January 17 2013

Co-Sleeping: The Risks and the Benefits

By Mark Sisson
287 Comments

Co-SleepingCo-sleeping, bed sharing, or whatever else you want to call it – is an abomination of a behavior that no self-respecting mammal engages in. If you don’t believe me, consider how other mammals handle their kids. You know the old can and string phones we used to make as kids? New chimpanzee parents will string a vine between two empty coconut shell halves, placing one half in the baby chimp’s nest in the next tree over and the other half in the parents’ nest, allowing them to monitor the baby’s cries and activity during the night. If the baby wakes up, they’ll swing on over to the other tree and produce a hairy teat until the little chimp quiets down. Then it’s back to bed. The first thing female voles do after giving birth is dig a separate hole in the ground where the infants will sleep. Same with gophers. Kangaroos are famous for their pouches, which for years researchers assumed the mothers used to keep their infants safe, with easy access to the nipples. But in actuality, the kangaroo pouch is used to store shrubs, grasses, various other edible plants, and boxing gloves, as well as cover up their breasts (kangaroos are incredibly shy and modest creatures).

That’s all nonsense, of course, in case you couldn’t tell already. Mammals are huge co-sleepers and bed-sharers. Heck, they exclusively breastfeed, avoid epidurals, give birth at home, and, in the case of marine mammals, are totally into the whole water birth thing. And, from what I understand, the North American deer population is solely responsible for the petition to bring Mothering back to print form (their hooves preclude them from typing, or else they’d totally read the online version). You might say that mammals are the hippies of the animal kingdom. But wait – we’re mammals, too. Doesn’t it make sense for us to share beds with our young children, or maybe share bedrooms? At the very least, shouldn’t we explore the possibility that sleeping with our infants – a behavior that many new parents are drawn toward – is safe and maybe even beneficial?

I’m going to level with you guys before I write anything more: I’m a big proponent of co-sleeping. Carrie and I did it with our kids, and I’m convinced it was the right move. It brought us closer to our kids and to each other. It helped us sleep, when sleep was a hot commodity. I certainly understand why some folks are hesitant to promote or attempt it, but I’m pretty biased in favor of co-sleeping for obvious reasons (it just seems to work).

I gave this topic a brief mention in Monday’s post, and the reader response made me feel like writing a more comprehensive series of posts on the subject was in order. So let’s look at the possible risks and benefits.

Is co-sleeping safe?

First, let’s define co-sleeping. Co-sleeping can refer to three different practices:

  • Room-sharing, where the baby sleeps in the same room as the parents but in a separate bed/crib.
  • Bed-sharing, where the baby sleeps in the same bed as the parents.
  • Couch-sharing, where the baby sleeps with the parent(s) on the couch or sofa.

Are there risks associated with the various types of co-sleeping? Somewhat.

Room-sharing is strongly associated with a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and the American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends that parents room-share early on. That’s a great start!

Couch-sharing is inherently dangerous, due to the increased chance of the baby falling between the cushions and being pushed up against the back to suffocate.

Bed-sharing is the controversial one. It can be dangerous, if certain precautions aren’t taken, but it also appears to have a host of benefits if done the right way (which I’ll discuss below). Unfortunately, little distinction is made between couch-sharing and bed-sharing when people talk about co-sleeping – even though the two are worlds apart. Even the purported links between bed-sharing and increased danger to the babies are tenuous and confounded by other variables, like drug and alcohol usage, smoking, and poverty. One study, in fact, found that when you control for maternal tobacco usage, the risk vanishes altogether, while a more recent meta-analysis concluded that “there may be an association between bed-sharing and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) among smokers (however defined), but the evidence is not as consistent among nonsmokers.” And other studies have found that “non-elective” bed-sharing, where parents (often impoverished single mothers) co-sleep because of circumstance (crib too expensive, tiny apartment, etc.) rather than choice, is a risk for infant death (PDF). But can the results of co-sleeping as it’s often practiced in impoverished, at-risk households where cribs are a luxury and education about safe bed-sharing is nonexistent serve as indictments of co-sleeping in general?

The fact remains that bed-sharing is the evolutionary norm for mammals, including humans. That can’t be argued. According to James McKenna, perhaps the most prolific co-sleeping researcher, “There exist no ethnographic examples outside of Western, industrialized countries of infants sleeping outside the mother’s room—away from her company.” (PDF) If anything, solitary sleeping is the global and historical aberration. Indeed, in many countries and regions where bed-sharing is prevalent and culturally ingrained, like Sweden, Japan, Hong Kong, and Beijing, SIDS rates are low.

If bed-sharing were always a dangerous behavior, I have to think the instinct to do so would have been weeded out and eradicated from most traditions, rather than solidified as a cultural mainstay. After all, killing the young is unequivocally bad for the fitness of a species.

Is co-sleeping worth any potential risks?

Well, let’s look at the benefits.

Co-sleeping makes breastfeeding easier. By now, we all know how hugely beneficial breastfeeding is to a child’s development and health. Breastmilk confers immunological benefits, transfers commensal gut bacteria, and promotes bonding and closeness between mother and child. It’s nutritious (especially if the mother’s diet is nutritious), and it’s the only food everyone agrees we’re designed to consume. Further, breastfeeding is strongly and consistently associated with a lack of SIDS, a link far more consistent than the unclear link between certain types of co-sleeping and SIDS. All signs point to breastfeeding being a good move for both mother and child, so we should promote behaviors that make it easier to do. Across multiple populations and countries, including Sweden, Malaysia, and Brazil, bed-sharing is consistently associated with higher rates of breastfeeding. It may be that women who breastfeed are more likely to co-sleep, but it’s pretty obvious that not having to get up and walk to another room to feed will make breastfeeding easier.

Co-sleeping, particularly bed-sharing, helps mother and child grow attuned to each other’s sleep and awakening patterns. In one study, researchers ran sleep studies on 20 habitual co-sleeping pairs and 15 habitual solitary sleeping pairs. The co-sleepers woke more frequently, but their awakenings tended to overlap (co-sleeping moms and babies woke up at the same time) and the total nocturnal wakefulness was not increased due to decreased duration of awakenings (co-sleeping moms and babies got back to sleep faster). This allowed co-sleeping moms to respond to their children’s cries more quickly and accurately, thereby enhancing their ability to monitor the status of their children and, the researchers suggest, improving their capacity for caregiving.

Co-sleeping improves sleep. Sure, as mentioned above, you might wake up more frequently, but each awakening is far less disruptive since you don’t have to stumble over to an entirely different room in the dark. You slip right back to sleep. Most successful co-sleepers cite “improved sleep” as an important factor in their decision to do it. One study even found that breastfeeding combined with bed-sharing allowed both mother and infant to get more sleep. Some researchers theorize that these “lighter” sleep periods are even protective against SIDS in their own right.

Co-sleeping modifies the parental response to night wakings. One study found that while co-sleepers saw night wakings as normal and nothing to freak out about, parents of solitary sleepers found night wakings to be highly disruptive. If a stressor doesn’t actually register as a stressor, is it stressful? Probably not.

Co-sleeping normalizes the stress response in children. For infants, cortisol regulation in response to physical stress should be “moderate,” rather than heightened. Babies who are solitary sleepers show greater sensitivity to mild stressors, like a bathing session. In response to a stressor, one study showed that the solitary sleepers secreted more cortisol than normal, while the co-slept child secreted the “right” amount. Another study found that co-sleeping had a positive effect on babies’ cortisol regulation at 12 months. Despite “common sense” claims that co-sleeping babies will become more dependent and unable to deal with stressors, the opposite appears to be true.

Co-sleeping facilitates the bond between parent and child. Skin-to-skin contact promotes the release of oxytocin, a powerful hormone and neurotransmitter that solidifies and strengthens the bond between people.

Co-sleeping may result in better-adjusted, more independent children and adults. While you might think that co-sleeping children grow up to be dependent and helpless, most research suggests this is not the case. Some studies even show that children who co-slept as infants grow up to be more self reliant and independent. Others suggest that co-sleeping reduces tantrums, produces less “fearful” children, boosts self-esteem later in life, and helps both males and females become comfortable with intimacy as adults (among many other possible psychological benefits). At the very least, co-sleeping doesn’t create needy, dependent kids.

Next week, I’ll explain how to co-sleep the right, safe way. I’ll also tell you what not to do, along with a few alternatives to bed-sharing. Until then, do what feels right. If you’re intellectually convinced of the benefits of co-sleeping but can’t quite shake the feeling that you’re going to smother your child, don’t co-sleep. It should be a natural behavior that reduces stress, not a cortisol-laden one.

Thanks for reading folks! Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section; be civil. This can be a testy subject.

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287 thoughts on “Co-Sleeping: The Risks and the Benefits”

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  1. I remember reading a recent article where you mentioned co-sleeping and thinking: “get ready for some emails, Mark, you’ll be writing a post on this topic soon..” haha!

  2. I co-slept with all three of my children and loved it. We shared a bed for about 6 months, then shared a room for several more months after that. I was never concerned about the safety aspect; however, my husband was and chose to sleep in a different bed while I bed-shared with two of my children. I don’t smoke, drink or use narcotics, so I was not concerned about being too deeply asleep to notice my babies were in distress. I don’t have my own anecdotal comparison for bed-sharing vs. not, but I know I did the best thing for my children and our relationships.

    1. Does having your husband in the bed while co-sleeping raise the risk? I would imagine that having two full grown people who could roll over on the baby is riskier than one.

      1. Wayne, have you ever slept with a pet – a dog or a cat? Did you ever roll over on them?

        I’m not sure where the belief comes from that sober people will roll over onto something and not notice. If there’s the smallest lump of lint in my bed, I notice!

        My husband and I co-slept (bed sharing) with both our kids, taking into advisement all the ways to do it safely. I never once rolled into or over either of them.

        1. I totally agree with Karen – it just won’t happen…I co-slept with husband and 2 kids and no one ever got crushed —

        2. I went on a camping trip once and woke up in the morning on the other side of the person I was sleeping next to. She told me that I had rolled right over her in the middle of the night. It woke her up, but not me. That was a full grown adult; much bigger than an infant.

          When I have children I don’t think I’ll risk the same bed because of that incident. Some people are very heavy sleepers.

        3. But the difference is is that a pet will move out of the way, while a baby can not if rolled on to.
          We sleep with a dog and while I’m not a roller, I know my husband has often rolled on to our dog and not moved to roll back off. And when I say roll on to, it’s more like a lean on to w/ his arm across which would still be enough to harm a baby.

        4. I have definitely rolled on to my cats. They just don’t care. And I was sober, don’t have apnea, am in great shape; I’ve just always been a heavy sleeper.

      2. I worried about this same thing actually, especially as a dad that sleeps really soundly. However, it used to be normal for me to have my laptop in bed and rolling over that could have been bad. I never did. It’s almost as if going to sleep being aware of something makes it pretty easy to avoid.

        The biggies are don’t drink, don’t smoke and have no drugs (prescribed or otherwise) that will put you out in your system.

        We’ve had no close calls or anything resembling one in 9 months. Sometimes she scoots up on me and sometimes she scoots up on mom. Sometimes she sleeps between us. On rough nights where she’s upset or not feeling good or whatever, I’ll plop her across my chest.

        It’s fantastic. It’s also something you have a very short window of time to experience so I suggest that everyone strike while the iron is hot so to speak.

        1. When you become a parent your “spidie” senses go off when ever you move. When something is so precious to you you know it is there. Have you ever fell asleep holding something valuable? How deeply did you sleep? You baby is far more valuable.

      3. I took my babies to bed with me long enough to nurse them, but then I always returned them to their crib. It was and still is my opinion that a very young infant sleeping in the same bed with two adults is a cozy-sounding bad idea that hasn’t been well thought out.

        Rolling on top of the baby is definitely a risk, but probably not as much as the possibility of blankets or quilts inadvertently being pulled up over the baby’s head, or the baby getting stuck under a pillow and not being able to breathe. Also, many people are restless sleepers who thrash around at night, in which case the baby could easily get hit with a hand or elbow. Lastly, how are the parents going to get any quality sleep if they are trying to be careful of a vulnerable infant lying between them? And then later on, when you want the child to sleep in his own bed, you’re likely to have problems on your hands because you’ve established a bad habit early on.

        Equating having a baby in the bed to having a dog or cat in the bed is a poor analogy. Animals who sleep with their people are usually able to fend for themselves.

        1. “Lastly, how are the parents going to get any quality sleep if they are trying to be careful of a vulnerable infant lying between them?”

          The same way I did before, as it turns out. There are plenty of options anyway. There are baby sleepers that go between the parents to prevent rolling and protect the baby if you think you need one.

          “And then later on, when you want the child to sleep in his own bed, you’re likely to have problems on your hands because you’ve established a bad habit early on.”

          I don’t have time to dig them up, but modern studies are indicating otherwise. I also take issue with the idea of having your kids sleep in the same bed as their parents as being a “bad habit.” It’s really not.

          What’s the rush in making children “independent” anyway?

        2. I guess you have to ask yourself, would you notice if you rolled over onto a pet, or a pillow, or a toy, or a book…if not, then you shouldn’t co-sleep. However, after co-sleeping with three babies, neither me or my husband ever came close to rolling over on any of them. There were never any blankets or pillows near their faces either. It’s something you have to do intentionally and responsibly.

          I’ve slept much better with a baby in my bed than with one in a crib…we tried that with my first because “that’s the way it’s done” and it was a disaster. I was so exhausted…co-sleeping saved my sanity.

          I’ve transitioned two boys to their own beds and had no problems whatsoever. It’s all about setting boundaries and being consistent.

          Co-sleeping is NOT a bad habit. It is something that parents do intentionally because they believe it is best.

          It is most definitely up to each family as to whether co-sleeping works for them or not, but these points are usually ones brought up by those who have not co-slept and refuted by those who have.

        3. There is something instinctive about a mom (can’t speak for dads here, since I’m not one) sleeping with her infant. I coslept with both of my children, the first until he was 3, and the second until she was two before moving them to their own beds. Both times, especially when they were teeny tiny, I would curl myself around them in my sleep in a protective fetal position and NOT MOVE the entire night. We all got better sleep. Their dad was also in the bed, but I kept my infants between myself and a mesh bed rail with lots of room. Never once, in a collective five years of cosleeping, did they get buried in blankets, rolled on, or otherwise harmed. I just.. knew.. where they were at, asleep or awake, and I was far more in tune with their wants and needs during waking hours as a result of so much close contact with them, nevermind the fact that all of us got way more rest. I slept lighter, yes, but definitely more sleep was achieved all around.

          Also, the time spent sleeping with my children resulted in positive behaviors, not negative ones. Moving them to their own beds was a simple and easy transition, with neither of them ever experiencing night terrors, fear of the dark, or bedwetting. They’re now two very outgoing and confident elementary aged youngsters. We never experienced separation anxiety when leaving them with sitters, either. I’m not sure if that’s the sleeping choice or just the general “attachment parenting” style I instinctively gravitated towards, but it definitely smoothed out some bumps in the road, especially given my oldest is on the autistic spectrum and has severe ADHD. Tantrums were also not a common thing – dealing with ‘stressors’ well is something i can confirm, even if only in an anecdotal manner.

        4. “I took my babies to bed with me long enough to nurse them, but then I always returned them to their crib”

          Push the crib up to the bed, put a connector over the bump in the mattress (like when you connect 2 twins to a king, using a towel or those foam things) and put the baby back in her crib an arm’s length away. No getting up in the night but no baby in the bed either. It works great for us.

