Some people (the Consumer Product Safety Commission is one) say that co-sleeping is dangerous. The risks include suffocation (rolling onto your baby, the baby becoming trapped in the bed frame, becoming tangled in bed covers) and (according to them) an increased risk of SIDS. However, others (most notably Dr. Sears) argue that co-sleeping is safe, and is the preferred method of caring for babies around the world. Dr. Sears says that more babies die in cribs than in their parents' beds, and that the SIDS risk is actually lower with co-sleepers, because mothers are more aware of their babies' sleep patterns and are likely to notice a problem more quickly. You can read more about it here. In order to co-sleep safely, Dr. Sears recommends:
- Do not sleep with your baby if:
- You are under the influence of any drug (such as alcohol or tranquilizing medications) that diminishes your sensitivity to your baby's presence. If you are drunk or drugged, these chemicals lessen your arousability from sleep.
- You are extremely obese. Obesity itself may cause sleep apnea in the mother, in addition to the smothering danger of pendulous breasts and large fat rolls.
- You are exhausted from sleep deprivation. This lessens your awareness of your baby and your arousability from sleep.
- You are breastfeeding a baby on a cushiony surface, such as a waterbed or couch. An exhausted mother could fall asleep breastfeeding and roll over on the baby.
- You are the child's baby-sitter. A baby-sitter's awareness and arousability is unlikely to be as acute as a mother's.
- Don't allow older siblings to sleep with a baby under nine months. Sleeping children do not have the same awareness of tiny babies as do parents, and too small or too crowded a bed space is an unsafe sleeping arrangement for a tiny baby.
- Don't fall asleep with baby on a couch. Baby may get wedged between the back of the couch and the larger person's body, or baby's head may become buried in cushion crevices or soft cushions.
- Do not sleep with baby on a free-floating, wavy waterbed or similar "sinky" surface in which baby could suffocate.
- Don't overheat or overbundle baby. Be particularly aware of overbundling if baby is sleeping with a parent. Other warm bodies are an added heat source.
- Don't wear lingerie with string ties longer than eight inches. Ditto for dangling jewelry. Baby may get caught in these entrapments.
- Avoid pungent hair sprays, deodorants, and perfumes. Not only will these camouflage the natural maternal smells that baby is used to and attracted to, but foreign odors may irritate and clog baby's tiny nasal passages. Reserve these enticements for sleeping alone with your spouse.
Keeping all this in mind, Lucy sleeps with Brett and I. We have a king-size bed, and have taken precautions to keep our little girl safe. We remove all but one pillow each when we go to sleep, and push the comforter down below where she is sleeping, putting only the top sheet over her lower half. We've pushed the mattress snug against the headboard to remove the crevice that was there. Although I'm a light sleeper, Brett sleeps a little more heavily, so Lucy snuggles up with me and Brett stays closer to "his" side of the bed. Often times I fall asleep with my arm around her, too.
Ultimately, it's a personal decision that every parent has to make, but I can say with confidence that I am so happy we decided to do it. Lucy's been home for 5 nights now, and she has yet to wake me up by crying- she nuzzles, sucks, or makes these adorable little sounds that let me know she's awake and hungry. What does that mean for us? It means that I can nurse Lucy BEFORE she's fussy or upset. I don't have to rely on hearing her cry from the nursery. A Lucy that isn't fussy is a Lucy that latches on more quickly and nurses better. Also, I truly feel that we are on the same sleep pattern now. I feel really well-rested for a new mom, and now I'm looking forward to getting the hang of nursing in the side-laying position better to make the transition to feeding time go even more smoothly. Finally, I just feel better knowing that my baby girl is next to me, which allows me to sleep better as well.
What do I love the most about co-sleeping? Besides being nuzzled awake by my baby, I love waking up before she does, cuddling up with Brett, and watching her sleep. She makes the most beautiful faces, and that makes mornings my favorite time of day.