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What Research Shows
When it comes to research about co-sleeping, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that there is research to suggest that there are benefits to parents and infants who share a bed (or room) through the night. The bad news is that, beyond the research into the connection between co-sleeping and SIDS prevention, there's not much being done which inquires into its qualitative or long-term aspects. Until this type of research is done, we must continue to draw from the good work that is being done within the American culture, as well as from studies conducted in other cultures abroad.
Benefits for infants:
Co-sleeping promotes physiological regulation
The proximity of the parent may help the infant’s immature nervous system learn to self-regulate during sleep. (Farooqi, 1994; Mitchell, 1997; Mosko, 1996; Nelson, 1996; Skragg, 1996) It may also help prevent SIDS by preventing the infant from entering into sleep states that are too deep. In addition, the parents’ own breathing may help the infant to "remember" to breathe.(McKenna, 1990; Mosko, 1996; Richard, 1998).
Parents and infants sleep better
Because of the proximity of the mother, babies do not have to fully wake and cry to get a response. As a result, mothers can tend to the infant before either of them are fully awake. As a result, mothers were more likely to have positive evaluations of their nighttime experiences (McKenna, 1994) because they tended to sleep better and wake less fully (McKenna & Mosko, 1997).
Babies get more care giving
Co-sleeping increases breast feeding (Clements, 1997; McKenna, 1994; Richard et al., 1996). Even the conservative American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) admits to the breast feeding advantages of co-sleeping (Hauck, 1998). Mothers who co-sleep breast feed an average of twice as long as non-co-sleeping mothers (McKenna). In addition to the benefits of breast feeding, the act of sucking increases oxygen flow, which is beneficial for both growth and immune functions.