          Mark is completely right — if rolling over a kid is going to freak you out, don’t co-sleep. But almost every co-sleep problem, including lack of mattress space, has a solution. 🙂

        5. “a very young infant sleeping in the same bed with two adults is a cozy-sounding bad idea that hasn’t been well thought out.”

          Apparently you missed the evidence to the contrary in the article above.

          Whatever you do, never open your mind to things that might challenge your firmly held and incorrect beliefs. It might lead to something horrible, like *learning*.

        6. I coslept with both of my children. My first son had sleep apnea. Even my sleeping brain was able to monitor his respiration’s and prod him into wakefulness when they became too slow or there was a gap. His pediatrician told me quite directly that a mothers brain is more accurate than any apnea monitor and to keep him next to me during sleep and trust my ability to do the protection work the mothers brain has done for eons. I have always felt it is probably an unhealthy habit for the human mammal to sleep away from its offspring. We are the only mammals to practice that separation. Our bodies are so sensitive to the baby’s cues. Even sleeping, we’re counting respirations, monitoring temperature, coming into wakefulness together. And, while our infants are waiting for their nervous systems to learn how to calm overactivation, our body can do that for them. An infants place is next to his mother.

      4. I’m not sure why my husband was nervous about it with our last child. We both shared a bed with our oldest, without incident. When our second child was born, my husband was suffering from a herniated disc. He slept in a separate bed at that time just because he didn’t need more interruptions to his sleep. With our third child, he just didn’t feel comfortable co-sleeping. He’s always been more of an alarmist than me anyway though (I also suspect it had something to do with his alarmist family–we lived far away from them with our first two children, but now live closer and he seems more susceptible to their influence).

      5. My husband has sleeping apnea and he uses CPAP machine and his sleep is usually very, very deep, so I was afraid he might actually roll over our baby. In the beginning we had the baby’s crib next to our bed, BUT she never really slept in it – the crib was there simply so that she was able to sleep in our big bed between me and the crib, without the risk of falling from our bed, and I slept in the middle. Nowadays my hubby sleeps in a single bed next to us, so we all have plenty of space and no risk to roll over the baby.

  3. I’m not a parent yet so this doesn’t affect me yet, but it does raise my curiosity about what was sleeping patterns and habits of couples. Personally I dislike sharing a bed with anyone because I always seem to get worse sleep. You stay up later talking and then if they are too close to me or touching me then I overheat and wake up sweaty and nasty. Yet all of the girls I have dated have really liked sleep overs and sharing a bed. Does anyone know what the primal sleeping patterns for couples are? I wonder if sleeping together vs apart has any impact on your hormones.

    1. My husband and I like space between us when we sleep, and once we started co-sleeping we bought a king size bed. Even without a baby in our bed, we sleep on opposite sides. But even with a baby in the bed, he’s never come close to rolling over on them. I’d say it really just depends on the people.

      Honestly, most parents become hyperaware of the baby when they are in the bed. They wake right before the baby cries, they instinctively know where the baby is in the bed. However, if one parent sleeps extremely deeply and is difficult to rouse, or if they move around and kick and rolll and night, you would want to take that into consideration. Always follow safe co-sleeping guidelines…no blankets, pillows…we don’t even have a headboard.

      For us, there was no other option. This is what instinct called us to do, and neither one of us regrets a moment of co-sleeping with our three boys.

      1. A king size bed would be nice and helpful but I am still young and move apartments every year or two so it is a little impractical for me at the moment.

        1. Do you have kids? If not its kind of a moot point. Everything changes when it is real rather than theoretical.

    2. Have you tried it long enough to get used to the specific other person? My partner and I have been together for about five years, and even though I found him really disruptive at first, now I find that I sleep much worse when he’s not there, because I’m used to his sleep patterns, breathing, etc.

      I think it’s just another thing you adapt to, and it becomes normal. That said, I suspect innovations like bouncy mattresses that transfer movement, blankets that you share, and things like that make it a lot harder.

      1. Sarah, I think you are so right! On the ground, with maybe just a skin over some leaves or grass, a person nearby might well be more of a comfort than a jarring presence in the night.

        I relate to Wayne’s experience, though. I’m a hot sleeper.

    3. I don’t think men have evolved to sleep all night in the same bedding as their mate and babe, but space limitations and the amount of recreational sex we have make it seem much more natural (both would increase oxytocin). Our ancestors would have never slept like we do, though, so unless you are willing to release a couple tigers in your neighborhood, sleep on the ground, and do it in the same room as a dozen or more of either your or her closest relatives (who will take turns talking all night), you aren’t getting the real primal sleep experience. Of course, they also didn’t have rigid schedules, and would likely never have the sleep deficit that so many modern people have because they would be able to sleep late or nap as their bodies dictated. So really, it shouldn’t matter very much how you get your sleep, just that you get enough of it.

    4. Wayne I’m like this too. Much prefer to sleep alone (unless I’ve just watched bloody ‘Prometheus’, jeeze what a creepy flick). I used to justify this ‘weirdness’ to CW types by saying, ‘In the pre-industrial days people would always have their own bedroom (in ye olde ‘class system’ of England that is). People started sharing beds for the space factor when they started being rounded up in to the cities.
      For the record co-sleeping works wonderfully for me, but the husband has his own room.

      1. ” Much prefer to sleep alone…In the pre-industrial days people would always have their own bedroom

        Absolutely. There’s something to be said for not being kicked in the middle of the night.Co-sleeping almost always works out for the kiddos because they aren’t the ones being kicked. Not always for the adults. Co-sleeping is totally a YMMV moment. The hard part only is when other people get weirded out by it because they are convinced you’re damaging (or going to damage) the shorter human.

    5. My husband and I have our own rooms and we love it! I think that a lot of people worry that the intimacy will be lost if they sleep in separate beds, but we’ve found the opposite to be true. We have different work schedules (I’m up 4-5 hours earlier) and we both feel the same way about sharing a bed as you do. We just don’t sleep as well! We get to spend time together just before I go to bed. It’s nice because we never feel annoyed with each other for bumping elbows, we still get our snuggle time in, and we both sleep better.

    6. My husband and I do not sleep in the same bedroom due to his incredibly loud snoring. It only took a night or two of bed-sharing early in the relationship for me to become a sleep-deprived zombie woman with homicidal intent ;-). The overheating thing was an issue for me too as hubby is a sleep-snuggler.

      We have been sleeping in separate rooms for four years now and we are still very much in love, and have plenty of…umm…physical contact 😉 Just not while we’re sleeping.

      It is true that cuddling is VERY important for most women, but as long as you are supplying lots of spontaneous affectionate kisses and hugs during the day, I don’t think the suggestion of separate beds would be a dealbreaker.

      1. Has your hubby been checked for sleep apnea? I was always a horrendous snorer, and it wasn’t until I was 65 with high blood pressure that my Primary Physician suggested that I have a sleep study done. I now require a CPAP machine, BUT am no longer on high blood pressure meds. Sleep apnea causes all sorts of horrible health problems like strokes and heart attacks, and sometimes the only clue is the loud snoring.

    7. My husband and I now sleep quite comfortably together but it took awhile to work that out. We had issues with our first bed because he weighs about twice what I do. The mattress would slant towards him – and I’d find myself sleeping on an awkward angle & waking up with a sore back. Fixed that with firmer mattress. Heat was also an issue – but we found sheets that are made of fabric that doesn’t retain as much body heat, and we switched to using a couple of sheets on top rather than big heavy blankets. You gotta figure out what works – whomever you’re sleeping with.

    8. I don’t know of any scientific data involving the sleep patterns of couples but I do have personal experience. I remember the first night that I slept beside the father of my children. It wasn’t awkward but I was very aware that he was there. The second night it became second nature. It is so that neither of us can sleep at night with out the other. We also bedshare with our 3 month old as we did with our 2 year old. Our two year old now sleeps alone in her own bed that was originally pushed up beside ours so that all four of us could sleep together. We all get sleep. I think it is only uncomfortable the first day.

    9. Wayne,
      In my experience, I put the baby on the outside of us on my side, not between us. My husband is a wild sleeper and sleeps deeply so it wasnt a good idea for baby to be between us. When you do have children, If you are afraid baby could fall off the bed without someone on the other side if him/her that could pose a problem but since babies naturally move toward their parents in bed, not away from them, it worked fine and safely for us. Just some suggestions 🙂

  4. I almost killed my son by letting him sleep in our bed when he was little. I don’t know why I awoke in time to see that he was being smothered. No drugs, alcohol or anything else was involved. This is dangerous and stupid parenting. Don’t do it.

    My son is now a fine 28 year old man. But I still feel the shame of doing something so stupid that put him at risk.

    1. “And what was smothering him?”

      Excellent point. You have to prepare a safe place particularly when they are under 6 months. If you are a hard sleeper, drink before bed or take sleeping pills you should consider a co-sleeper. Some common sense applies.

      That said my wife co slept with our daughter and son. Many parenting sources refer to “the 4th trimester” where an infant endures anxiety (sometimes extreme) anytime they are away from the mother especially in the first few months. Seriously, what mom put her child in a different part of the cave while she slept?? lol.

    2. You woke in time to see that he was being smothered because you were so in tune to him. You do have to make a safe bed, but honestly I think your comment reinforces the point of bed-sharing.

    3. So nothing bad happened as a result of co-sleeping, then? Thanks!

      1. It takes a fairly conceited attitude to dismiss a child almost smothering as “nothing bad happening.” A child in danger is inherently bad a thing.

  5. Bed sharing can become more problematic if done during cold weather. One can easily shrug a blanket over a baby’s face while sleeping in an effort to stay warm.

    1. That is why you should always follow safe co-sleeping guidelines. Wear more layers instead of using covers, and if you cannot sleep without covers and tend to bury yourself into them, then don’t co-sleep.

      My husband and I use separate bedding…he likes to cocoon himself in his comforter on the other side of the bed, and I only have mine over my hips, while the baby sleeps by my head. Neither of our blankets as ever come close to covering any of our kids.

      Really, you just have to be smart and careful about it.

    2. What kind of blankets do you have?

      Ive co-slept with my children, as most people do in Sweden. They have slept under de cover hundreds of times without any problems.
      Ive also slept with kittens and puppies witch have slept under the cover without problems.

  6. Co-slept with all three of my children and never even came close to smothering them. It’s not dangerous or stupid if you do it right. It’s the way it was meant to be…skin to skin, breast available for nursing, mom’s proximity helps baby’s breathing and temp regulate…there are so many positives. We never had any sleep issues like other parents complained of, and transitioning them to their own beds went smoothly when it was time.

  7. I’m big on co-sleeping. My baby, however, is not! She sleeps with us if she’s sick or needs us, but otherwise has to be in her own bed because now she thinks our bed means playtime.

  8. Our boy is getting a bit huge and next month he’ll turn four years old.
    I’m looking forward to making a bed for him in the spring … and get him out of ours. Bedsharing : the mere fact that there’s a ‘term’ for this normal behaviour, and whole cultures don’t have this as the default behaviour : bunch of freaks! Do they feed their babies some artificial crap instead of breastmilk too?
    Get a grip, do it right. 🙂

    1. One of the things I did when my boy was cosleeping with us was use a sound machine in the bedroom. It was the crickets setting. Then, when we got round to moving him into his own bed, we put the crickets noise machine in his room. It seemed to help with the transition.

  9. I imagine softer beds and pillows increase the modern risk for infants. When my daughter was first born we room shared, but I woke up with every time she moved and so sadly moved her out at about 3 weeks. I could easily fall back to sleep so this did not disrupt breastfeeding. When she wakes on occasion (now 3) and comes to our room it’s nice to have her in bed.

  10. I’m a few years out from having kids (thank goodness, I can barely manage taking care of myself) but I really love learning about all this now. It’s starting to shape my perspective well before actually having to do it. Pretty much everyone I know with infants does some form of co-sleeping anyway. That giant lazy boy recliner in the nursery? Totally used for co-sleeping.

    1. The recliner is used for room-sharing, not sleeping in the recliner with the kid. That probably wouldn’t be safe. But I know moms that basically sleep in their kids’ rooms because it is so much easier. Why not bring the kid into your room and get to sleep in your own bed?

  11. Co-sleeping does impede the return to a normal sex life, in my experience.
    Just wanted to add another drawback.

    1. Never had that problem ourselves…too many other places in the house to explore! 😀

      1. Michelle, I like you more and more with every comment 🙂

        And I couldn’t agree more. So many places in the house (and out!) can be used for sex.

        1. Heck, have a couple bassinettes or pack’n’plays scattered throughout the house. Put one in the living room or a playroom. Not a big deal, really. It only impedes normal sex if you let it.

        2. Totally agree…hasn’t affected our sex life at all. It’s actually kinda rejuvenated it because we use other rooms/furniture in the house….very reminiscent of the early days of our relationship when anywhere was game.

      2. +1 On the the parts of the house to explore. 🙂 Also, if it doesn’t squiwk you out too much – the baby is a)unconscious and b)won’t remember anything anyway even if they do wake up.

        If they are able to tell the other kids at pre-school/kindergarten what they woke up to last night; it’s probably time to find them another sleeping venue for the sake of your marriage anyway.

        1. Seriously, the baby’s asleep. How do you think humans have been having sex/babies all this time? Hello, one room cabins.

    2. I wondered about that too! Has anyone seen the movie “Away We Go”? There’s a couple in that movie that are portrayed as total freaks and they practice “family bedding”. Another character asks them if they go to the car when they want to have sex. Priceless.

      1. LOL, we’ve discussed the back porch 🙂

        Kids in general can impede your sex life…and having a new baby for sure…but co-sleeping doesn’t have to be an issue unless you make it one. We’ve co-slept off and on for 9 years now…managed to make two more kids after our first. We don’t have as much sex as we’d like because there’s so much going on now with three boys running around the house and by the time we have time to ourselves, we’re just plain tired… but there’s always weekend mornings, and my husband comes home for lunch sometimes 😉

        1. Totally! General exhaustion and hormonal issues played a far bigger role in our sex life than bed-sharing ever did.

        2. The only time in the last 5 years of co-sleeping that we had issues with were to have sex was when we lived with my in-laws. Couldn’t exactly utilize the other rooms in the house when people might wander through them. Often times we would sneak off to our room when the kiddo and Gramma were busy elsewhere in the house. Or if we were really needy, we had a huge walk-in closet in our room with a pretty comfy floor, and a quiet door…

    3. It turns out you can have sex not just at night, and anywhere in the house! But seriously, you’re right, it will impede nighttime spontaneity–but you can figure out ways to make “dates” in order to give your kids what they need for that short window of development time.

    4. To be honest, the only reason that co-sleeping would impede a normal sex life is because of the stigma we as a society has placed on it. Do you think Grok and Madame Grok ever hid away from their children when they wanted to have sex? Everyone probably shared in every aspect of life because for Grok and his friends, every aspect of life was a matter of life and death. It was and in my opinion still should be a normal aspect of life that everyone should be able to share without fear of reprimand. Sorry I’m only 18 and this is a soapbox of mine.

      1. Anyone read ‘Clan of the Cavebear’? I only remember the one scene by the river. Must have been about 16 when I got hold of a copy.

        1. yes! The whole series is actually wonderful and very meaningful to me – stright-up feminist and emotionally moving. I read it when I was a teenager and the rape scene was all I remembered then, but it’s good enough to change as we get older. Also, are you an opera singer by any chance?

