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Your Baby and Sleep in general
Member Name: broxi3781
Your Baby and Sleep in general
Advantages: A safe, comforting and pleasant way for a child to learn to get a good nights sleep.
Disadvantages: Can be dangerous in some circumstances
After seeing so many reviews on babies and sleep, I felt I finally had to add one myself, in large part because our sleeping arrangements were very different from the norm.
Co- sleeping is not recommended in the UK, because it has been linked to cot death, or SIDS, as you are now meant to call it, the manufacturers of baby cots not liking a fatal syndrome named after their product. I have to admit, I was paranoid of cot death. I had a hard time relaxing as a parent at first after so many losses - so why would I choose a sleeping method linked to infant death?
Quite frankly, because I did quite a lot of research, and while co sleeping in the UK may be linked to an increase in cot deaths - in other countries the studies show the exact opposite. In fact co-sleeping correctly may be one of the best protections available against cot death - but co-sleeping is not for everyone - it requires certain safety checks - not every parent is capable of safely co sleeping, this is a personal decision and you know yourself and sleep patterns better than anyone else.
I think the biggest problem with co sleeping in the UK is that while 50% of families co sleep occasionally, only a very limited number plan to co sleep. Therefore I think every parent should be aware of basic safety issues concerning co sleeping. I also think if your baby is ever going to be in your bed, whether you plan to sleep with the child there or not, the bed should be carefully checked for safety issues. I say this because I think many , if not most parents have unintentionally co-slept before. Having woken up in the middle of the night hunched in an unnatural position over a child's story book, with a child sleeping beside me in their own bed - I know full well how easy it is to fall asleep unintentionally at times.
Co- sleeping makes breast feeding so much easier. Many studies have found mothers who co sleep are more likely to successfully breastfeed, and tend to breastfeed longer. Breastfeeding is not only one of the best defenses for a child against SIDS, but it also protects against later diabetes, childhood cancers, and of course the whole pantheon of childhood ailments.
Sleep - Every parent of a new baby knows what that mind numbing sleep deprivation can do to you. My oldest had some other difficulties that affected his sleep, but once those were sorted, we found co sleeping a perfect way to encourage sleeping at night. With my youngest, there was nothing he liked better then curling up sleeping in bed. I had to wake him at night for feedings and as soon as I stopped waking him after 8 weeks, he slept through the night. Although co-sleeping does not guarantee a baby who sleeps through the night, co-sleeping mothers usually are far better rested, and less tired.
SIDS - James McKenna has demonstrated in laboratory studies that co sleeping infants spend significantly less time in stage 3 sleep, the level of sleep where cot death is most likely to occur. The infants heart rate and breathing are regulated by the parents. McKenna believes this is a natural biological adaptation, as human infants have slept with their parents for almost all of our evolutionary history. Additionally, if anything does go wrong - Mom is right there. My oldest did have some problems with choking on vomit at night, and both boys had a couple of apnea type episodes. Because I was right there, and so closely in tune with the babies I sensed something wrong right away and both resumed breathing without difficulty when lifted up by a panicked Mom! My husband does suffer extreme sleep apnea, and the doctor felt this might be related. McKenna also found co-sleeping infants lest likely to roll over and sleep in a face down position - the most dangerous in terms of SIDS. I know mine always slept on their backs except in extreme illness when they slept help upright.
Repeated studies have found bed sharing to protect against cot death in some countries - and to increase the risk in others. The biggest factors seem to be whether maternal drinking and smoking are the norm or unheard of in those countries, as well as prevalence of breastfeeding.
Stress - stress levels are significantly lower for both mother and infant in co- sleeping pairs.
Independence- Many parents fear co sleeping will make children overly dependent. Most studies show the polar opposite. Children who co slept tended to be more outgoing, more confident and more independent. Judging from my own two - they may perhaps be too independent.
Warmth - This is something no one wants to admit, that they can not afford to heat the house adequately for a new infant. Where I live 50% of parents responded to a survey question by admitting they had brought the children or babies into their beds solely to provide warmth. Heating or lack of it, was a factor in my decision to co sleep. It is far easier to regulate a child's temperature beside you then to try to wrap them enough to withstand freezing nights alone. I do feel this creates another risk factor though, as parents unaccustomed to co sleeping bring a new baby into a bed full of duvets on the coldest nights of the year.
Sleep - some parents can not sleep well with a baby beside them, other parents seem to keep the baby awake tossing and turning.
SIDS - Increased risk of cot death under certain circumstances
Privacy - lack of parental privacy
Often results in Dad sleeping elsewhere.
Entrapment - While America's most famous baby doctor, Dr William Sears cites a dramatic decrease in SIDS for breastfeeding co sleeping infants - he also cites an increase in deaths by entrapment in parents bedding, most commonly the child's head being wedged in adult furniture. While this increase equates to only 10% of the lives saved through lower incidence of SIDS - it is still something that would haunt you for life, and one preventable death is one too many. I feel every parent should make a thorough safety check of their own bed, whether you co sleep or not. Parents should also be aware that a highly disproportionate number of these deaths occur with co sleeping on a sofa, settee, or recliner chair. Of course parents accidentally fall asleep, but every precaution should be taken against sleeping with your infant on the sofa.
