Of the many philosophical debates in the world of infant care, few are as combustible as whether or not parents should share a bed ( bed sharing ) with their babies.
Critics warn of dire consequences, from an increased risk of SIDS to difficulty in learning to sleep independently later in life. But an increasing body of research supports what many Eastern cultures have always believed. Having baby sleep nearby can be safe and beneficial for both parents and child.
Despite institutional and social pressure to put babies to sleep by themselves, studies show that at least 50 percent of all American parents co-sleep with their infants at some point. Research by Dr. James J. McKenna and his team at the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame indicates that not only can co-sleeping be done safely; it can help reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related problems.
“Co-sleeping infants nurse more often, sleep more lightly, and have practice responding to maternal arousals,” McKenna reports. “Arousal deficiencies are suspected in some SIDS deaths, and long periods in deep sleep may exacerbate this problem.”
Further, co-sleeping makes it easier for a mother to know and respond when her child is in trouble, he says. McKenna’s research shows that co-sleeping is not just a question of convenience for breastfeeding mothers.To safely co-sleep with your baby, consider the following guidelines.
Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation to put all babies to sleep on their backs. It is the safest sleeping position for young babies, regardless of where they sleep.
Never drink, take drugs or use prescription medications that cause drowsiness if you are co-sleeping with your infant. One of the major benefits of co-sleeping is the parents’ ability to rouse and respond to the baby. Alcohol, drugs and some medications will impair your ability to wake up if needed.
Always leave your baby’s head uncovered while sleeping. Consider putting him in a “sleep sack” rather than using a conventional blanket that may work its way over the baby’s head during the night.
Make sure you use the proper bedding and that your mattress fits snugly to the bed frame and headboard. There should be no gaps into which a baby might slide. Eliminate pillows, comforters, quilts, or other soft or plush items.
Never place a baby to sleep in an adult bed alone. Consider using a Co-Sleeper® Bassinet, a small, separate bed with one open side that fits up against your bed. Arm’s Reach produces a number of co-sleeping products that give mothers easy access to their babies, while keeping the infant in his or her own space. They provide the convenience of co-sleeping without the risk of a sleeping adult rolling over on the baby.
Taking note that there are many lifestyle demands, Arm’s Reach provides a rich assortment of basic units, a variety of conversion options and a large selection of color and decorative choices. To learn more about Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper® Bassinets, visit www.armsreach.com or call 800-954-9353
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #12.
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