        2. I was in 5th grade (10 yrs old) when we moved into a new house and I found the book in the basement. Read the whole thing in one sitting -.-‘ Did you know its the first part of a 6book series? It is a riveting look at what life might have been like. Its actually just how I imagine it!

      2. I agree. My ex and I still had sex even though the baby was in the bed too. Like another poster mentioned: the baby is asleep and even if he woke up he wouldn’t know what he was seeing or remember it.

    5. Nope, it doesn’t. We had a sleeping bed and a sex bed (in our guest room.) Once the kid falls asleep in the sleeping bed, make sure it can’t fall out. Then utilize the sexbed.

      1. Sex bed, now that is AWESOME! We used to have a “love” seat that we used instead of the bed sometimes because we could.

        Oh, and after the first couple months, we move our babies from our bed to a crib in our room, and after baby was asleep, my husband and I would engage in relations. We figure a nine-month-old wouldn’t remember if he did happen to wake up (which none of them ever did, fortunately). Seriously, how much does anyone remember before 3 or 4 years?

        One more thing, we co-slept with all four until 4-6 months, and never once was there ever even a hint of harm to our babies. I held them in my arm (whichever side they were nursing from), and I would not move until it was time to switch sides (then I’d wake up long enough to roll over and reattach the baby). I really think keeping them in my arm, and not free floating in the bed is what kept them safe.

  12. I’m a long way off from having kids, but thinking about it evolutionarily, it seems as if the real danger lies in modern beds and other sleeping paraphernalia, rather than the practice itself. In the Paleo days, I’m guessing people just slept on the ground, and the likelihood of rolling over onto a baby next to you on the ground seems almost 0. As an above poster mentioned, the softer beds, pillows, and blankets are probably the real issue! Looking forward to the post on how to co-sleep properly.

    1. Modern bedding actually plays a large role in SIDS, which is one reason they now recommend no blankets or stuffed animals in the crib with the baby. IMO, it plays less of a role in bed sharing.

  13. I am applying most of this (minus the breast-feeding for one) to my 2 dogs. We co-sleep and I feel we have many of the benefits in the article.

  14. Do any of these benefits apply to children around the age of 12 months? It seems like a lot of this talk is based around 6 months or less. If so, are the benefits diminished in any capacity? Are the risks reduced?

    I have an 11 month old child and am interested in having her sleep with us maybe a couple times a week to see how it works out.

    1. Jacob, I think bed-sharing can be beneficial at any age. It may take some adjustment if you and your child aren’t used to it. There are few precautions needed with an older infant/toddler, since they are capable of moving things off their face!

      We were still co-sleeping with my son when he unexpectedly vomited in his sleep, at about 15 months old. He was laying on his back, and if we hadn’t been RIGHT THERE, there’s a chance he could have aspirated some of the vomit.

      1. I was always more afraid of aspiration than smothering…one of the many reasons we co-slept. IF something like that happened, I wanted to be right there. So scary!

    2. We co-slept with our older two until they were 3 and 4…and our youngest is 21 months and still in our bed.

      As they get older the risks decrease. They roll over, turn their heads, sit up…they’re bigger and take up more space 🙂 And they kick and try to squirm their way as close to you as possible.

      Our current bed companion loves sleeping with us. If he doesn’t fall asleep early, we all go to bed together, and he lays down and babbles to us before falling asleep without tears or needing to nurse. Some nights he sleeps through, some nights he wakes to nurse…but it never disturbs our sleep. He stirs, latches on, and we go back to sleep. He wakes up happy in the mornings, more talking to us and being cute in general…it’s moments I will always cherish.

      I’ve found that co-sleeping created a sleep security in my children…they know bedtime isn’t something to fear or dread…they have happy, comforting memories associated with sleep…and we have had no bedtime struggles with my older boys. I have also noticed, with my youngest, since we co-slept from birth, that he naturally adapted to our sleep schedule and never mixed up his days and nights. The only nights where he is up a lot is if he is sick or teething.

      1. Haha, Michelle, the “toddler foot in my face” was the rule of thumb for “ready for their own beds”. Once I was waking with a toddler foot in my face more mornings than not, it was time to put them in their own rooms. They’re still contortionists at night, but at least they’re not kicking at me in the process 😉

        And speaking of memories, what about lazy sunday mornings waking up slowly? Those are the best for me.

    3. We have a 9-month-old and have been co-sleeping (same bed) for most of those 9 months. We did try moving our daughter to the crib in the same room for a few weeks, but I don’t think anyone was exceptionally happy with the results! So, we’re back.

      Frankly, I don’t think the trend will end for while. In my mind I see it evolving into her getting her own bed either when she wants one or we have a second kid. I figure her new bed will be in our room. At some point they’ll want their own rooms, but why rush the process?

      1. That’s how we did it… our first two were 19 months apart, so when we brought the younger one home, daddy and the older boy slept on a mattress on the floor, while me and the newborn slept on the bed. We only had a full size bed at the time. When the younger one was old enough to “fend” for himself and it was safer (and we bought a king size)…we co-slept with both boys in the bed with us. Then we moved them to their own bed in our room, and eventually to their own room. They would still crawl in bed with us some nights, and that was okay with us…it didn’t hurt anything and we liked to snuggle. Once I was pregnant with our third, we started telling the boys they couldn’t come to our bed any more. It wouldn’t be safe to have them both in the bed with a newborn, and frankly, it would have been a little crowded! They took it in stride, respected our request and stopped coming to our bed in the wee hours of the morning. Now we will often find them in a bed together in their room, but I’m sure as they get older they will want their own space and sleep in their own beds.

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with co-sleeping…the taboo placed on it really makes my head spin.

    4. Jacob,
      If your child sleeps alone already, then don’t bring them into your bed. Trust me you will have a hard time getting them out. A couple times a week becomes every day very quickly. If your child is not sleeping well through the night, then you may want to, but if they are self soothers and sleep alone, why ruin a good thing.

      1. Well she sleeps well for the most part…mainly waking up to be fed (usually 2 times during the night). I was more wondering if it would help with tantrums and fostering independence and not gonna lie….I think we’d all like the bonding of snuggling up as a family.

    5. Unfortunately I wasn’t smart or confident enough to trust my judgement when my daughter was an infant. We followed the “rules” and she slept in her own crib in her own room. It made for a rough first year. We didn’t start co-sleeping until she was 2, shortly after a big move.
      Our daughter just turned 7 and we still co-sleep, except for the past 2 months she sleeps on a mattress on the floor next to our bed instead of in bed. We always kept our bed against a wall (or heavy bookcase) cause she tends to roll out of bed. For the longest time she had night terrors and by co-sleeping, I could respond instantly (by talking quietly to her) at the slightest hint of distress.

  15. First let me say that co-sleeping is what led me to MDA over four years ago. We co-slept with our first child until he was about 11 months old. During that time we (dad and mom) only slept when the baby slept and ALWAYS slept when the baby slept. That was because he was up every 1.5 hours insisting on feeding, which typically took 30-45 minutes. So in the course of an average day of working, chores, baby duty, etc. I personally was getting about 5-6 hours of sporadic sleep per day. Going to the primal diet helped (thanks Mark) by keeping my energy levels more stable even with the reduced sleep. Putting him in his own room made a huge difference in that he (and therefore WE) slept through the night from then on.
    I think this winds up being a) an appropriate subject for an n=1 (or perhaps 3 as it were) experiment and b) a case where society, that demands you work regular hours and be able to function in high stress environments such as interstate traffic, precludes such instinctive activities.

  16. Interesting topic. I don’t have kids (yet), but I think I would try co-sleeping. Baby would at least be in the same room for the first few months.

  17. I remember reading a baby-oriented magazine at the pediatrician’s office when my daughter was a newborn. We had bed-shared with my son, and were bed sharing with the new baby. So, on page 12 of the magazine is an article citing statistics that 75% of parents bed-shared at least one night a week, even though most hadn’t planned on it. On page 15 was an article about how HORRIBLE it is to share a bed with your baby.

    I couldn’t help but think how much better served those parents would be if instead of an article condemning a practice of 75% of the population, someone had published an article about how to bed share safely.

    Humans have bed shared for eons. Many cultures still do. The modern (American?) quest for independence starting practically from birth is a detriment to healthy emotional development.

    1. There is the history of children being nursed by their nurse maids and raised by nannies in the nursery. At some point it was encouraged as a sign of status to have a “nursery” instead of your kid in your bed — kind of like spending resources on having a green lawn that isn’t used for feeding animals. So consumerism has really encouraged some of this, helped along by an expert here or there to scare people. It’s really sad that people think they need to spend 5k in furniture and nursery renovations. Better to put that cash towards nutritious food and savings for the unexpected and work on intimacy instead.
      I do have two cherished baby gadgets: ring-sling (sleeping baby productions) which has a big pocket on the tail, and my one size cloth diapers. Everything else ends up getting dusted.

  18. my twins (boy and girl) shared our room until about the age of three, where they spontaneously wanted to have their own room, which had been ready for a long time, at first they shared a room, then moved to separate rooms around age 6, although they had a few months phase at 7 where they shared the same room again. When they were sleeping with us, we had our matresses on the floor, one double and one single on each side, so falling off the bed wasn’t an issue.

  19. As practicing Catholics who eschew artificial birth control, my wife and I have discovered another closely related benefit.

    Extended, unscheduled breastfeeding usually causes an extended period of breastfeeding related amenorrhea, and consequent delay in return of fertility. However, the largest factor causing this is unscheduled breastfeeding during the overnight hours, which is difficult (if not impossible) without co-sleeping.

    In cultures where co-sleeping is the norm, along with unscheduled, extended, on-demand breastfeeding, the natural interval between children is between 3 and 4 years, due in large part to delayed return of fertility.

    In the case of our three children, we experienced 22, 16, and 18 months of delayed fertility after the birth of each of them, all due to the co-sleeping/breastfeeding combination.

    That is primal family planning at its best! 🙂

    1. Exactly. It’s the frequency that’s most important, but fertility has better odds of returning if there’s at least one 8 hour stretch with no nursing at some point. Depending on the goal, that’s the upside to being a human pacifier for the toddler.

  20. It really speaks volumes about how messed up and far removed our society is from our natural instincts that co-sleeping is even a controversy.

    Next thing you know, people are going to advocate the “dangers” of breast milk and how we should only feed babies manufactured formula.

    Or the dangers of regular water, which lacks vitamins and added calcium. Everyone should drink Vitamin Water.

    1. The human race didn’t get to nearly 7 billion people on modern American ideals of how people should live and raise their kids. This is especially true when you consider the population sizes of China and India with their lax sanitation policies and traditional conservative culture. America didn’t invent people having sex and raising healthy kids.

    2. Oh I’ve already encountered plenty of people who think breastmilk is “dangerous” because of jet fuel and other chemicals being found in it, but also because they think it is lacking in nutrients and only formula can give the baby everything they need.

      One of my biggest pet peeves is the societal construct in the United States that insists we ignore almost every instinct mothers have in regards to their infants. We’ve let so-called experts tell us how to raise our children, nourish our bodies and a myriad of other things in ways that contradict nature and instinct. We were given those instincts for a reason…ever seen a baby do the breast crawl? One of the most amazing things to watch…

      1. When my son was born, I actually had a male nurse try to help me with breastfeeding. He was uncomfortable, I was uncomfortable. After that incident, I gave up and bottle fed. I think things would have been different if I hadn’t had such a bad experience right off the bat.

        1. Yuck and triple yuck. When mothers give up it’s almost always because stories like this. 🙁 The better hospitals/birthing centers/pediatricians have lactation consultants (every one female that I’ve met). It won’t help your past, but if you have any more children ask for a lactation specialist for help.

        2. I was furious with the tired woman nurse who grabbed my breast, grabbed my newborns head, then jammed them together. She backed off at my growl and said, ‘I’m just doing my job’. I said thank you, but don’t touch me.

        3. Madama…I had the same thing happen to me with my third! I’d breastfed my two previous children to age three (and had told her this). He had been suckling, but at the moment she came in he was comfort nursing and she got all upset telling me he wasn’t suckling right. He had lost a normal amount of weight, but she tried scaring me with the whole “if he loses any more weight, we’re going to have to give him formula” and then she grabbed my breast without permission and began squeezing it saying I needed to stimulate them more. I almost smacked her. With lactation consultants like that, I can easily see how a new mother could be made to doubt that her body would work right and give up easily.

          Made me so mad!

      2. From my understanding, back in the 70s, because breastmilk was so mistrusted as infant nourishment, pediatricians would routinely check moms and babies for ‘deficiencies’.

        Ridiculous.

  21. We co-slept with a cradle by my side of the bed. Worked great w/ my daughter, but my son was too noisy for me to get much sleep.
    Jokes on me, though. As soon as my son was big enough to get out of the crib for himself he wandered into our bedroom. I have been co-sleeping almost nightly ever since, whether we go to bed that way or not! 🙂

  22. I really enjoyed this well research post. Related to this, I would be very interested to see something about infant sleep patterns and sleep training tactics such as “cry it out”/extinction. I’ve not applied these methods to my little ones because they make no evolutionary sense to me, but it’s incredible how widely applied they are in our culture. How did we ever think it was acceptable to teach our babies to cry to sleep?

    1. This train of thought is the main reason I never let my kids cry it out (they are great sleepers now). Can you imagine the tribe all being kept awake for hours on end while a distraught mother ignores her screaming baby? Ridiculous! The fact that we have huge McHouses where you can isolate screaming babies at one end, close the door, then retreat to the other end so they don’t bother you doesn’t mean it’s okay to do!

    2. Massive levels of cortisol in both infants and mothers with ‘cry it out’. I can’t handle it.

      It’s one thing to hear a post-1 year old throw a fit and scream relentlessly, it’s another thing to hear an infant. I can’t ignore strangers’ babies crying like that, without some sort of anxious response, let alone my own.

      No issues with toddler fits though 😉 Scream all you want dear, you’re not getting that cookie!

    3. In the hunter/gatherer societies that still exist, infants spend the majority of the day and night physically touching a relative, whether by being held in the arms or held against the body with a type of sling. As toddlers they’d have more independence, but, if I remember correctly, the average amount of time it takes before someone would respond to a crying child was about 10 seconds (the benefits of living with extended family). I’d laugh if someone told me that letting a baby cry themselves to sleep was healthy for them.

    4. Sally I remember being some sort of tiny, maybe ten months, and seeing my mothers shadow on the wall outside my bedroom. I cried and screamed forever and she occasionally shifted but never came to me. I remember it really clearly, felt emotionally shattered as I fell asleep looking at the ceiling with subsiding sobs. Been quite a while since then! But the strange thing is, it set the theme for the rest of our relationship. I don’t hate her for it, but I don’t trust her at all and never really have. She was only doing what she was told was right. And boy have I learned from her mistakes so it’s not all bad…

  23. Taking the opposite viewpoint here. For the first 6 weeks, each of my children shared our bedroom (in a bassinet right next to the bed). We ended up with an entire family of sleepless people. Babies make a bunch of noises that do not necessarily mean they are waking up but an anxious mom with super hearing will instantly wake up and try to tend to the baby. I could never distinguish between the noises and ended up not sleeping a single wink all night. My husband removed our first child from our room at 6 weeks as I cried. That night we all slept for our first 6 hour stretch ever. I thanked him later. It is important that you keep your baby close for the first several weeks but after that, you need to do what you feel is right for you. Not to mention, it is very difficult to have adult activities with a child sleeping in the same room or bed with you. Again, I don’t mind the concept of co-sleeping but it was not a good choice for us.

