. Still co-sleep with my 20month old. She’s getting big enough now and only sleeping perpendicular to mom and dad that it is time to move to her own bed. She has her own bed for naps. She’ll get there eventually. I’m in no rush. I love having her there and don’t mind the occasional kidney kick in the middle of the night. All part of the magic, right? :D

    Ian wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  5. We tried to get our first to sleep in her crib in her room since that was what we were “told” to do and that didn’t work for anyone. She cried all night and had her days and nights completely mixed around for several months. I read more about co-sleeping with my second pregnancy and chose to co-sleep with my son following much of the same advice you post above. It made such a difference and babysitters and visitors would remark at what a good sleeper he was as an infant and toddler. My third child was born this past spring and we also co-slept with him. I also agree that I felt completely well rested. Around 3 months we started putting him in the sidecar crib and now at 8 months he’s in his room in the crib and sleeps through the night. I didn’t want him in my bed for more than the first few months as a personal decision and found through my experience that moving them out around the 6-7 month mark provided a smooth transition. Another thing that’s not mentioned much is the huge benefits to wearing your baby. I haven’t seen an article here on it (maybe I missed it) but I would say that carrying my infants in a sling for the majority of my waking hours made the biggest impact in our bonding and their crying (or lack thereof).

    Tricia wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  6. My husband and I just had our second baby in November. Our first child slept through the night at 7 weeks and still (at almost 2years old) sleeps about 12 hours in his crib. Our little girl is proving to be the opposite. We do not have any bad habits or risk factors that Mark describes as “don’ts” but my husband is an “Active” sleeper. He often acts out his dreams in the middle of the night (I have woken up to him standing on the bed, reaching for the ceiling fan or trying to pick me up out of bed). This factor makes me nervous to have the baby in bed with us (even though she seems to sleep better in this case). Just wondering if anyone has a similar situation. (Before you tell me that my husband should sleep in another room, that’s not an option).
    Thanks!

    Casey wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  7. Also avoid too many clothes. Babies need only a thin cotton onesie when surrounded be body heat. Heavy pajamas cause heat exhaustion.

    Nancy wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  8. As an experienced co-sleeping mom, I’ll point out a few observations.

    First, when you’re lying on your side, your legs are usually bent and drawn up. So, it’s physically impossible to roll forward with your legs in that position. (If I wanted to change sides in the night, I would scoot the baby over and get on her other side.)

    The very first night home with my son (3 days old), I was worried about co-sleeping and breastfeeding. That was until I saw how his flat little nose flared out to the side of the breast. No worries there.

    The last thing is that our co-sleeping children never learned to use a crib. They sleep in their own beds, but it’s a pain in the butt getting them to bed at night, because now they expect us to cuddle them to sleep (at 5 years and 2.5.) It’s not the worst thing ever, but we’ll have to figure out how to wean mom& dad out of THEIR bed.

    Yeah, kudos to Dr. Sears.

    Laurel wrote on January 23rd, 2013
    • Hi Laurel :) We started slowly with our then-3 year old in bed, we’d read him his story and then say we were just going downstairs to cook, or wash the dishes, or whatever (and “we’re right downstairs if you need us”)… it didn’t work at first, but out of the blue one night my son said to my DH (who reads to him at night) after his story, “I’m going to sleep now dad, you can go and do the dishes, now”… we haven’t looked back since, going on a year now. Puts himself to sleep every night right after his story, like clockwork! I hope your little ones come around, soon, too! :)

      Nix wrote on January 23rd, 2013
    • My parents never co-slept with my youngest brother, however once he was in a regular bed, one of them did lay down with him until he fell asleep. I moved out when he was 6, and he still wanted someone to lay down with him until he fell asleep. I have no idea how old he was when that stopped. My 10-yr-old still likes someone to snuggle with her until she falls asleep.

      b2curious wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  9. Hehe I am passionate about this topic. I’ve done lots of research, talked to many mamas, and currently co-sleep with my baby (co-slept with all four of my kids). It saved our 4th Baby’s life because she had a difficult time breathing (nose was always stuffed etc.). I was very aware if her breathing pattern changed. In addition, when you co-sleep/wear baby it actually helps Baby regulate her breathing.
    My husband and I love our arms reach co-sleeper. The fear of Baby rolling off the bed was put to rest. Baby hardly sleeps in it at night, but if she rolls, it’s right into the co-sleeper. I slept better, well until Baby became more mobile.