~~ WHO SHOULD NOT CO-SLEEP~~
* Smokers must not share bed with babies as exposure to residual toxins from cigarette smoke while sleeping increase risk of SIDS.
* It is recommended that Mom always sleep between the father and child, never sleep with baby between you.
* It goes without saying if either partner is drinking, indulging in recreational drugs, or on prescription drugs affecting sleep patterns - co sleeping should be avoided. Keep in mind, a baby used to co sleeping is not going to sleep soundly in a cot when you have had a night out. For the most part - co sleeping requires Mom to give up drinking until the child is old enough for their own bed.
* Some people have extremely deep sleep cycles. If you know world war 3 would not disturb your slumber - if your partner has to wake you because the baby is crying and you don't hear it - co sleeping is not the best option.
* Most co sleeping mothers have a constant awareness of where the baby is. Mine always slept in the crook of my arm. McKenna reports co sleeping mothers repeatedly checking on infants though out the night - with no memory of this the next morning. If my children coughed, choked, stirred, or had any change in breathing pattern, I was instantly aware. Some parents do not feel this though. If I were waking up, not certain where the baby was - I'd have given up co sleeping. I think this is also a reason for accidents in families that do not usually co sleep. They have not built up that awareness required for safe sleep sharing.
* Never ever co sleep just once without a bed safety check.
* Never co-sleep on a sofa or chair.
* If you do not normally co-sleep bringing to baby to bed when the parent is ill or completely exhausted increases risks.
* Current studies recommend co sleeping only for breastfeeding children. No one really knows why co sleeping seems to reduce cot death in breastfeeding infants but may increase it in bottle fed infants - who already have an increased risk. There is some speculation that a hormonal influence may play a part in regulating mothers sleep patterns and over all awareness of the infant.
* Co sleeping is considered unsafe if the mother is overweight.
* No dogs allowed - or cats either. Pets must never be allowed on the bed if a baby will be sleeping in it.
* Perfume should be carefully removed before bed as strong fumes of any kind may affect breathing.
*Avoid co sleeping on overly soft mattresses. If the baby and you roll together - it is too soft.
~~ BED SAFETY CHECK~~
If you ever bring your child into your bed - even if you have no intention of falling asleep yourself it is worth carefully checking the bed for safety issues. The most common cause of death through furniture is a gap which allows the infants head to be trapped between bed frame and mattress. My own bed has a gap that would pose a serious risk as the mattress slides down leaving a space near the headboard. We corrected this by my husband forcing the mattress all the way to the top and then placing a rolled up duvet between the bottom of the mattress and bed frame to prevent it sliding down. If you can not safely close off all gaps - I would sleep on a mattress on the floor or be sure baby is never on the bed. A gap between the bed and wall is the next most common issue. This needs to be checked every night. Mesh bed guards prevent falls while still allowing a child to breath against them, but again, one needs to check to be sure they do not create a space where the child can be trapped against the mattress. Experts recommend removal of pillows and duvets as well. Be especially aware of soft fluffy pillows, heavy duvets and soft mattress toppers.
~~ SAFER CO SLEEPING~~
Many people use a side car arrangement in which a specially made crib butts right up to the parents bed. This gives the infant their own space, while still being able to touch and be next to Mom.
Another product, known as a Snugglenest folds out to create a small sleeping space within the parents bed for a new infant. This has sturdy sides to prevent a parent rolling onto the baby, as well as a sleep positioner which keeps baby in the correct sleeping position. A small waterproof mattress also reduces accidents for those of us who use cloth nappies as well.
Co sleeping isn't for everyone. However, it worked brilliantly for us. It meant I was able to get a good nights sleep, and my children slept well. I also think it helped a great deal with my youngest who at 3 weeks early had difficulty feeding at first. The fact that I was unable to lift my son after a botched C-section made co sleeping a real lifesaver for us. I can't imagine my boys being any more independent, and I'm glad they have no fears of the dark, and see bed as a comforting pleasant place - although perhaps too comforting judging by the amount of effort it takes to get them out of it in the morning! I do wish more health proffesionals were informed of the benefits of sleep sharing as well, and I think this should be one option for informed parents to consider - without judgement.
Still this is not for anyone - if you are considering co -sleeping I would strongly recommend reading boos such as Dr Sears' 'The Baby Book', 'The Breastfeeding Book' or 'The science of Parenting' by Margot Sunderland ,and doing some research online. I would also recommend against taking baby to bed as a spur of the moment decision, especially under anything less than ideal circumstances. Sleep sharing is a perfectly natural way for infants to sleep, and is safe - but only under the right conditions.
I'll close with a quote from author Jean Liedloff, in her book which sparked the return to attachment parenting, 'The Continuum Concept' :
"The change from the total hospitality of the womb is enormous, but, the infant has come prepared for the great leap from the womb to his place in arms. What he has not come prepared for is a greater leap of any sort, let alone a leap into nothingness, non-life, a basket with cloth in it, or a plastic box without motion, sound, odor, or the feel of life. The infant lives in the eternal now; the infant in arms in a state of bliss; the infant out of arms in a state of longing in the bleakness of an empty universe."
Summary: A no cry sleep solution that worked for us.
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