    1. 6 week olds should not be sleeping a 6 hour stretch!

      But, yes, every family needs to decide what works best for them. But with condemnation of bed sharing/co-sleeping and a lack of education on how to do it safely, that choice is taken away from a lot of people before they even know it exists.

      1. One of my babies did start sleeping six hour stretches at six weeks. One at eight weeks, and another not until six months. Every baby is different. I was not going to wake my kids every two to four hours to feed them because the doctor said so. I fed them when they were hungry. None of them starved or had any signs of malnutrition.

        Although, like Kris, I am a super light sleeper and woke at every little move and noise. Both the babies and I slept better in other rooms. I still always woke a few seconds before they started crying, ready to eat.

        1. Over Right ButCo-sleeping makes nighttime breastfeeding more convenient.
          Makes it easier for a nursing mother to be on the same schedule as her child.
          Helps babies fall asleep more easily, and stay asleep, because they awaken more often, with a shorter feeding time.
          Helps parents gain closeness to their infant.
          But despite these pros, various medical groups and doctors warn parents that co-sleeping is dangerous, and should not be done. Co-sleeping puts babies at risk of suffocation, strangulation, and sudden-infant death syndrome (SIDS). Adult beds have many safety risks for children

    2. I agree that room sharing with an infant during the early weeks is a must. After that, space permitting, the baby should be allowed to sleep in his own room.

    3. I could not agree more with your take on this. Exactly our experience. I felt like I could be a much better mom if I was well rested. Plenty of time to bond while we were awake. I know other moms actually slept better with their children in their beds, however.

    4. I will say that a bassinet does not confer all the advantages of co-sleeping as you still need to get up to attend to the baby. It’s better than a separate room, but it’s really room sharing rather than doing the “lazy mom gets to stay mostly unconscious while feeding the baby” thing. You *may* have been less freaked out by the random noises if the baby actually slept near you.

      That said, the point of co-sleeping (for me anyway) is to make sure everyone is getting enough sleep. If baby in a crib elsewhere gets that accomplished, seems to me it’s all good.

  24. I coslpet with our sone (now 14) for the first 18 mos. 6 months in a family bed, then a year in a futon on the floor in anohter room becaue my husband needed more sapce as teh baby got bigger and more active. I woudl do it agian in ahearbeat.

    Also, I want ed to plug childwearing. I feel so sad for those young moms struggling with those combo carseat/baby carriers. SO ergonomically nasty. I would transfer my son to a sling once we got anywhere and wear him. It facilitated nursing in public. I carried him in a sling for 4 years. It was always with me in case I needed it if he got tired walkign, couldn’t keep up or it was congested, crowded conditions. I felt better wearing him on my body rather than on a leash.

    1. I was unable to baby wear with my kids due to arthritis in my lower back-it made the last trimester pure misery. With my youngest(son) my younger teenaged daughter did a lot of the packing around of her little brother, mostly because she wanted to. Enough so that I got my son an “I love my big sister bib” to keep people from glaring at my 14 year old daughter thinking she was mommy. I was happy for a good stroller and I did do the leash thing when they got to feeling independent. The girls were 13 months apart and would head in opposite directions so leashes in public were a necessity until they were about 4 and would stick to me.

    2. Slings are awesome if you can do it and the baby likes it. My eldest loved a sling, the younger 2 were not been impressed.

      The best thing we got for number 3 was a “frame” stroller where the car seat snaps into it. ($50 new, not one of those “travel” systems) We never needed to disturb baby naps or struggle carrying a seat designed to withstand an impact at 65 MPH. Just snap the seat in and go.

  25. With all three of my kids we had a bassinet next to the bed within arms reach. It made nursing in the middle of the night a lot easier and I could calm their fussing before they got really wound up. I had diaper supplies and changing pad next to the bed as well so I could change them without getting out of bed. I also had what is called a TV pillow on the head of the bed that I would lean on while nursing. With my third child I had a nursing pillow which was really nice to have especially after a C-section. I do remember lightly dozing sitting up while nursing on a number of occasions. One of the down sides is that my husbands snoring kept waking up the baby. I’m past the baby stage now and getting to the looking forward to grandbabies to spoil stage. My baby is a red headed hurricane of a superhero crazy kindergarten boy. His sisters are college students. The are adventurous curious kids.

  26. Just yesterday I was explaining cosleeping to my now 9-year old daughter and why we did this with her when she was a baby. I found myself thinking how sad it is that the distinctions and safety precautions you just described are not shared more often. Safely cosleeping with my daughter when she was a baby was a great joy to me and I think it worked out quite well for her as well. Thank you so much for this article!

  27. Thanks for this post! Very interesting stuff. In addition to the topics you say will be discussed next week, I would also be interested in transitioning the child & parent for that matter out of co-sleeping.

    When do you have the child sleep alone & how do you accomplish it in a non-stressful way?

    Thanks!

    1. My son was exceptionally big ( my hubby is 6’7″) and we moved him out when he got too big for us all to sleep easily. That was our criteria.

    2. “When do you have the child sleep alone & how do you accomplish it in a non-stressful way?”

      As an experienced co-sleeping family that has now moved on, I’d like to reassure you that in time your kids will want to have their own bed/room. It is such a natural process! Our eldest son (now 14) moved into his own room when he was 8 and our two daughters moved together into a different room when they were 6 & 8. No issues, no trauma, they were all just ready. Looking back on it, I am soooo happy we had those years together… all our kids have a sense of security, self-esteem and independence and I’m convinced co-sleeping has played a big role in it.
      Now my husband and I have the rest of our life to co-sleep, just the two of us!

      Because a standard bedroom didn’t allow for 2 king sized beds, we actually changed things around and made the living room our bedroom for a few years. I think it is important that you have enough room and make it work; think outside the box!

    3. I moved both kids fairly easily into their own beds between 18 months and 2yo. There was a bit of transition time when I would need to lie down with them until they fell asleep, but my 2y2m daughter can now be put to bed with simply a pat and a kiss.

      Bed-sharing/co-sleeping teaches a child that you will always be there for them, and that feeling of comfort and security transfers to their own bed/room when the family is ready.

      1. Meant to also recommend the book “Good Nights” by Jay Gordon – it’s all about bed-sharing and ways to make it work safely for your family, including transitioning kids to their own bed(s).

  28. We co-slept with both daughters, no problems. We were sensible; a very low pillow and a light duvet and no alcohol etc. It was so much better for breastfeeding at night, which I learnt to do in the dark! Here in the UK it is also frowned on, but I now have 2 well adjusted independent young women. I think they started with a strong physical basis of knowing how much they were loved and cared for. I just felt right for us, but we didn’t shout about it.

  29. I’m convinced co-sleeping saved my daughter’s life. She was very mucusy as a newborn and there were times when she would struggle to breathe because her airway was blocked. I slept with her on my chest and a bulb aspirator in my hand for her first month of life and there were many times I would wake suddenly to find her squirming and struggling — completely silently. I never would have heard that on a baby monitor and she would have suffocated on her own fluids.

    She continued to share a bed with my husband and me until she was 14 months old, then shared a room with us for several months after that, and she nursed for almost 3 years. She is now 15 years old, by far the more independent of my two children, and has the best immune system of any of us! (My older child has an autism spectrum disorder, did not like to be held/swaddled/cuddled, so we had a “sidecar” arrangement with him when he was a baby. The bottom line is do what feels right to you, your spouse and your kid. Follow your instincts — they’re there for a reason!)

  30. Is it possible that the the entire Grok family co-slept until it was time for the children to have their own families?

  31. I think something that’s important to remember is that regardless of what studies say, you’ll always wind up doing what your little study of N=1 (i.e. yourself) is comfortable with. My wife and I were pretty firm that we’d co-sleep up to a point and then transition the kids. Well, then our 1st was in the NICU and got used to sleeping on her own. The 2nd needed co-sleeping badly. My wife has night terrors and wakes up twice a night and THROWS the blankets, jumps up, and sprints for another room before she stops herself (not a good time to have a baby in the bed). Last week our 1 year old was sick and she slept with us…and thrashed her way off the bed and her head hit the ground with the worse splat ever.

    What I’m trying to say is different things work for different people at different times of their life. You have to try it out and see how it fits your situation. It can be great for some and a headache for others. Don’t judge!

  32. I think co-sleeping is great (and just as safe as non-co-sleeping when done correctly). They even make those cool co-sleepers that attach to the bed now (great for small beds & those concerned with rolling over).

    My personal issue with co-sleeping is that even while I nursed in bed with baby next to me I still got up afterwards to change his diaper! It wasn’t like I could just stay half-asleep the whole time. I wonder if some co-sleeping (& nursing) parents don’t do night-time diaper changes?? I was always worried about the diaper leaking or baby getting diaper rash (which he – unlike many kids – never once had the whole time he was in diapers). Anyway, co-sleeping is great… it just didn’t equate to me not getting up in the night.

    I’m pregnant with # 2 now… it’ll be interesting to see what she likes! At the very least she’ll be in our room for the first few months. I agree with the previous poster about following your instincts & doing what’s right for your family. Don’t worry about being judged for co-sleeping or nursing “too long!”

    1. We co-slept with both of our boys and I very quickly gave up on the night time diaper change. Since I was exclusively breastfeeding for at least 5 months, neither got diaper rash even from night poops. I think breastmilk has the perfect composition for the babies to use almost all of the nutrients and not leave much to be excreted.

      I had a waterproof mattress pad under our regular mattress pad in case of leaks, but leaks were very uncommon. Just make sure the mattress pad and sheet are VERY tight fitting so that no lumps or wrinkles can form under the baby.

    2. I honestly only change maybe 2-3 X a night but we also cloth diaper and with 2-3 soakers inside the diaper the part that she sits on doesn’t really get soaking but more damp and during the day we practice elimination communication so no diaper rash here.

      1. How about baby Grok never wearing nappies? (Diapers). Just got my 3yr old potty trained, what a ‘mare. There are whole societies who never touch the things right?
        Anyone?

        1. That’s true that other modern cultures don’t have diapers and I’m sure Grokette didn’t either. I’m also sure that dirt floors help. 🙂

          We did some experimenting with #3 going diaper free. Our results were that we didn’t have the time to as a family to attend her at the level that would make it work. Diapers allow time shifting when lots of things are going on. Learning her signals meant a lot of mess initially (which is okay), but it was just too much with the other children. We just didn’t want to spend cumulative hours chasing after accidents, even though I felt diaper free would be workable. At this point, she’s reasonably happy in diapers. Although it’s annoying to change diapers, no one ever handed out awards for “earliest potty trained”.

        2. We did regular potty training with my older son and it was a nightmare. Took over a year and he still has accidents. I figured it would be just as much work whenever we did it, so why not do it sooner. We started elimination communication with #2 at six weeks. Really, it’s much less work than I expected. Especially with cloth diapers, it saves on the laundry every time you get a pee in the potty. And don’t get me started on NOT having to clean sticky yellow poo off of, well, everything.

          Having hardwood floors does help with the occasional accidents. And when we’re not able to take him potty as often or he’s learning a new skill and not interested in going, I just put a cloth diaper on him without a cover so I can see right away if he’s wet and change him.

          Some people do it at night too! Researchers reported that hunter-gatherer babies slept by their parents naked without ever peeing the bed by just a few months old. Sometimes if the baby’s having trouble going back to sleep, I have him pee in the bedside potty, but other than that I just keep him in a plastic dipe and don’t worry about it. I don’t have the luxury of sleeping all the hours of darkness like hunter-gatherers do.

  33. We have a family bed made up of a king and queen mattress on the floor. We sleep with our 6 year old and 2.5 year old. We have always co-slept and I am confident that when my kids are ready they will ask for their own bed. In the meantime there is nothing so wonderful as snuggling with both my babies. And I am right there for the vomit, nightmares, potty breaks! Going to bed is never a struggle for us since we all just cuddle in together.

    The cry that babies make when left alone in a crib in another room is a cry of fear and desperation and death. Just think about – not until recently have we separated mama from baby in our species. Previously when this happened the baby would be in serious trouble since he would have no one to protect him from animals, cold, everything. Human babies have not yet evolved to know that they are “safe” while still being alone.

    1. Amen.

      And as a culture we continue to separate ourselves from each other physically and emotionally until we die.

  34. We co-slept with both baby groks. Older BG moved to a twin bed in our room when younger BG was born and came into our king bed. Then both moved to a bunk-bed in the same room when the youngest turned three. That absolutely got us the best sleep any if us could have at that stage.

  35. We had twins so co sleeping in a queen bed just wasn’t an option but my twins co slept (with eachother)until almost 6 months old . With just one baby I imagine it would be easier but I still think it would disrupt my sleep. I don’t believe that humans co slept in the past but would have room shared. This is what bassinets are for and they’ve been around a long time. Safer and still keeps baby close.

    1. “I don’t believe that humans co slept in the past but would have room shared.”

      Sorry, I am fascinated by the history of mothering and have looked into this several times in the past. It absolutely was the way it was done in the past. AND The majority of the world STILL co-sleeps. Separate sleeping is a relatively new idea and found mostly in Western culture.

  36. I think it is really a choice every family needs to make. My son went in his own room at about 2 months, because I just couldn’t sleep with him right next to me. He made so many little noises and I would instantly wake up at the slightest noise, so it worked better to have him in another room. My daughter stayed in a crib in our room for a little longer, but is now in her own room and doing well.

    Again, I think it is choice everyone needs to make depending on what works best for them. Some of my friends co-sleep and love it, so I certainly do not think it is a bad thing for some people.

    I would say, though, in regards to it being very primal and something we have done for centuries, that modern conveniences can be useful to many and a natural, loving connection to your child is still very possible. I doubt Grok had a whole lot of options when it came to putting the baby in a separate room (like the west wing of the cave???) and safety from predators was a constant motivation to keep baby within arms reach at all times. Luckily, we do not face those same hazards and the invention of baby monitors makes it quite a bit more convenient for those who do not want to co-sleep. Again, to each their own!?

  37. One more thing – I have just started reading your new book, Mark! Something struck me about following our instincts – totally agree that we need to do this more often! It just feels right.

    I never realized the important of “instincts” until being a mother. Man, those motherly instincts are strong (I’m sure fatherly ones are too).

    Anyway, I think a lot of new moms are somewhat unhappy because on the one hand they are trying to conform to societal norms (raising & teaching an “independent baby”) while on the other hand they have very strong instincts to do the opposite (feed on demand, wear baby most of the day, co sleep, etc.).

    Our society is so out of touch with our natural instincts when it comes to new babies… it shouldn’t be so!

    I’m glad this is being talked about & I have to think we’re making progress from when our parents & grandparents had children. At least we have the options to do water births, etc… we are not strapped to a bed (or don’t have to be) & pressured into feeding formula.

  38. We co-slept with all four babies. They all turned out like brats, but don’t know if co-sleeping had anything to do with it…

  39. I slept with my little ones in the crook of my arm, and that way I never lost track of where they were or what was near their face, plus that put them right by their food source, so to speak.

  40. We might try this with our next one. Mostly because it would be our fourth child in a three bedroom house. So either we co-sleep or the other kids co-sleep. But not because of the “animals do it” argument. Animals also eat their young as often as not. Animals desert their young at early ages. Animals let their pack raise their young. Animals don’t make BA salads for their young. Etc.
    What about when the wife and I would like a little skin on skin ourselves?
    What about when the baby needs to go to sleep at 8 but we don’t go to bed until later.

