Trick Question: Can you co-sleep with your baby without co-sleeping?

Followers of the “attachment parenting” philosophy aren’t the only proponents of co-sleeping; even studies published by the British Medical Journal, Military Medicine and Lancet have shown that there are marked benefits to co-sleeping with your infant. The “Sleeping Position, Orientation, and Proximity in Bedsharing Infants and Mothers” study published in 1996 indicated that infants sleeping near a parent boast regular heart rhythms, more stable temperatures, and fewer long pauses between breaths than infants who sleep alone. The “SIDS Global Task Force Child Care Study” published findings in 2001 that showed that deaths attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome were at their lowest rates in countries where co-sleeping is a culturally-accepted, normal practice. However, there are a variety of situations that make sharing your bed with an infant infeasible or downright impossible for your family.

So, can you and your baby reap the benefits of co-sleeping without sharing an actual bed? In a word, yes.

How Can You Co-Sleep Without Bed-Sharing?

The practice of co-sleeping without sharing a bed has become much more common now that there are two commonly accepted terms. The first is co-sleeping, which means that parents and infants sleep in close proximity, but on a separate sleep space, in the same room. The second is bed-sharing, which refers to a sleeping arrangement in which parents and children share a sleep surface. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages new parents from sharing a bed with their infant, but has encouraged a co-sleeping arrangement in which the baby does sleep in the parents’ bedroom, just in her own safe, separate space. Groups that promote breastfeeding, like La Leche League, suggest that co-sleeping leads to higher breastfeeding success rates than a separate room arrangement.

Co-Sleeper Products

There are entire lines of co-sleeping products that allow you to keep your baby on the same level as your mattress and within arm’s reach, but maintaining your own sleep surfaces. Researching various makes and models of co-sleepers can help you get a better idea of how well you feel each will suit the needs of your unique family. The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper attaches to the parents’ bed, providing the benefits of co-sleeping without the risks of bed-sharing.

Portable Cribs

If you’re only planning to practice co-sleeping temporarily, a collapsible, portable crib might be the solution to your problems. Easy to assemble and lightweight, you can move the crib from one room to another as needed with relative ease. There are weight limits specific to each model, so you’ll want to be sure that your baby hasn’t’ outgrown his. Also, it’s important to be sure that each re-assembly is completed according to the manufacturer’s instruction and presents no pinching, choking or other hazards.

Bassinets and Cradles

While a cradle isn’t collapsible like a portable crib, it is lightweight and easy to move from one room to the next as the need arises. It’s not advised that children who are old enough to sit independently sleep in cradles or bassinets, but they can be ideal for parents of newborns who only plan to co-sleep through their child’s early infancy.

One of the benefits of co-sleeping is being able to react immediately to your infant when she stirs, which can make it easier to soothe her back to sleep in a short time, thus cutting down on the sleepless nights that are the bane of new parents everywhere. While fears that co-sleeping children will become overly sensitive and dependent upon their parents as a result of spending their nights in such close proximity are a leading reason for many parents to eschew co-sleeping, attachment parenting guru and father Dr. Sears insists that infants who share a room with their parents become much more independent kids, with lower levels of anxiety, higher self-esteem and higher levels of academic achievement than their peers. He also asserts that psychiatric problems are less prevalent among adult products of a co-sleeping infancy. Because it’s not necessary for families to share a bed in order to provide the children with the safest and most enriching sleep experience possible, it may be wise to consider a co-sleeping arrangement with your own child. Just remember that every infant, just like every pregnancy, is different. The same co-sleeping arrangement that worked for your oldest daughter may be a complete failure with your youngest son. Taking the individual needs and temperament of each infant into account before making the decision to or to not co-sleep is important, as it can mean the difference between a well-rested parent who’s ready to face the challenges of the day, and an exhausted one on the verge of burnout.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. I think distinguishing between co-sleeping and bed-sharing is HUGE. I know I assumed that they are one in the same and though we did not bed-share, we certainly did have our daughter co-sleep with us. She was in a bassinet next to my bed for the first three months. And now, since it’s easier to nurse, and only on occasion, she bed-shares or nurses first thing in the morning, and occasionally for nap time so we can all get some much-needed rest.

    To me, you are correct, there isn’t one singular pattern or formula for good parenting. Adjusting to the needs of the child(ren) and the parents simply seems like common sense and good parenting.

    I will say that one challenge, both with co-sleeping and with bed-sharing, is ensuring quality sleep for the parent(s). It’s easy to imagine the challenges in bed sharing, but even with co-sleeping, having to adjust bed time routines, or bathroom visits, or intimacy with your partner can all be problems or issues with co-sleeping (taking your definition of in-the-same-room).

    Thank you for sharing this and helping new parents figure out how to navigate these tricky waters. Parenting choices can be loaded with meaning and bias as to what is RIGHT. When really, it’s a constant balancing act of what is needed (for mom and baby), what is healthy (for everyone), and what ensures your sanity in the midst of it all. =)

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think many parents are relieved to learn they can co-sleep without bed sharing and reap the benefits.
    Michelle