    Megan @ The Ipps wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  10. With both of our kids, we did a combination of cosleeping and bassinets and cribs. Some nights were crib nights and many nights were definitely cosleeping nights. Despite all the advice, I chuckle now to think about how my son coslept with me: we almost always ended up with me on my back and him lying on his tummy on my chest. It was simply how he slept best and it was very comfortable and felt natural. With both kids, it was so much easier to nurse them on co-sleeping nights – I slept right thru so many nursings – as did they!

    Kerry wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  11. As a single mother I slept with my son from the time he was newborn to about 3 years old. Plan and simple it was easier for both of us. I was hyper aware of him and breast feeding was easier as well. When the time came for him to sleep on his own, it was an adjustment for him, but he loved having his own space. He’s 10 now and has been sleeping in his own bed since he was 3. I loved sleeping with him.

    Kristie wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  12. Great post!

    Our sleeping arrangements evolved withnour kids and their ages and stages. Our newborns began in bedside cradles then into the Big bed with mom and dad. The sidecar crib was ideal for our daughter who rolled in and out for two years. Our son, however, really truly wanted his own space, something that took me by surprise. We all slept in our bedroom til the kids were 4 and 1 and they moved across the hall to a shared room.

    One of the best benefits of co-sleeping and family sleeping is how easy traveling and camping becomes with sleeping arrangements. We are all sleeping together already so being in a tent or a motel room is no bigger. My little ones slept well wherever we went since they were accustomed to sleeping with mom and dad. Plus, we didn’t have to pack a portable crib. One less piece of luggage to lug !

    Today, my kids are 15 and 18 an I can report that they both are sound, lone sleepers tho my daughter likes pillows nestled against her, just like ahe uses to nestle against me. :)

    Pam Hogeweide wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  13. I never really co-slept with my daughter as an infant because our bed situation was weird, and plus she was a teeny, tiny preemie, so I was doubly worried about smooshing her.

    I did co-sleep with my son almost exclusively til he was around 1. Finally, after 12 months of getting woken up multiple times a night to nurse, I tried to wean him off the nighttime breastfeeding. It was going terribly and we were having no luck, but then we finally tried putting his crib in his sister’s room, and he was perfect from day 1. No crying or anything.

    Now my son is 2 and big sis is 3. He sleeps like a champ. Goes down easily with no crying and sleeps the whole night with no issue. Since my daughter’s been in a big girl bed, she wakes up in the middle of the night and climbs into bed with us, so I guess you could say we’re co-sleeping now. My daughter is otherwise ULTRA-independent, but when it comes to bedtime, she gets very fussy and really needs Mommy. I have no idea if not co-sleeping with her early on had an impact, but I suspect it did.

    I’m personally all for it. Babies are so soft, and they smell good, and too soon they will start rejecting your hugs and kisses. Get the lovey time while you still can!

    Biancadonk wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  14. I have a quick question that someone part of a co-sleeping couple could answer:

    How did co-sleeping affect intimacy with your partner?

    I’ve read all the comments so far and I understand all the benefits and possible risks but would like some insight on that subject, please.

    Katie wrote on January 23rd, 2013
    • The pregnancy, birth, and hormone changes will effect intimacy far more than the co-sleeping. The baby sleeps a lot. All you need to do is either scoot over or move to another room if it weirds you out.

      Amy wrote on January 23rd, 2013
      • +2 ditto what Amy said. It helps if you are not stuck on the idea that intimacy happens only at night, or only in *your* bed.

        Cord wrote on January 26th, 2013
    • Ditto what Amy said.

      b2curious wrote on January 23rd, 2013
      • This is where I think both partners need to be 100% on board with cosleeping, otherwise the intimacy will suffer.