    1. I start the baby off in his bedside crib and bring him into bed once he wakes up during the night. It’s much easier for me to wind down in the evening if it’s just us parents in the bed at first. And that makes the transition easy — as he starts sleeping longer and longer stretches, he spends less and less time in our bed. We moved my first son out at about a year and he was fine because he was already sleeping through the night in the bedside crib.

  41. We’re now co-sleeping (bed sharing) with child #4. Child #3 still spends most of the night in our bed as well.
    Really- it’s great. It may not be for everyone… I was hesitant at first. After the first night, I was won over. I believe not only does it promote better sleep for both the parent(s) and child(ren), but it helps create a closeness.

    Our 7 year old decided on her own at 3 years old to sleep in her own bed, in our bedroom. At 6 years old she decided to move into her own room.
    Our 3 year old has a bed in our bedroom. He’ll often sleep there until exactly midnight, then come to our bed and lay on me.
    Our youngest is almost 10 months old. She has a type of crib next to our bed; sleeps some time there, but mostly in our bed.

    Really, one just needs a very large bed 🙂

  42. This was wonderful to read. I have a 9 week old that I have been fighting the co-sleeping phenomenon with; resulting in tears, frustration and poor sleep for both of us, simply because I felt guilty that it was not the ‘right’ thing to do. Upon reading this I feel it’s ‘right’ for us, and won’t fight it anymore. I usually prop myself up in a semi reclining position with pillows and have the lil princess lay on her belly on my chest with my arms around her. There’s no danger involved- I woke up this morning with my arms still around her and clutching her paci in my hand! =) And as a new mommy I have to say there are worse ways to wake up than with a newborn rooting around your collarbone searching for the good stuff! It actually tickles and is a great start to the day.

    1. Please look into safe co-sleeping practices. Soft pillows can be a no-no depending on the set up.

      “Good Nights” by Jay Gordon is one book that has a lot of good info. Good info can also be found on mothering.com

    2. I slept that way a lot with both of my girls when they were really young. I couldn’t put them down without them waking up. Glad it’s working for you.

  43. I’ll pipe in here to say that no arrangement is perfect for all families. I’m a big advocate of room sharing when babies are young because it helped me get more sleep, but bed sharing actually didn’t work for us. The combination of being large chested with a very small baby (<10th percentile) meant that in order to breastfeed I had to actually sit up to nurse every time, even in the middle of the night. It was actually easier to accomplish with my son in his own space than it was when he shared a bed with me, since I didn't have so much to rearrange.

    1. Actually I am a 32g and you don’t have to nurse sitting up. Nursing lying den takes some practice but is awesome. And bing so large cheated I never have to physically move my baby to the other breast because it reached the baby!

  44. I’m a step Mom to an 8 year old girl. She’s with us 3 nights and week and with her Mom 4 nights. Since their divorce, my step daughter has slept in the bed with her mom, naked. She has always slept in her own room, in her own bed at our house. I’m hoping for some feedback to suggest that continuing co-sleeping until the time the child is in 2nd grade is inappropriate. Not that I can change the situation, just looking for validation!

    1. Unless there is something else going on besides sleeping, there’s nothing inappropriate about it.

    2. I was still going into my parents bedroom,naked at that age. Is it the nakedness or the cosleeping that makes you feel is inappropriate?

    3. Why would this be inappropriate? Her mother is her mother. I don’t think how they sleep is any of your business to be honest. I would say keep your opinion out of this very personal situation.

      Naked does not mean perverted. It is your issue with nakedness that is the problem, not your husband’s ex wife.

  45. I think this post is useful because it presents a new light on a practice that is often portrayed negatively in today’s society, yet it is certainly a valid option for parents. However, posts like these are tough because most of us are here trying to learn about optimal health and what is most “natural” for our bodies. So when a practice (such as co-sleeping)is presented, it’s basically considered the “right” thing to do. Thus those who have chosen not to do so are left defending their decision against the majority.

    I think in general people should be left to their own decisions based on their own situations. If the choices you make in life leave you happy & everything is working well, don’t change what you’re doing or regret what you’ve done because it wasn’t the “right” thing to do. Likewise, if something isn’t working (e.g. you’re exhausted from going into the other room to nurse, you feel anxious about leaving your baby in a separate room, etc), then look into alternative options and hopefully find something that does work for you.

    In most decisions in life, but especially in parenting, people are so eager to profess the ideal way to do something, but what that is truly differs from person to person. If it works, don’t change it. If it doesn’t work, ask for advice & consider other options. Mark’s advice is excellent, but there are times when it isn’t the only “right” way.

    1. ” Thus those who have chosen not to do so are left defending their decision against the majority.”

      No, you’re not. The best advise I ever got regarding well thought out personal decisions was: “don’t apologize and don’t explain”. When I hang out with vegans/vegetarians I feel no particular need to defend or apologize for my carnivorous side. If they have a problem, they need to speak up so we can come up with mutual solution. Social empathy yes, is an important skill, but telepathy, alas, was is not something I can ever hope to acquire.

      What I like about Mark’s blog in particular is that he’s very open to the idea that YMMV. If co-sleeping didn’t work out and everyone survived, it’s fine. The human condition has always been less than perfect.

      Take on some confidence about your own decisions and what’s right for you. Mark had a post here a few days ago about eating seaweed, which I’m sure is totally Paleo and “right”, but trust me, we will not be pursuing anytime soon. 😉 I don’t need to defend that decision or feel uncomfortable about Mark’s opinion on it. We’re both right.

  46. For those of you asking what would the real Grok family do….well Grok would have raised children with the extended family. Most primitive cultures today (and many all over the world) heavily involve Aunts and Grandmothers in baby care. Truly, it would be rare for a mother to do more than 75% of the work in a real “Grok” situation. There would even be shared breast feeding amongst lactating mothers.

    1. Yes. In Asia, we slept on the heated floor on large futon-type mattresses. During the day, when I wasn’t strapped on my mother’s back, I was strapped to Grandma or someone else. We no longer have the extended family/village life that others have. Sadly, Asians are now adopting Western ideals of living in separate homes away from extended family, and buying Western-style beds.

    2. “Truly, it would be rare for a mother to do more than 75% of the work in a real “Grok” situation.”

      Maybe, maybe not.

      This is the idealized version of an extended family. Let me tell you about mine…

      Out of our parents, my father is hands down the most awesome of all them. However he is very uncomfortable with anything to with infants because, well, he just nervous and doesn’t want to be wrong. My FIL is sweet guy but he defaults completely to my MIL’s opinions on almost everything.

      My MIL is woman with serious control and emotional problems who is inattentive to almost everything but her own feelings. The few times I’ve trusted her to my young children’s care, I’ve found them in rather obviously dangerous situations. My SIL was in the hospital quite frequently as a young child for bruises, concussions, and the like. This was always blamed her “cluziness” but I suspect it was really due to my MIL’s inattention.

      My Mother was more physically able to take care of young children but emotionally she also just barely survived our childhoods. She had no advice to give when pregnant when my first — most of her thought patterns was centered around making a sweater for her first grandchild, rather than how it might impact her daughter’s life. Like my MIL, she too, had checked out emotionally from our lives ages ago (if she was ever there in the first place).

      My sister and SIL are much more in our lives, but their parenting style is different and not always compatible.

      If faced with the situation above would Grok and Grokette lazily pass the baby around the tribe? I don’t know..I tend think they might have wanted to form their own tribe “over there” somewhere, where ever that was.

      That Asians are moving to Western style living only suggests they are more willing to take on the sacrifices of independent living because they see the rewards. “Traditional” living wasn’t and isn’t all good. I’m sure it’s great if the tribe is rational; not so much if the tribe has got some serious problems.

  47. I am a 10 1/2 year old girl(on my moms e-mail). I co-slept tell about 3 years old . And if i am sick or upset still do.

    1. It is awesome that you are reading Marks’ Daily Apple! My daughter also co-slept with us until she was six. Now she is 18 and a very happy, independent young lady. You got a great start! Keep it up!

      1. This just reminded me… I slept with my parents off and on til at least 6. But the last time slept with them I was home from college, about 19, and there was a small earthquake (large enough to wake us up). My dad came into my room and invited me into their bed, where I slept comfortably between my parents, and we were all together in case of another earthquake!

  48. I co-slept with my older daughter out of necessity, to get some sleep. I said I’d never do it again, and here I am 2.5yrs into it with my second one. Once again out of necessity, to get sleep. Some nights are good, some nights I want her to wean & learn to sleep on her own. I sleep in my kids room & sneak off to see my dh for alone time. I don’t have the heart to cry my toddler out. I do enjoy the special bond with my children and I know one day soon they will be sleeping without me.

  49. For a different take – I was ‘co-slept’ as a baby, as were all of my siblings. We are now all over 50 and we turned out okay! My mom and dad were recent immigrants and thankfully unaware that sleeping with their kids was thought to be child abuse. I asked my mom how she got us out of their bed, and she said we just naturally transitioned to the “Big Girl” or “Big Boy” room (5 girls, 4 boys) around the age of four.

    As in all things, this comes down to personal choice. Forcing someone to sleep with their kids when it doesn’t work for them is just as bad the opposite situation.

  50. Bless you for writing about this Mark! Yes, sleeping with our babies, even our children, is the natural, Grok-like human behavior. Not putting your infant in a crib in another room – THAT is the abomination. To think that we have gotten to the point where natural, healthy ways to live are considered an abomination. So sad. Co-sleep! Breast-feed! Eat like a hunter-gatherer! Get back to what nature intended and stop listening to the woefully wrong conventional thinking.

  51. Good subject. Here’s my take after having 3 babies. I agree, there’s something very logical/natural about co-sleeping with a brand new baby who feeds on demand. That’s good for the baby, but also preserves mom’s sanity. We transitioned our babies to their own beds after a couple of months, when we knew they could go 4 or 5 hours without feeding. It took just a few days to develop a routine of getting them to fall asleep on their own, which is what I most definitely needed as a mom. I had friends who were okay with a willy, nilly feed-on-demand schedule well into the baby’s first year. In fact, I think these moms liked it. That would not work for me and I think each mom needs to block out all that well meaning advice and think about what she needs to be the best mom possible. Our way was the right way – for us. We have 3 pretty fun teenagers now who don’t have any major developmental issues…that we know of! 🙂

  52. I came to cosleeping naturally out of necessity with my firstborn. Before having kids, during my pregnancy, I was vehemently against it, although I knew I was going to be at least room sharing with my son because of space issues. I insisted, however, that it wasn’t healthy and was dangerous, etc etc etc to have him in our bed.

    Fast forward to having ultra-needy somewhat premature newborn that INSISTED on nursing 24/7. Would scream with dachshund-level tenacity if he was put down. After leaving my bank card in the ATM and several other horrid sleep-deprived foibles in the first few weeks I “caved” and have not gone back as a parent. I started tuning into my instincts, not only because, well, my son DEMANDED it, but also because, it felt better and we were all happier in those first few very hard months with him. He gained weight better, was more content, and definitely got more to eat as a result of cosleeping and babywearing. He was a preemie, and just.. not ready to be separated from mom. The adjustment took him quite some time.

    Turns out, I cherish that time and how right the choice was for my family then. I look at how he is now, and while being born prematurely and other factors have contributed to some issues he has, many many many other things that are common to both autistic spectrum kids and neurotypical kids we avoided. I attribute most of that to the basics of attachment parenting. It creates secure and happy kids, not clingy and needy ones.

    That being said, it must be done safely, without excessive bedding. Make the space safe the same as you would a crib. Use common sense.

    And don’t make it a big deal. Kids and sleep are a part of life. Just take it in stride, set the example, and your children will follow it.

  53. I’m not a mom, however this-all reminds me of the misconception we see in dating and relationships as well as in children. *IF* a child (or dating partner/girlfriend/wife) KNOWS that a response is always available (that she can rely on someone to answer her when in need) — then they don’t become grasping and “needy” and desperate to keep checking to make sure help / connection WILL be there if they need it! Just like with air — we only become frantic if it’s NOT there; when we know there’s a supply, we don’t worry — or even THINK — about breathing!

    Letting (forcing!) a primate infant (to) be “independent” and learn to ‘manage’ a situation (being alone, away from mom) that it is hard-wired to avoid (because it’s deadly!) at too early an age leads (I believe) to an unconscious sense that the universe is a dangerous place.

    If a baby (or partner) CANNOT rely on mom (the other partner) to *be there* when needed, then there is no security, which leads to … what else? INsecurity! (And thus, grasping, demanding, worrying, reaching, etc.)

    Men who pull away from a woman because “she’s needy” are not providing the confidence (in him, in his response, that) the woman needs to BE independent of him, knowing he’ll be there if necessary. Granted, some women (maybe those “taught” in infancy and beyond that there WAS no one reliable to come when she called?) have an unfillable desire for security — but many, maybe most, aren’t needy unless they don’t have a sense they can rely on a response.

    With an infant/child, it’s more than that, it’s hard-wired. The adult women won’t DIE (even if it feels like it); the baby is programed to call (more and more frantically) for help — because being ignored means death!

  54. To all the folks who have said we need to trust our instincts, let me add my voice as well. My daughter breastfed until she was just over two and co-slept with us until she was six. We did what was right for US. Trust your own gut feeling for each situation and each child. I never regretted either choice or length of time because it was right for us. But I would have bitterly regretted it if I’d weaned her too early or pushed her out of my bed before we were both ready. Now she’s 18 and a happy, healthy, primal, well-adjusted college student. I miss her now very much, but that’s made easier by knowing I held her close when I had the chance.

  55. I don’t know if my parents co-slept with me, and I don’t have children so I’ve never had to make the decision myself. To be honest, until reading this I never even knew co-sleeping was a thing with a fancy name and research studies attached to it. I just assumed it was normal. There are people who think it’s somehow detrimental to a child’s health? My instinctual reaction is why would you not sleep with your children that close?

  56. Yeah, all five of my babies roomed/bedded in with me (and husband when he was around). I don’t understand how any mother can bear to be parted from an infant overnight(although I do understand the need for a good night’s sleep).

    Having said that, all of my babies were good sleepers so the actual bed-sharing was minimal. In very early days I had them in a moses basket beside me and would put them in bed with me for breastfeeding only. By six weeks all of them slept through the night (I’d wake up anyway and check on them).

    When they were big enough to climb out of the cot they’d spend most nights in with me – what precious nights they were! By this age the risks are pretty minimal. Anyone who’s ever slept with a toddler knows that the parent is more at risk of falling out of the bed/waking up with a crick neck/injury from arm or leg-fling.

    When they were big enough to go into a bed of their own I bunked them in with a sibling (we have a lot of big beds).

    Some pointers for parents considering co-sleeping:
    – put the mattress on the floor!
    – minimise pillows, blankets, heavy quilts and comforters
    – eat lightly in the evening so tiredness doesn’t override your baby-awareness
    – avoid alcohol Dad
    – never, ever, EVER lie down on the sofa with a baby.

    My girls are all affectionate, confident, independent and well-balanced young human beings. As a parent I consider myself blessed for every moment I got to hold them.

  57. We have coslept with our 3.5 month old daughter since birth. After she was born at the birth center they placed her in between both of us on the queen sized bed. We have a queen sized mattress rotated on the floor and she sleeps near me. I cannot imagine her sleeping in another room! In fact I am convinced she would probably starve,my milk would dry up and I am would have to formula feed her, I just do not think I would be able to hear her especially since when she is hungry she just nuzzles up next to me and latches on. We will definitely be getting a bigger bed so all our babes can sleep with us.
    The way I look at it is that your kids are probably going to come into your bed anyways. I still remember coming into my parents bed when atleast until I was 9 because of bad dreams,ect so they might as well just start there!

