Learn more about co-sleeping and the precautions you should take when sleeping with your little one.
Medical advisors: Eduard Holguín Quitián – Pediatrician
Juan Fernando Piedrahíta Arango – Pediatrician
It is normal for babies to sleep in a crib separate from the parents’ bed. However, many opt for co-sleeping, where parents and their little one sleep in the same bed or use a bedside crib where the side without railing is pushed up next to the parents’ bed.
A common assumption is that the child is going to be more attached to and dependent on their parents if they sleep together. Pediatrician Eduard Holguín Quitián, from the Pablo Tobón Uribe Hospital, states that “co-sleeping strengthens the bond between mother and baby. This closer relationship increases the child’s confidence and development because the child feels that their parents are always there if they need anything, which is important for young children because they are dependent. Also, they have just been in their mother’s womb for nine months, so it is normal for them to cry and not sleep well when they are separated from her”. Also, co-sleeping facilitates and makes checking on the child more comfortable during the night.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed due to the risk of asphyxiation. Also, when moving or turning over, the parents could end up on top of the baby or the baby could get tangled in the sheets or covers. If you are considering co-sleeping, it is important to keep safety in mind.
Regarding co-sleeping and lactation, pediatrician Juan Fernando Piedrahíta Arango states that “when co-sleeping, a mother’s lactation increases, and children are better nourished and grow and develop better. In addition, the baby’s crying is reduced and everyone has better quality sleep”.
Specialists conclude that co-sleeping is a family choice and, especially, the parents’ choice when determining how the bond with their children is going to be. The important thing is that they are calm and comfortable with the decision they make.
Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that co-sleeping is temporary. Gradually, the little one will leave the parents’ bed. That being said, it is important for them to have a place to sleep that is ready to be used. Doctor Holguín Quitián states that the parents can guide the child to leave the conjugal bed. “This can start when the child is between six months and one year old, because the infant has other needs and is in an exploratory phase”. Pediatrician Juan Fernando Piedrahíta Arango considers that the best time is when the child is three years old “because they are less afraid and need their own space”.
If the child doesn’t want to leave their parents’ bed, the family should talk about it and establish a plan in order to gradually make the transition.
- If you are going to sleep with your baby, make sure the bed is big enough, or you can opt for a bedside crib.
- If the baby is premature, you should not co-sleep because they are smaller and therefore have more risks. You should take extra precautions with premature babies.
- If the parents are smokers, co-sleeping shouldn’t be considered during the first three months because studies show that this factor increases the possibility of sudden death.
- The bed shouldn’t have thick covers or be full of pillows, cushions, or stuffed animals, and the mattress should be firm so the baby doesn’t sink.