        My husband and I had sex maybe 4 times during our daughter’s first year of life, but it wasn’t because of the cosleeping, it was the exhaustion. Personally I needed more time for myself before I could even think about wanting sex. Also, since pregnancy, my sex drive has been very low. But all that has nothing to do with cosleeping. My husband loves sharing a bed with our daughter (2yo), wants to keep her in our bed until she’s ready to go to her own space, and we are getting better at making time for ourselves and each other. I can see how sharing a bed only between partners makes it easier to have sex, however, it’s also easy to have sex anywhere else in the house while kids sleep. Plus, sex is not the only part of intimacy.

        Stephanie wrote on January 23rd, 2013
        • Still sleeping with the boy, the man in the other room. When I want/need the man I pay a visit. It’s great fun.

          Madama Butterfry wrote on January 23rd, 2013
    • That’s where a bassinet or sidecar come in handy. I don’t think we ever had sex with a baby in the bed, but they were often only a few inches away.

      Paula wrote on January 26th, 2013
  15. I would never, ever take such a chance, no matter how alert, healthy or how much of a light sleeper I usually was. I break out in a cold sweat just thinking of a parent taking such an easy to avoid tragedy with an infant. I always kept the bassinette right beside the bed so I could caress his/her head, hold their little hands, check on their breathing, etc. but could never take that chance, because I’ve never met a parent who wasn’t at least somewhat sleep deprived after having a baby. But to each his own, I guess…

    TeeDee wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  16. We had 9 children, and they all slept in our kingsize bed with us, sometimes until they were 2. Usually as an infant, the baby slept by me. I am a light sleeper and was “in tune”,so I was never afraid of rolling over on the baby. When they were very tiny, sometimes they would stop breathing, and I would wake up and shake them until they started again.

    Having a king-size bed is definitely important. I also had most of my babies at home and nursed them. :)

    I did try to have one sleep in a crib and tried to let her cry it out. She cried for an hour at a time. I had a lot of people telling me I needed to do this. For me it wasn’t a good experience and I don’t think it was good for her. I went against my gut feelings. That is just my experience.

    Mariposa wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  17. Cosleeping with your baby? That just seems normal to me. I am on baby number TWELVE of cosleeping and breastfeeding for 25 years now. We tried the crib thing with the first and it was awful! What a waste of time and energy. We just thougth that is was we were supposed to do until we learned about the family bed. We rushed out to get a king size then! We put our box spring right on the carpet.

    Susan wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  18. I thought this post was going to be about co-sleeping safely with your adult partner! lol I guess that’s on my mind because occasionally i get an elbow jab to the head and/or a swift kick to the shin depending on my partner;s dream activity. Perhaps a larger bed is the answer..

    Patricia wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  19. I have been co-sleeping with my son for 18 months now. It has it’s benefits, but yes, it also has downfalls. We have a queen-sized bed but he’s 18 months now so I may need a bigger mattress because crowding is causing me lack of sleep. #2 My son breastfeeds 1-3 times a night, depending on the night. Sometimes I can’t go back to sleep. #3 It has somewhat gotten in the way of intimacy between my husband and I so we had to get creative and go home for lunch, leave work early, or get a babysitter for a few hours…

    Lili wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  20. I am loving these posts on co-sleeping!

    The only thing I may perhaps add to Mark’s list of “Co-sleeping DON’TS” is this: Don’t co-sleep when you don’t want to. We don’t force-feed our bodies plants and animals on days when we aren’t hungry or beat ourselves through vigorous work-outs when we sense something is “off” with our health or energy. In the same way, we should not commit to primal parenting habits (like co-sleeping) without engaging our powers of personal evaluation: “Is this good for my baby and me today?”