  58. Funny how some kids dictate their own time frame for co-sleeping. My third child slept in the crook of my arm and nursed when needed until about 6 months when one night he reached to his crib that we had in the room and insisted to sleep there. Needless to say I was sad to see his night time with me come to such an abrupt end so unlike his sisters.

    His nursing days ended just as abruptly at one year of age. He crawled into my lap one afternoon to nurse as was our habit and became engaged in doing something and I couldn’t convince him to nurse ever again.

    Very bright, successful young man these days, BTW.

  59. I was never able to comfortably co-sleep. I’m already prone to insomnia and having a baby in the bed only made it worse. I did keep my daughter right next to me in a bassinet and would bring her into bed to feed- so she always had that instant attention. But I found I had to move her into her own room at about 4 months because she was an incredibly restless sleeper. I’d inadvertently wake her up thinking she needed to be fed. It was actually more restful for us both when she slept alone. Her room was so close to ours (small home) that she still never had to wait long for me to get her when she wanted to be fed. So, I guess it all comes down to what works for the individual.

    I have to admit that I did have a negative impression of co-sleeping going in though. We had friends that co-slept and as their kids got older they couldn’t go to sleep alone. The wife had to lay down with the oldest kid for an hour-and-a-half a night just to get her to go to sleep. And I knew a few people who ended up with kids who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) fall to sleep on their own. I’m guessing, from everything I’ve read here, that they didn’t make very good transitions into independent sleeping arrangements and that co-sleeping wasn’t the particular culprit I thought it was.

  60. We co-slept with all 3 children while they were nursing. Never rolled over on anyone and my wife still managed to kick me in the middle of the night. The benefits far outweigh the loss of privacy.

    Kids are awesome!

  61. Co-sleeping and sex? It’s when the youngster sits at the end of the bed and roars with laughter at you, you know its time they moved on!! Happened to a friend of mine.

  62. My son slept with me until he was about 3 years old. He usually slept in his own room after that. If ever he was scared or felt the need for his mom, he was more than welcome to sleep in my bed. He is now a teenager (who would never ever think of sleeping in his mom’s bed), but we have a very close relationship and I attribute that to the co-sleeping when he was younger.

  63. Co-sleeping has worked great for us! (I was happy to see this post; I linked to James McKenna the other day!) A lot of the negative studies do come from crib manufacturers and similar interest groups. For us, it was not a problem having the newborn in the middle; the babies would naturally move towards me and basically sleep on their sides facing me. Very cozy. I was always conscious of their presence. My husband is a heavier sleeper, but doesn’t thrash around or anything. (To his benefit, he could fall asleep fast, and wake up pretty fast to help–without really remembering being awake.)

    One thing that McKenna pointed out in a Michigan news story (I believe) is that newborns are oriented to where their mothers are by nursing. In several tragic SIDS cases he found that none of the babies had been nursing, and actually had become disoriented while sleeping. Obviously, safety precautions need to be followed, regardless of whether one is nursing or not.

    The few times we tried to put our oldest in the crib at all, it ruined our evenings…and affected our sleep and hers. Mine have all loved having someone next to them. The two older ones separate very well from us, and are very independent. The youngest is still with us, but in daytime is very independent.

    I really recommend co-sleeping, obviously!

    Thank you for this post!

  64. My first was a great sleeper and we had her in a bassinet next to the bed for the first 4 months, then in her crib. I think I tried nursing her in bed a few times at first, but it was such mess, leaking everywhere, turning on lights to change her diaper, it thoroughly awoke my husband, who can have trouble falling back asleep. So I would just get up, change her in her room and nurse her on the couch, comfortably.
    My second wasn’t to be as easy, of course. For the first 4 months I co-slept about half of the time–laying in bed holding her screaming on my stomach while she fell asleep. She taught me that just about anything goes for the first 4 to 6 months. You don’t spoil them. You don’t set up expectations. They just don’t remember.
    My third one had some reflux issues for the first month so she slept draped on me on her stomach for the entire first month and a half. Sometimes I would nurse her in bed (as I was much more adept at the whole breastfeeding thing by then) but that was never comfortable for me. I’d end up with a stiff neck and shoulders and be all out of alignment. Plus, I’d feed her on one side and we’d both pass out and then she’d wake in 45 minutes and I’d put her on the other side and we’d both pass out. Repeat. I much preferred to get up, feed both sides and then have 2 or 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
    Overall, I think co-sleeping is a personal decision and some people really seem to enjoy it. I don’t think kids are magically well-adjusted if they co-sleep and insecure brats if they don’t. There are so many other factors that will determine the character of your child. So I think it comes down to the parents’ preference. Co-sleeping would not be good for anyone with two resentful parents. Personally, my husband and I spend so much time with the kids that the time we get to spend together in bed at night and in the morning, whether it’s talking or getting busy, is valuable and meaningful time for us to connect.

    1. I collect until my younger sister was born around 6. But my parents also let me cry it out when they transitioned me. It seems silly to say this, but I completely remember how confused I was. They let me cry and cry and I yelled louder, made sadder sounds and no one came. I walked to their room and my mom was folding clothes and my dad had a book open. Neither acknowledged me in some attempt to make me compose myself before getting attention as not to spoil me.I left the room and eventually came back to ask why they didn’t love me. My mom said they still loved me but they weren’t going to talk to me until I calmed down… or something. I remember being relieved she loved me but then almost immediately after deciding it was a lie because she still turned me away physically and emotionally. Like I said, I’m 28 so it seems silly but I still have the same issue with them. They withhold love to enforce rules…. I will never do that or let my child cry it out. I will always talk to my kids until they feel ok.

      As far as co sleeping with my child, he is 5 weeks and I didn’t see it as an option until.now. he sleeps on my chest for naps and in a bassinet at night. For our next child I want to get a king sized bed and co sleep. Though I agree with some posters.my current bed gives me a sore back to nurse.in. a beautifulbgger bed would help.

  65. I did a combination of bed sharing and room sharing (she had a small bassinet right beside my side of the bed then later a pack and play) with my little one until she was 6 months old and went to her own cot in her own room. first time she slept through the night too in her cot for 6 hrs! i was totally amazed. she was definitely ready for it. of course each baby is individual and each family unique. this worked best for us and her.

  66. Love this article! Just wanted to chime in as another happy co-sleeping family. My husband is a restless sleeper so being a bit paranoid I always made sure my daughter was not in the middle, rather on my side. Never had a issue. Love waking up to the 2 people in my life I love the most. Nothing beats it.

  67. We co-slept with our daughter from birth, who is almost 2. She had a crib prepared when we brought her home, and she would never let us put her down in it without screaming, so into the bed she went for the sake of peace at least. Now she has a youth bed in our room, and we have an “arrangement” where she usually falls asleep on the daybed in the living room where we are in the evening, gets carried to her bed when she’s good and asleep, and walks over and climbs into our bed a little before dawn. She isn’t upset, she doesn’t even always wake us up, just climbs quietly into our bed (hers has a frame, ours is a mattress on a goza mat on the floor), covers herself up and goes back to sleep.

  68. I’m certain I slept more for co-sleeping than I would have if my daughter had slept in another room or even in a separate bed in my room. If she woke in the night, it was easy to settle her, nurse her if she wanted it, I barely had to wake up. We’ve had musical beds all along, even though she’s not little anymore. She has her own bed in her own room and sleeps there a lot, but her dad travels a lot and she still sleeps with me sometimes. For us, it’s just sleep, who cares where you do it? My husband and I have never had trouble finding the privacy for sex, anymore than any other parent. There was the couch, the futon in the guest room, the floor, the wherever. It’s actually harder now she’s older and more likely to hear/walk in on us 😛

  69. I am a huge fan of co-sleeping and can’t understand how anyone can claim that it’s not normal and healthy. (Then again Western medicine claimed the same about breastfeeding, so why am I surprised?)

    My husband and I co-slept with my son for almost a year. When that stopped working (too many bodies wiggling around in the bed) he slept on a mattress in our room for another year. We all slept well throughout, no one got rolled on and I was able to breastfeed at night with minimal interruption.

    After the first month my daughter seemed less interested in co-sleeping – being right next to me kept her up at night – so I moved her into a bassinet next to the bed. From the beginning she slept more and breastfed less at night then her brother so that worked out fine for both of us.

    When she stopped being able to sleep through Mom & Dad getting ready for bed (and was no longer breastfeeding at night), we moved her into my son’s room so she would still have the comfort of another human breathing nearby as she slept.

    I feel sorry for babies banished to cold solo cribs days or even weeks after they’re born. Not only is it unnatural – it’s downright cruel.

  70. I cosleep and it’s great. We have a king sized bed with the crib sidecarred. She rolls over to nurse, then rolls back into the crib. I’m very in tune with her. Wake ups are frequent but short.

  71. A great case of sample size is N = 1.

    I believe in co-sleeping. Good science, works for many cultures, etc. And yet… my son never slept. And had we co-slept I wouldn’t have either. Nor my wife.

    So tell you what, if the family can do it and thrive, good on you. But don’t stress folks, families also just thrive finding their own way in the world. Our kids are almost grown and gone now and they still snuggle and hug and crash with us at times and we didn’t co-sleep. Chill, it will work out.

    And isn’t that the biggest lesson of all PB anyway?

  72. A great case of sample size is N = 1.

    I believe in co-sleeping. Good science, works for many cultures, etc. And yet… my son never slept. And had we co-slept I wouldn’t have either. Nor my wife.

    So tell you what, if the family can do it and thrive, good on you. But don’t stress folks, families also just thrive finding their own way in the world. Our kids are almost grown and gone now and they still snuggle and hug and crash with us at times and we didn’t co-sleep. Chill, it will work out.

    And isn’t that the biggest lesson of all PB anyway??

  73. I always heard that co-sleeping was dangerous because of the risk of rolling on the baby and suffocating it. Very interesting article as always, thank you!

  74. Hi Mark. Can you tell us your opinion about adults (partners) sleeping together ? Is this a primal behaviour ? Is sleeping on your own more restfull ?

  75. Can’t say anything about co-sleeping with kids, but I slept with my cat for several years with no issues. Sometimes she would sleep on top of me. I’ve also dog-sat for a family with 3 labs, all of whom were allowed on the bed.
    Moreover, to my knowledge I never roll or change position in my sleep. The blanket is always as neat when I wake as when I lose consciousness, and I have never fallen off a bed or sofa or moved off a sleeping pad.

  76. I have been bedsharing with my five month old son since he was born. Everything Mark says is true. It seems like there is a part of my brain that always knows where he is. We are in constant contact , and I don’t adjust my position without considering him. It all started by accident. In the hospital I would fall asleep while breastfeeding and wake up to find my baby next to me. I would freak out a little, but the nurses assured me that most of the world sleeps with their babies and it’s ok. My baby made it very obvious what he preferred. He would cry if I left him alone in the bassinet. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable request for him to want to be next to me. It feels right.

  77. I have 3 children. My first fed every hour and a half during the night for the first 3 months – I was a wreck. He was in a cot in our bedroom so I had to get up and fully wake up to breast feed him. (I remember sitting up in a chair with by head lolling around, just wishing that he would finish so I could go back to bed). That whole first 6 months passed in a depressive blur…

    By the time my third came around I was just more relaxed and more likely to say screw you to my midwives opinions.

    I had a queen size bed in another room because my partner would need his sleep to get up to the other kids (we had a 18 month old and a 3 year old by then). He would do the morning routine with my daughter who has always been an early bird while I slept in.

    My third baby slept with me in the queen size bed, and it was so liberating to be able to lie on my side and feed him, burp him while he lay on my chest, and then put him to sleep ON HIS TUMMY (he just would not sleep on his side or back). I was more relaxed that nothing could happen to him while sleeping on his tummy because I was right there – and never told my midwife cos she would have freaked out. It makes me chuckle as he is now 10 years old and sleeps on his tummy every night…

    I made sure he wore huggies nappies at night which didn’t need changing. Feeding while half asleep meant co-sleeping saved my sanity by getting enough sleep, and I felt so sad that I didn’t do the same for my older two.

    At around 3 or 4 months old he went into a cot in our room with no problems. Once they were able to climb out of the cot they went into their own beds – they used to jump into bed when they were sick or had nightmares, but they got walked into their own beds pretty much straight away as I couldn’t bear the toddler arms or legs in my face!

  78. I, too, believe that there is no fundamental right or wrong when it comes to parenting and child rearing. However, I am in the position where I can see the pros and cons of co-sleeping.

    I am the very proud mum to twin boys and for the first 3 months of their lives they slept in moses basket either side of the bed. Often, after the early morning feed, I would bring them into bed with me and we would sleep together for another couple of hours. As they began to outgrow their moses baskets, I transitioned them into their cots, in their own room, by placing the moses baskets into the cots for about a week and then after that, I laid them to sleep in the cots asleep after their evening feed. As my sons grew, they would often come into bed with me in the early mornings for a doze and a cuddle and they did the same when they were ill. My sons and I bonded extremely well and even, now, at 15 years, they are very close and loving to me. We have never experienced any trauma, they have never been tearful at bedtime or suffered from undue separation anxiety.

    However, my partner has 4 children from a previous relationship all of whom slept in the same bed as their parents until the age of 7-8 years. The second eldest daughter has told me of the anxiety she used to feel when invited for sleepovers, which invariably meant that she wouldn’t go or, if she did, most times one of her parents would have to go and collect her late in the evening as she would be extremely upset. She says that even at the age of 10 years, she would often feel anxious about being away from her mother even for short periods of time. Looking back she can see that she missed out on a lot of childhood events because of her anxiety. Because of her experience she says that she will not co-sleep with any children she should have.

    My partner and I are now experiencing this with the youngest daughter who is now 8 years old. When with her mother, she co-sleeps with her, in the same bed, all the time. At our home she has her own room and we encourage her to sleep in her own bed. Often she is very anxious about having to sleep on her own, she needs someone with her to be able to fall asleep, she constantly worries what she will do if she wakes in the night and there is no-one there,and begs her sisters to sleep with her. We have made the room as cosy as possible for her with nightlights and her favourite toys, my partner stays with her until she is asleep and she knows that we will be there for her should she need us during the night. Again, a consequence of her anxiety is that she consistently declines sleepovers, and gets overly anxious if we, or her mother, leave her with her sisters even for an hour or so.

    So, rather than create confident and independent children, my experience shows that co-sleeping past a certain age can, in fact, create the exact opposite.

    1. “So, rather than create confident and independent children, my experience shows that co-sleeping past a certain age can, in fact, create the exact opposite.”

      It seems like there’s a possibility that the Mother/personalities involved creating the anxiety, not the act of co-sleeping itself. My son is very anxious about the amount he sleeps and has slept in his own bed for years (since he was 3). Repeatedly, I encourage him to stop worrying – suggest strategies, etc. It’s just in his personality. We parents are less influential then we might imagine on that front. 🙁

    2. I never co slept with my parents and I hated sleepovers. Nothing to do with cosleeping. Even as an adult staying at someone else’s house makes me anxious. Hotels, no problem, but I think it’s a social anxiety thing. I’m always worried I might not conform to their households rules.

      I do love sleeping with my husband and baby though. In fact I struggle to sleep without these days.

  79. “and, in the case of marine mammals, are totally into the whole water birth thing”

    HAHA!

  80. I’m so glad you posted this article! As a Registered Midwife in Canada, I encourage all of my clients/patients to co-sleep with their newborn infants. Midwives in Canada provide women with postpartum home-visits (so parents don’t have to pack up their new babies and come into a clinic) in the first few weeks of life. I can honestly say that I see a HUGE difference between the families that choose to co-sleep and those that do not. Infants are calmer, gain back their birthweight faster and have less feeding issues. Breastfeeding is more likely to succeed, parents are better rested, calmer and better adjusted to the changes of being a new parent. I always discuss safe sleep positions for baby, the importance of having two ‘sober’ parents in the bed and the difference between bed vs couch sleeping. Looking forward to part two!

  81. When we co-slept I would often wake up just before my baby. I am convinced that my brain knew they were stirring, and would wake me up just before they did. Also, I have to plug the awesome, ‘nurse-while-you-sleep(both mom and baby)’ aspects. As the mother of three very long nursers, I am so thankful that we all didn’t have to be up for that.

  82. Sadly even though I love this idea, I’ll never feel safe doing it. My partner can’t even share a bed with me because I kick and punch in my sleep all night. Always have…my own parents tried co-sleeping with me as a child and got bruised ribs for their trouble. I’d say knowing how you sleep is a pretty important factor. I did know one couple who got a little hanging bassinet thing that sort of attached to the side of the bed and had a net between the parent side and the bassinet side…that could work!

  83. Let us think about this. A mother who is breast feeding (which is an undeniable benefit to both mother and child) and not sharing sleeping space with their child must a.) wake up to babies cries (a LATE sign of hunger in an infant) b.) get up, get the child up and breast feed in a chair c.) remain awake until the baby falls into deep sleep d.) attempt to lay the baby down without waking him/her e.) console the child when they do awaken when placed in the crib. A mother who is co-sleeping rolls over, latches the baby, and they both fall asleep.

    Also, let’s consider why they call SIDS “crib death.” Let’s revert back to our primordial ancestors. Imagine for a moment a mother giving birth in the jungle. If the mother, for some reason (say a tiger) abandons the newborn following birth, not only will the baby die, but she will die as well. The newborn will go hypoglycemic and starve. The mother will hemorrhage to death, due to the lack of oxytocin which stimulates the uterus to contract and stops blood flow.

    Third, let’s look at what they are now calling “kangaroo care,” or skin to skin contact. Amazingly, a newborn’s blood glucose INCREASES with skin-to-skin contact before a single drop of colostrum or milk (or sugar water from the nursery)is ingested. Respirations stabilize, heart rate stabilizes, and the infant’s temperature stabilizes due to skin-to-skin contact. Blood glucose drops when the newborn is removed from the mother, and the other vitals may fluctuate. We are finally implementing evidence-based practice in our birthing centers across the nation, and allowing the mother and infant to “room in” together.

    Let us be rational here. A newborn goes from being in a warm, comfy, close environment where mom’s heartbeat constantly soothes them, they have a automatic feeding tube nourishing them continuously, and they have never taken a single breath, much less established a breathing pattern. At birth all this ends. Would it be logical to immediately transition to a lone, cold, silent crib-cage, with no access to nourishment, and no external stimuli to breathe? It astounds me that traditional practice could justify this. It reminds me of the debate on whether the world was round or flat, or Koch’s Germ Theory that disease is not a punishment from God, it is in fact an observable and treatable microorganism causing the disease. Why is this still a debate?
    As I recall, 87% of the prison population was never breast fed (I may be slightly off on that statistic). Think about the psycho-social implications of quality and early attachment. You are your child’s first and most permanent loving relationship.

    I applaud the individuals bringing this to our attention, interestingly enough, our particular Birthing Center was once heavily funded by Similac. Coincidence? I think not.

  84. We went the halfway point between room-sharing and bed-sharing. We used a “co-sleeper” crib-type thing. It hooks onto the parent bed so it is just slightly at the level below the bed (so the baby can’t roll onto the bed). I am able to lay next to the baby and have an arm on him/her. When s/he wakes up wanting to nurse, I can scoot the baby into the bed and nurse that way. If I fall asleep during the nursing session, the baby will often just stay in bed with us. Sometimes I scoot him back into the co-sleeper. I sleep MUCH better without a baby in the bed with me. And quality sleep is super important to me; sleep disruptions lend to my tendency to postpartum depression.

  85. This is a more up-to-date study that disagrees with the conclusions about sleep patterns and SIDS.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dev.10009/pdf

    The vaccination vs. bathing mild stressor thing may be related. Perhaps co-sleeping in the same room but not the same bed is preferential, as the oxytocin release is not necessarily “togetherness promoting” though I’d argue that skin-skin oxytocin release is more likely to affect that pathway. Here’s a more logical take on it: http://www.ted.com/talks/molly_crockett_beware_neuro_bunk.html

  86. We coslept with both of our kids. They were adopted from Korea and day was night for them. Our oldest was four months old and our youngest was ten months old when they came home to us(years apart). We found it invaluable for bonding, comfort and turning the clock around. About the age of three, they wanted their own beds and we happily complied. I think it’s made us a closer, happier family. No crushed or abnormal babies or toddlers!

  87. I co-sleep with my 2 dogs every night. They have their own beds on the floor & one will sleep there most times, but the other has to be by my side every night. The 3 of us start every morning with a grand cuddle. I never have a crabby day anymore. I sleep better than I have in years.
    oh, & if I got to do it over again I would have had my children in the bed (more)

  88. I woke up one night with my cat bracing all four paws(and a bit of claw)against my back,no way was I going to roll over him.LOL.

  89. I tend to be of the opinion that the potential benefits are not work the potential risks, here — I know the official recommendations are that babies aren’t supposed to have any sort of pillows, bumpers, etc. in their cribs with them, so the blankets and pillows and loose clothing are more of a concern for me than someone rolling over on the baby. Why isn’t it enough to have the kid in a bassinet right next to the bed, rather than in the bed itself? They are still very close, maybe even close enough that you can reach them just by sitting up.

    But the point of my comment is to throw this out there: I’m wondering why someone hasn’t come up with some sort of in-between alternative. Like, a little baby basket that goes between the adults. Then the kid is there with you, but perhaps more protected from potential smothering hazards. Is this a totally stupid idea? Anyone?

    1. One more thought: early mattresses were usually made of breathable things like corn husks, grass, feathers, cotton scraps, etc. right? One is much less likely to suffocate if their face is smooshed into a mattress of corn husks than a mattress or pillow made of some sort of poly-fiberfill.

    2. It’s not stupid, but the issue is always the nursing. When you put up a barrier between the adults and the infant, it makes nursing much harder.

    3. Not a stupid idea – we had one (called a “co-sleeper”) for my son, and it eased my fears at first. Until i got comfortable having him next to me and realized the damn contraption just got in my way.

      But, yes, it is one of the tools out there for parents who need an in-between solution.

  90. Love this post! I have bed shared with all 4 of my children, and it was one of the best parenting decisions I’ve made. It made breastfeeding a dream(literally as I didn’t fully wake up to feed). And those sweet sleepy snuggles are the best. I even bed shared with my wee 5lb preemie, and never almost smothered any of my children. I liken it to fallinng out of bed. I subconsiously know where the edge is, but it doesn’t keep me from getting good quality sleep.

  91. My ex has been co-sleeping with our daughter from day one. She’s now 8 and I think it’s gone too far. I don’t want her only feeling comfortable having someone co-sleep with her. Am I worried about nothing here? (She sleeps on her own when with me every other weekend)

    1. My older son is 8.5 and he’s been coming over to our bed during the night for years. He’s not otherwise clingy or whiny or anything – we just figure he hates being alone. It doesn’t matter if it’s going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, shower, etc. – he just doesn’t like to be alone. My younger son has just now been transitioned to his own bed (he’s 3) and it’s going very well. I’m thinking he’ll be sleeping throug the night every night shortly – for now it’s about 50/50.
      I honestly wouldn’t worry about your daughter. Since she’s sleeping on her own when with you shows it’s not a problem. She may just be used to it with your ex.

  92. I distinctly remember walking into my mother’s room the day she arrived from the hospital after giving birth to my sister. She was asleep with my sister in her bed, and her arm RIGHT OVER MY SISTER’S FACE. It’s a good thing I happened to walk in and notice that, or else my sister might not have been around today. That memory alone is enough to deter me from co-sleeping if I ever have children.

    1. I wonder though if she was drugged during labor, because that wouldn’t wear off right away.

  93. Thanks for sharing this Mark! I feel the most primal while I co-sleep with my little one 🙂 it’s so natural and normal.

  94. My three children slept in the crook of my arm all night for at least a year each. They had my breast in their mouths most of the night. I didn’t sleep very well those years, but I’m sure that I would have slept far worse if I had had had to get up and get them out a crib each time to nurse. I absolutely loved co-sleeping, and not once did I feel that there was any risk of suffocation. Mothers are very in tune with their babies’ little movements. My kids moved to their own beds with no fuss at all. I was still nursing them at this point. Any time I felt like my milk supply was getting low, I would bring them back to bed with me and let them nurse all night. It never failed to bring my supply back up. I have noticed that most people who are against co-sleeping have not tried it for themselves.

  95. I coslept with both of my children when they were infants, and still snuggle them in bed now that they are older and I am a single mom. I don’t do so good with sleeping the nights they are at their Dad’s house.

  96. My husband & I co-slept with our daughter for over a year. We didn’t start immediately but began to as it was easier for me to nurse her through the night. We stopped when she was about 14 months. It worked really well for us. Our mattress was on the floor with no boxspring or anything so if she rolled out (which she did a couple times), it wasn’t a big deal.

    Anyhoo, it worked for us & we were happy to do it. No two families are the same so what works for us may not work for everyone.

  97. Great Mark, my coonhound read this and is only more determined to shove his way between us and under the sheets. WORST CHAPERONE EVER.

  98. We have co-slept with all three of our babies. It was totally safe (I curled around the baby and was naturally super-attuned to their movements and positions), helped with breastfeeding, and it saved my sanity (with our first I tried the “get out of bed every hour to feed the baby” method, and it nearly killed me – never again). Co-sleeping rules! 🙂

  99. Thank you for this insightful post. I’d like to add that I think there is a significant difference in the awareness of a mother/caregiver when the chid is in the same bed versus when the child is being held by the mother/caregiver. I have a 3 year old who still sleeps in my bed and he generally sleeps in the same position he has since the 1st night of his life- on top of me (also known as kangaroo care). When he was nursing (0-1.5 yrs) I slept with a sports bra on and he wore a diaper, there was always skin to skin contact and I was extremely in tune with his breathing patterns and various other needs such as diaper changes (hard to ignore when you feel your stomach become suddenly warm :/ ). There is something elemental that goes on with a mother’s hormones when her baby is near. I remember during his birth (water birth/no meds) going in and out of varying degrees of consciousness between contractions… being dreamily aware and then fading quickly back into sleep. My midwife said that your body produces a concoction of hormones that allows you to return to rest quickly between the contractions to conserve the mother’s energy stores and I think it must be something similar that occurs in cosleeping, albeit on a smaller scale. When I nursed I would rouse just enough to adjust my bra and the baby’s position, I’d drowse back to sleep (yes even with a baby latched on) only to wake five.. ten..twenty? minutes later when I sensed he had fallen back asleep (usually while still latched on), and I’d promptly readjust the sports bra and return to my own blissful sleep. I never understood my coworkers’ and friends’ complaints about sleepless nights. I can’t imagine stumbling into another room, assessing the baby, then trudging all the way to the kitchen to make up a bottle.. our bodies are smarter than our customs, I guess.. doesn’t say much about the direction of our society.

  100. This is the most absolute crap I have ever read.

    Stick to food Mark.

    This article is absolute rubbish mate.

  101. My one daughter co-slept with both of her boys, now 9 and 4. ….they still sleep with her and her husband, especially the 4 year old. Plus their German shepherd also joins them. They have a California king sized bed.

  102. My daughter is 15 months, my wife went through the mill in the first days/weeks to have her breast feed. She slept in a cot in our room until she Was was about 9 months and now goes to sleep in her own bed/room and sleeps for about 3-4 hours before getting in with mum. I sleep in the spare room with a double to myself. We tried controlled crying to get her to go to bed without issue which worked. However we have now reached a point were continuing to breast feed and co sleep is the norm. Our little girl is extremely confident, happy and we all get a reasonable sleep. It hasn’t been easy and many friends of my wife who controlled cried their child or went straight up Ferber no doubt had more sleep to begin with. But now it’s teething time is here they all feel the end is nigh with only 5-6 hrs a night. In hindsight I wouldn’t change a thing. While I would never judge other people’s choices, co-sleeping and breast feeding is the most natural method of parenting for us. Period.

  103. Our family co-sleeps, and I can’t imagine having it any other way. I have a 1 year old and 4 year old. Much of the 1st year for each of them was spent with me watching them sleep (or so it felt like). The biggest safety issue with the younger one was protecting her from her older sister rolling over on her (we kept them apart). As a mother, I never could sleep if the baby was out of my immediate protection (like if she fell asleep on my husband’s side of the bed.) We have a king size futon mattress on the floor with a toddler mattress next to it. My 4 year old is just starting to sleep in “her bed” some of the time.

    I am 35, and I slept with my parents off and on until I was about 6. This was pretty rare in my generation. I feel it made me closer to my parents. I vividly remember trying to match my breathing rate to my father’s while he slept. I think even very young infants do this naturally, and Dr. Sears (the baby one) thinks this may protect against sids. I’ve noticed when my sleeping baby paused her breathing, and I took a deep breath, she would do the same. I think every family should do what works for them, but this works for my family. And my husband is behind it 100%. We also have a separate futon in another room, where we can be intimate if the kids both get to sleep.

  104. Great article. We co-sleep, even past infancy. Ifjt now, it’s my husband, baby and I in a king size; the 2 year old’s twin is right next to ours (makes 1 giant bed!) and the 4 year old sleeps in his own twin a few feet away. EVERYONE gets more an better sleep this way.
    Your article is well wirtten-I think more people would co-sleep if it wasn’t so vilified (and if people don’t assume couch/chair sleeping is the same as bed sharing)
    Thanks for some positivity on this natural, instinctual behavior.

  105. As the only breast feeding bed sharing parent I know in my social circle (and yes I’m from the UK) I have loved reading this article and corresponding comments. My son is now 13 months old and is constantly commented on by strangers and family alike about how happy, smiley and affectionate he is, yet no credit is given to our life choice (‘choice’ instead of style as I am a full-time working professional who choose bed sharing after we’d bought all of the western parenting crap – moses basket, cot, baby monitor with cot sensor, glo egg room thermometer, etc – what a waste). Instead, I have received nothing but criticism, ‘friendly’ advice and stories of infant mortality from family, friends and health care professionals and so feel compelled to say, after living the first nine months of his life in fear, don’t knock it till you try it. I’m sure it’s the only reason why I’ve managed to survive going back to work full-time and stay with his father unlike the majority of family, friends who are all separating. Parenting isn’t easy, especially first time. We need to remember this and give credit where it’s due no matter the parenting style.

  106. I’m a police officer and I have been to many infant deaths due to co-sleeping. Its always a terrible scene to see a dead infant because they were smothered in their sleep. I have seen it in couches and beds. I personally have co-slept with our children as toddlers but we don’t allow our infants in the bed because of this. Not judging if you do, but its just not worth the risk to me.