    This is, of course, just my two-cent’s worth of maternal opinion; but when my husband and I co-slept/room-shared with each of our three babies, I found so much freedom and refreshment in honoring my body and my baby above strict adherence to the co-sleeping philosophy. So I offer this as my contribution to the rest of “the village.” Moms, if you are exhausted and irritated with your precious little one and feel like the two of you need to take a breather from round-the-clock physical contact, please give yourself and your baby permission to do just that. If you need some personal space, your baby probably needs it as well. (Have you ever been offered physical comfort from someone who felt obligated and resentful? Wow is it stressful!) All relationships have ups and downs; gently acknowledging the “downs” that come and go between mother and child is no bad thing– it means you are developing a relationship! Try increasing the physical space between you and baby for a little while. (Maybe take a break from slings and “baby wearing” as well.) Do what you need to do to get some space and some sleep. It is beautiful and primal to allow yourself and your baby to warm-up to close physical contact once again.

    Maia wrote on January 23rd, 2013
    • This ideas seems strange to me, but I guess it’s because I never bought that I was going to damage my children if I put them down for a while. My only goals are still to make us all safe and comfortable as possible.

      2 of my kids hated the sling. All of my babies were perfectly content to sleep in their car seat. Why fuss if they aren’t? I trusted them from day one to tell me where they were at emotionally.

      Amy wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  21. I was thinking about this topic some more. While we weren’t able to co-sleep with our daughters while they were babies, now that they’re a little older (ages 6 and 3), they absolutely LOVE sleeping with Daddy. My poor wife, but for whatever reason, they want to sleep with daddy instead of mommy. My wife is really good about it and once in a blue moon, she’ll let one of the girls sleep with me and she’ll go sleep in their room.

    Also, my wife routinely wakes up 1 hour before I do on weekdays. Sometimes, my 3 year old (who’s bedroom is across the hall from ours) will get up and crawl into bed with me to sleep together for that final hour. I’ll wake up to her sleeping in bed with me. I absolutely LOVE that! :)

    Jon wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  22. Mark, your next book should be about primal parenting! This information on co-sleeping has been really informative. Although, I have no children right now, my fiancee and I plan on having a family and we will co-sleeping with our infant. Thanks for the post(s)!

    Andie wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  23. I co slept with my 1st born almost 8 yrs ago, and she was perfect. She wouldn’t take to her bassinet (and I was soooo exhausted) and it was the best thing for us, and i breast fed her and put her to sleep next to me, never a problem with her. 5 yrs on, my 2nd daughter slept in her own cot majority of the time and right thru the night from 8 wks, she though was bottle fed majority of the time and was used to that routine until winter hit – and was too cold for her to sleep in her own bed, in she came with us. both girls now sleep on their own. although i find they often want to sleep with us from time to time. now, my 1 yr old son won’t sleep in a cot or anywhere away from mummy. we co’sleep and breast feed for what seems like all night long (for comfort more it seems). that for me is the down side, as i feel like i get little sleep some nights.
    I FIND IT IMPOSSIBLE TO ROLL OVER MY KIDS, AND HAVE NEVER DONE IT – always fully aware of them even in my sleep. it is sooo true re: the article. sure they’ve fallen off the edge of the bed a few times.. we now have a rail there lol. Fully support co’sleeping.. but also, whatever works best to produce happy parent/s and happy kids!

    JL wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  24. Well, I always thought you were smart. I now see that you’re frigging brilliant. Thank you for this common sense advice. I co-slept with my three sons from birth. Of course, three healthy full term births, no prescription drugs or alcohol were ever used, and I breastfed exclusively for at least the first 6 months. We had a firm mattress that was on the floor for a while then very low the the floor. I’ve had only two sleepless nights in my children’s upbringing. (Ear infection once and teething the second time.) Other than that WE ALL SLEPT! No getting out of bed multiple times a night. Just put the baby to the breast if they awakening and boom, back to sleep in no time. And it is one of the sweetest experiences. The added time you have one on one with your child is great.