  107. I co-slept with all 4 of my children for 2 years each. The best thing we ever did, I never suffered from lack of sleep that other parents complain about, when they woke up I stuffed a breast in their mouth and dozed off, they drank until they were full and fell off the breast. Once they were over 6 weeks old I found that this worked so much better than picking them up, changing nappies and burping which seemed to wake everybody up. The kids slept between me and my husband and we never once rolled on top of them or got them tangled in blankets etc. Sleeping this way eliminates the need to ever do any controlled crying, my kids had no trouble going to sleep during the day on their own either. All of our kids were moved easily into their own room once they turned 2. I whole-heartedly recommend co-sleeping.

  108. I sort of cosleep – I have a 22 month old and ever since he was around 7 months old he would wake up once, between 12am-2am and i would put him in my bed (he sleeps next to our bed) and then we’d spend the rest of the night together. He’s never had difficulties falling asleep but he always woke up that one time. He now sleeps in a toddler bed in our room and the same still happens – falls asleep happily in his bed but come that time he wants in.
    The only reason I haven’t “really” co-slept is I don’t understand how people go to bed as early as their kid. That (when they go to bed) is my time to myself, clean the kitchen, hang out with the hubby, etc. I just couldn’t go to bed at 8pm or whatever. But I do love sleeping with him and treasuring those times so I’m in no rush to push him out. I would love to know how people make “real” co-sleeping work, bed time wise. Thanks!

  109. Co-sleeping = best thing ever. We did it with all 3 of our kids. All healthy, no problems, no baby pancakes in the morning. Great bonding experience, great for mothers who breastfeed ( you don’t even have to get out of bed). No dependency issues or separation issues, even though we used to carry them around everywhere in slings and carriers. I am a Dad by the way.

  110. I was fortunate to read about the “sidecar” arrangement in one of Dr. Bill Sears’ baby books while I was pregnant with my first – we took one of the rails off the crib and put it up against my side of the bed, it was wonderful! I had my space but could breastfeed easily throughout the night. My husband was never disturbed and we didn’t worry that either of us would roll over on the baby. After 2 years of age (when I would begin the weaning process) we transitioned our son to the bedroom across the hall and it was not a problem. Repeated the same process with my daughter and it worked wonderfully then too! I would never have been able to manage breastfeeding on demand if I had had to get up and go to another room everytime I nursed. My mother dropped my brother after falling asleep in a rocking chair, luckily he was not hurt, but I never forgot that story!

  111. Working in Emergency Medicine I’ve personally seen the deaths of ten infants as a direct result of suffocation from sleeping in the bed with the parent(s). It may not be a huge percentage but it’s still enough for me to know I’ll never do it.

  112. When I was pregnant with my first child, my sister-in-law mentioned cosleeping and I was very firmly “No way, our baby will sleep in his/her own bed.” Then he was born, and I couldn’t even contemplate him sleeping an entire metre away in the hospital cot, and that was that – he never once slept in a cot. We bought a bigger bed, and when we had our second child 2 1/2 years later, we added a single bed pushed up against it and that was our big family bed. We also had a double bed in the children’s bedroom so if hubby needed a good sleep, he could bail there, or sometimes I’d sleep there with the youngest – actually, there was a lot of musical beds that went on. I got SO much more sleep than if they’d been in a different bed, because I didn’t have to get up (or even wake up properly) to feed them. The children gradually moved into their own beds at some stage, we hardly noticed it was so gradual and not a big deal.
    So it worked really beautifully for our family – like absolutely everything though, what works for one family won’t necessarily work for another.
    As for safety – it is really a non issue on a bed. (Drinking/drugs and young children you’re responsible for don’t go together anyway, so that was a non issue for us too.)

  113. We have co-slept with our three kids and it was the best decision for all of us. With the first kid, we both tended to listen more to the people around and doubted what we were doing and did not co-sleep 100% as with the younger kids and I still regret it. My instincts were telling me to sleep together, but the social pressure was strong and it took some time to be strong enough to follow my feelings.
    Our younger kids never slept in a crib, we just put a bunch of mattresses on our floor, creating a huge bed where everyone could fit and was welcome, including our oldest that sometimes still needed a cuddle during the night. I breast fed all the kids, the younger ones tandem for over a year and cannot imagine during this without being all in one bed.
    When other parents of young kids complained about not getting enough sleep, I never really knew what they were talking about. Yes, there was the occasional wild teething or growth spurt night, but overall we all got a lot of sleep.
    Last month, our middle four year old child decided to move to her own bed and her little sister followed her. I have to say that I miss them (even though they come back for a part of the night here and there). I enjoyed sleeping with them and felt everyone was safe while being together. I guess that is some primal feeling in me. Now when they all sleep elsewhere, I keep waking up somewhat nervous.

  114. We have coslept with our 6 month old her entire life. She was a big baby and needed to nurse often but also she demanded to be held whenever awake when she was a newborn, crying whenever she was put down, often fussing as soon as she felt she was about to put down. This fear of being left alone subsided at about 3 months, and I believe cosleeping really helped her feel secure that mom would always be there if she needed. Now, she can sit and play and I can even leave her sight without her becoming unnerved.

  115. We room shared with our daughter for the first 2 months, but the noises she made and the noises we made were keeping us all awake. While it was easier to check on her instead of having to walk across the house, it’s SO much better now that she is in her own room.
    I don’t think I would ever bed share though. DOn’t care if others do it, but I don’t trust myself or my husband enough to do it safely. Plus, I like my space 😛

  116. Mark – Have you read T J Sprott’s theory/book on SIDS? He correlates it with chemicals used in mattresses and highly advocates mattress wrapping. I found his book interesting, and we do wrap ours, which helped with allergies too.

    As to the general discussion, we co-slept with both of ours. First daughter loved it and happily transitioned to her own bed when she wanted to. Second daughter I transitioned her out because we weren’t sleeping. So, the experience can be different for each child as well. Definitely for the first three months I think it’s absolutely essential to their safety that they at least be next to the parents bed.

  117. We have been cosleeping with both of our daughters until about age of 6 and I cannot recommend it enough

  118. I have very mixed feeling on co-sleeping. My parents let me sleep with them for many years. Although I loved it at the time and it brought us closer, I feel like it negatively impacted me as well. I think it affected my ability to self-soothe and even as an adult I have a hard time sleeping alone (which is a necessary evil as a Navy wife). I always swore I won’t do that when I’m a parent but I know I’ll want to. My question is – is there a cut off age where it stops being beneficial?

  119. Im a huge fan of co-sleeping!

    With my first I was “brain washed” by society and thinking it was bad/harmful. Then after being woken up numerous times at times (8-12), feeling like a zombie for nearly the first year I finally had enough of getting up and going down the hall to nurse my son. I brought him in my bed. I needed to SURVIVE motherhood. Co-sleeping allowed me to get more rest. I threw out all the lame things I heard about cosleeping and relied on my maternal intuition!

    I co-slept with my 2nd son and I cosleep with my 3rd son currently.

    As a lactation counselor and doula I’m also a big fan of co-sleeping.

    Room-sharing and bed-sharing are great ways to survive parenthood with young children and enable bonding.

  120. I think maybe it’s a symptom of Americans and other westerners having too many rooms in their home. I won’t be having any babies, but if I did, they’d definitely go in the same room with me, at least until they sleep through the night. But probably longer. Because I also believe small children should share a room. So you keep the newborn with you until it’s old enough to go in with the others.

    Traveling on 35 through Iowa once we happened across one of the few things to see in the middle and that was a town with a park filled with historic buildings which included a tiny, tiny cabin in which the family raised 14 children. There was one room plus a loft. The one room had a bed, stove, dining table and chairs. The bed was the impressive part. It was high and fitted with drawers that were beds for the smaller children!!

  121. Thank you! I love showing my disapproving parents an article written from a mans perspective! They think my husband and I have lost our minds. But we love co-sleeping with our now 9 month old!

  122. I was brought up in India. Almost all parents sleep with their babies next to them. At least they put them in a crib in the same room. Putting an unattended baby in another room would be very weird in India.
    I didn’t have a crib at all nor did my brother, but we were suspended in a vertical hammock like this http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1112/557866022_fd6d168a6f_z.jpg?zz=1
    I got my own bed when space became an issue on the bed.I slept in the same room until 9 for most of the time. At age 10, I was put in a boarding school. I didn’t cry or whine.
    I’ve never had my own room, ever. I am 23 and when I go home, I can sleep in any room, there is no such thing as ‘my room’. I move upstairs when grandparents visit.

  123. I co-sleep with my 5 and 2 yr old. Started out of necessity with the first but came to find I love and support it and wish it were more of a ‘norm’ so I didn’t have to constantly defend it to my family. My question for those of you that have shared a bed for a while… how did you manage with 3 children? I am going to have my third in a few months and don’t want to force anyone out of the bed. Both of mine love to snuggle in and both want to be with Mom… but I only have 2 sides. When I tried moving the older ones to te same side I ended up with them sleeping perpendicular to me so they could each be touchng me. (Perependicular sleeping is a HUGE pet peeve of mine and only seems to happen when they are not in their accustomed locations…) My oldest has no interest in moving to her own bed right now, and I have no interest in forcing it, but I’d love to hear how some of you managed with 3 children in a bed (or two beds… which we had for a while but somehow I always ended up sleeping in the ‘crack’).

  124. Of all these comments can someone point to the one where something terrible has actually happened? Normal healthy people in a proper bed don’t have a problem with co-sleeping. like so many things these days everybody chases their tail with ‘what if’ scenarios, how bad it ‘could’ be.. meantime a lot of intelligent people co sleep and get the the benefits that it does, not could, provide and read thier kids the fairy tale of Henny Penny..

  125. This post is perfection, and I will be sharing again and again. I laughed out loud at the opening bit about kangaroos, and the rest is just as easy to read while jam-packed with info that most co-sleeping articles flat-out ignore.

  126. well, I think we can all agree that it isn’t for some people but it works very well for others. parenting styles are choices and as long as you love, protect, and try to give the child a wonderful life, who can judge your method?

  127. I love this write up, thank you for doing this. This is so true. There is much negative press and inaccurate assumption surrounding co-sharing, where the evidence is perhaps flawed. There requires more research which compares as follows: 1. the effects of sleeping in a cot only with a smoking or alcohol influence and then without to compare? 2. the effects of co-sharing in a bed under the influence of alcohol and smoking (separating each drug and again without the influence of drugs. 3.Also separating the breastfeeding and bottle feeding with co-sharing without influence of drugs, as perhaps it is the co-sharing alone which influences positive results and we may be confusing the two. For example, it is going to more popular for breastfeeding babies to co-share. Perhaps its the closeness of co-sharing which brings such health to the child and not the milk itself. How can we know if we do not differentiate? I await an excellent study to be thorough with this as it is so important to get this right as through personal experience, both my children, one breastfed and the other bottle fed where equally as healthy and happy and i co-shared with both. They felt me breathing next to them and i felt them next to me. Yes, we are in the 21st century and we have to think about our relationships with our partners however, no matter how hard we fight it, nature is nature AND it is time we stop feeling guilty for this. thank you for this excellent article.

  128. Mr. Sisson, You are always proving your intelligence. Common sense is very uncommon, but you have your fair share. Thank you. I slept in the same bed as my parents from birth. My three sons slept in the same bed with me from birth. No one ever was crushed or injured in any way. Of course there are some common sense precautions, but the same goes with an infant sleeping alone, or in another room.

  129. Hi i loved this article i have been co sleeping now for 18 months with my girl. I wouldnt have it any other way. I find having her there lets me no she’s safe and always will be.

  130. Hello
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  131. Hello
    Greetings………..What a great and wonderful testimony.
    I am SMITH TRINITY JANE from northern ireland, i want to use this golden medium to appreciate Dr. IMONAH a great spell caster for helping me retrieving back my relationship with my ex husband when he ended and turned back on me for quite a long time now (5 months ago). He performed a spell for me and for 48 hours after the spell had been casted i recieve a text from my ex husband saying that he is sorry for the pains and tears that he had caused me and that he will not do such thing to me again in his life again. I was surprised but later accepted him back again. Anyone that is in the same line of problem or different one and want to contact him should happily contact him now on this email address. (drimonahspiritualtemple@yahoo. com) He is very powerful and can help you……..

  132. My daughter and her husband have been sleeping with my grandson since he was born. He is now 11 months old and I can tell you it’s a disaster. Every time he needs a nap, she has to lay down with him and stay with him the entire nap so he won’t roll off the bed. He refuses to nap in his crib, and she refuses to ever let him cry. The only time that she would have to get anything done would be during his nap time. She has to go to bed early with him and can’t use any time in the evening to otherwise get something done if he were in his crib. He is not on a set schedule, isn’t getting enough sleep, not to mention that she would never be able to leave him with anyone because no one else would ever be able to take her place next to him for sleep time other than herself. It’s a mess and has caused a lot of stress in the home because she can’t get anything done.
    Your baby can bond to you without sleeping in your bed. From what I have witnessed, I believe co-sleeping with a baby is a huge mistake and I am extremely worried about my daughter and grandson and can only see the situation becoming worse. She has zero time for herself. I raised two kids and they were in the crib from day one. Back then we were strongly advised of the risks associated with sleeping with your baby. I nursed in bed in the middle of the night and back in the crib they went. I used every moment of their precious nap time to get work done around the house or prepare meals. My house was clean, laundry was done and meals were served before 10 pm. Her house is a disaster and she feels completely overwhelmed. Her husband works his butt off at his job and has to come home and do jobs he wishes she would do. Their relationship is strained.
    My advice to anyone considering co-sleeping is to think long and hard about it before you start it,…because it will be Hell to crib train a baby that is used to co-sleeping, and will cause a lot of unnecessary trauma to both baby and parents that could have been avoided. You can still have a very strong/just as strong bond with your baby without co-sleeping with them.

  133. I think if you’re a heavy sleeper, you’ll soon stop being one after having a child. I’m now attuned to wake up whenever he wakes up. I am a much lighter sleeper than I used to be.

    Another option I think the writer should discuss is cosleeper cribs, like Arm’s Reach. One of the sides comes down and it attaches to bed. So it’s like cosleeper long but less risky since the baby isn’t nestled in between two parents. I think it’s a great option!

  134. If parents do practice co-sleeping, it can also be difficult to end the practice, and move a child into his or her own bed. Experts advise that parents strongly consider all of their options before co-sleeping, because while convenient, one never knows what can happen during the night while you are sleeping.

  135. The Pros of Co-Sleeping:Supporters believe that sharing sleeping quarters: Encourages breastfeeding by making nighttime nursing more convenient
    Helps a nursing mom get her sleep cycle in sync with her baby’s Helps babies fall asleep more easily and go back to sleep more quickly when they wake up during the night Leads to more nighttime sleep overall for babies Helps parents who don’t see their baby much during the day regain a sense of intimacy with their child
    The Cons of Co-Sleeping:Anti sleep-sharers point to these disadvantages:
    Potential risks. Again, the AAP advises against sleeping in the same bed for safety purposes, but you can still experience most of the pros if you opt to share a room instead.

  136. You may have already addressed this, but I did not take the time to read through everyone’s questions. I support co-sleeping and I support individuals’ own decisions. I have a questions about what age to stop co-sleeping. I have a stepson who will be 12 soon and still sleeps with his mother. He is unusually affectionate with almost everyone he comes into contact with and is affectionate with his father and I in a way that feels very awkward. I am a physically affectionate person, so when I felt that his affection was different I started wondering why. Could the fact the he is co-sleeping with his mother at his age be affecting his social maturity?