    Ginger wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  25. If anyone wants further reading you can check out these:

    UNICEF Baby Friendly research site –

    Bed Sharing and Infant Sleep
    http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/News-and-Research/Research/Bed-sharing-and-infant-sleep/

    Cot Death http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/News-and-Research/Research/Cot-death/

    and Durham University Parent-Infant sleep lab
    https://www.dur.ac.uk/sleep.lab/

    ibby wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  26. I was 18 when my son was born. (He’s a healthy 40 year old now). He was a smallish baby who seemed to get hungry every 3-5 hours and I was much too tired to get up and deal with bottles in the middle of the night, so it seemed natural to feed him myself. I slept on my right side with my son on his back next to me, my right arm sort of curled around behind the back of his head. He only had to turn slightly to his left to nurse whenever he wanted. I would wake up just enough to see that the whole procedure went smoothly and then we were both warm and soon fast asleep. My husband slept on the other side of us and of course, rarely woke up until time to get up for work. I didn’t study co-sleeping or look into it beforehand. I wasn’t nervous about it. Just seemed natural. My grandmothers had done the same and it seemed the easiest way for everyone, including baby to get enough sleep. What Mark said about being sober and smoke-free is paramount. Happy co-sleeping to all.
    ShaSha

    ShaSha wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  27. My son coslept for two years and on his second birthday we gave him an awesome “big boy” room, and weaned (with months of lead-up talks). I expected a long transition to his new room, especially in light of the weaning, but he was so excited about it he slept there right away. I wasn’t ready! I cried so hard the first night. A vacation got him used to sleeping with us again, so now he wants me to sleep in his room with him – we’re still working on the total transition. We coslept because we couldn’t bear to put him down. The first week of his life, he slept on my chest and I stayed awake all night watching him breathe (with the TV on close-caption). Never used the cosleeper once.

    Michelle wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  28. I too read Dr. Sears with our first after trying to get her to sleep on her own. I felt so relieved to hear that it was ok to co-sleep and even healthy. I think it saved me from exhaustion and depression because all our girls had varying degrees of reflux and it woke them constantly. I always slept with them on my arm and moved them from side to side to breast feed during the night. My arm about them ensured that it was impossible to roll on them, for my husband to do so, and that I was immediately aware of their stirring. I got a lot of flack from my family and fellow healthcare workers but it worked for us and it was a very special time we shared with them.

    Also I want to mention that they transitioned beautifully from our bed to their “big girl beds” when the time came and we now enjoy kids that are excellent sleepers.

    Alison forest wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  29. It just doesn’t work for us. Tried it with our last and i never slept. I would love to do it but now that they are 1 & 2 yrs old they think its play time. . This was a great article and I hope more people try it!

    Lynn wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  30. We coslept until our daughters were 10 months and 7 months old….at which point they became such windmills in bed that no one was getting any sleep. The first transitioned into a full sized bed (once we realized she was claustrophobic in the crib) and the second easily went into the crib. It was a fantastic experience, but it cannot be stressed enough that it only works if its working for everyone involved. We feel like we got the best of both worlds….all of the benefits of cosleeping when it worked, but a happy transition into separate beds/rooms when it was time for change.

    Kristin wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  31. I -wish- I could sleep with my son (he’s currently 2-and-a-half) but I’m a horribly light sleeper and he thrashes around all night long! Getting constantly woken up is like shock treatment. I’m wondering if it’s possible to “learn” how to be a heavy sleeper. Any advice?

    Cicely wrote on January 23rd, 2013
    • A white noise machine might help, or would if your son was a noisy sleeper… It’ll take a few days to get used to it, but once you do, it will muffle many noises. Unfortunately, your son “thrashes around all night long,” so a white noise machine will not help you. You may have to accept the fact that with your situation, co-sleeping is not an option, and move on. (Not as easy as it sounds, but possible.) You may consider snuggling with him until he falls asleep, maybe a little longer, which will give you some of the feel of co-sleeping without being woken up all night long! We transitioned my daughter to her own bed when she began turning sideways and kicking her dad all night. I was the lucky one; I was used as a pillow. :)

      b2curious wrote on January 24th, 2013
  32. We co-slept with 2 of our 3 kids. I had child #3 when my middle was 2yo. We already had our mattress on the floor to co-sleep with her so we moved another twin sized mattress next to ours and she moved onto that when her little brother was born. She chose to move to her own bedroom around 3-4 years old. Youngest slept on the mattress beside us or the floor until he was 5. We loved it! My husband always had a good night’s sleep and I would wake up long enough to reposition and nurse and we all slept so well.

    GG wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  33. Had all 4 kids in the bed with us…would breast feed in middle of night( much cosier on those cold winter nights) and either they would stay there or would be in a cot in our room….made for a much bett nights sleep for everyone! Now they’re productive and independent adults…..loving and nurturing never oily anyone!

    Robyn wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  34. I’m a big fan of co-sleeping – I was terrified of it in the beginning. We lost our first child full term, during birth, and my anxiety with our second little one was an all time high. I did a lot of research and there were two important things I learned.
    1) There was a study in Michigan done on 100 infant deaths due to co-sleeping and 100% of those deaths were bottle fed babies. In other words, breast feeding mums have a “sixth sense” that non-bf’s don’t have. So be extra cautious.
    2) NEVER cosleep on the sofa. :)

    Good luck mummies – love those babies!

    Jamie wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  35. Thanks for this helpful article. I am an advocate of co-sleeping as I did it with all 5 of my children. I breasted and it seemed like the most reasonable thing to do. I would wake up with a very soggy baby and sometimes be a bit soggy myself. I never thought about the possibility of rolling on the baby because baby was nestled in my arm on his/her side when nursing and then back to back when through. I never worried about being tired from waking being up all night with a crying infant
    because it just never happened. At about 6 mos of age they were sleeping in their cribs alone, some were ok with that, others needed more reassurance. It seemed like a natural thing to do and I don’t think t was called “co-sleeping” back then…we just did it because it seemed natural.

    Dale Hatcher wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  36. Both of my children were co-sleepers. It was the easiest way to get a good night sleep for both of us, if they woke up hungry, I was right there to breast feed them back to sleep. I had zero issues with this practice & would do it again if I were to ever have another child.

    Ameke Baptiste wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  37. I breastfed and co-slept with both of my babies, now 17 and 11. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. To me, it seemed the most natural thing to do. I am so glad to see more and more people making the decision to sleep with their baby, and I definitely agree with the safety list above. At the time, I was given so much grief about it from just about everyone that knew. Although I put them to sleep on their back, as soon as they could turn over they always slept on their stomach. They were both very happy and content babies. I attribute that partly due to the fact that they were able to sleep through the night without too much distraction. I still like being able to curl up next to them, even though it does not happen very often.

    Kathy wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  38. My tiny son slept in the crook of my arm from when he was born and I was totally aware of him at all times. One real benefit was that I was the least tired of all the new Mums in our baby group. My husband got up to change his nappy once in the night. Otherwise we all slept right through.

    Suzanne Perazzini wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  39. Well, we used an arms reach co-sleeper for both our kids when they were babies; son learned to crawl at 10 mos, so we transitioned him into his crib (in his own room) at that time. He had already been taking naps there so the transition was pretty smooth.
    However… at age 3, when baby sister came along, he gradually started not sleeping through the night on his own, until last summer (age 4 1/2) we finally stopped the battles and said okay, he’s going to co-sleep. So, maybe he’ll transition back to his own bed (in our room first, perhaps) this summer before kindergarten, or else… whenever he’s ready. He’s adopted, so the attachment piece is pretty important, and while we don’t love the bed-sharing, it generally works okay — except when 2-yr old sister wakes in the middle of the night and needs company too, which does happen about once a week or so. I never thought i’d be sharing my bed w/a preschooler, but i also think it’s what he needs right now.

    QuakerMom wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  40. It seems harmless enough to have your baby sleep with you in your bed but when do you stop? My wife still sleeps in my 7 year old sons bed half of the time!

    Josh wrote on January 23rd, 2013
    • It depends on the family. At 7, you can start to reason with them about it. It’s your wife that you may need to work on.

      Amy wrote on January 23rd, 2013

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