There may be a lot for a new parent or caregiver to take into account when considering the benefits of co-sleeping. Parents may face contradictory information regarding co-sleeping and the healthiest sleep practices for newborns, especially through social media and commercials.
In order to protect children, various organizations have formulated safe sleep standards. However, parents should consult their child's pediatrician for advice on how to ensure the baby's safety while sleeping. Knowing the potential hazards and benefits of co-sleeping with a baby can help parents make an informed decision about the same.
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Safe Practices for Co-sleeping
Co-sleeping entails sharing a bed with your infant while you are both asleep, as opposed to simply sharing a bed to be fed or for a brief cuddle. Remember that, as a parent, you can enjoy the benefits of co-sleeping if you are practicing safe methods.
Here are some tips for parents for safer co-sleeping:
- Keep your infant away from pillows, sheets, and blankets, as well as any other items that could obstruct their breathing or cause them to overheat.
- Do not allow pets or other children to sleep in the crib.
- Ensure that your infant cannot roll out of bed or become confined between the mattress and the wall.
What Are the Psychological Benefits of Co-sleeping?
Besides the ease of breastfeeding, bed-sharing, especially night-time maternal contact, has a number of physical and mental benefits, especially for babies. The heart rate and breathing rate of children change when they are separated from their mothers, and babies are more likely to cry a lot at night when they are sleeping alone. Here are a few psychological benefits of co-sleeping:
1) Enhances bonding
Co-sleeping also helps make the bond between the baby and the parents stronger. Unquestionably, the practice gives parents more time alone with their babies, which helps them form better bonds. Most parents opt for this practice, thinking about the benefits of co-sleeping.
2) Benefits of co-sleeping for added protection
Touches, pecks, or hugs from a co-sleeping parent give the baby emotional support and raise the amount of oxygen in the air. This, in turn, helps the brain and immune system grow and get stronger.
Studies have shown that people have never heard of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in countries where co-sleeping is common. When children stay close to their parents after birth, their chances of SIDS, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other problems go down. They also breathe more steadily, grow faster, and keep their body temperature steady.
3) Benefits of co-sleeping for parents
Co-sleeping is also good for parents. Many of them get better sleep and feel closer to their children. Parents get more sleep when their babies sleep with them because they don't have to wake up as often to feed them at night.
Why Co-sleeping Might Not Be Good for Your Baby
Alongside knowing about the benefits of co-sleeping, it is also beneficial to be aware of its associated risks. When physicians refer to co-sleeping, they typically mean sleeping with a baby in the same bed, which may not be the best idea. There are numerous reasons why you may want to opt out of this arrangement.
First, physicians suggest that babies are safest when they observe the ABCs -- alone, so do not share a bed with anyone else, lying on their back in a crib. This is the safest pattern of sleep, even for adolescents. Now, every parent says, "Oh, I'm not going to roll over on my baby; I'm not going to suffocate my baby; I would never do that," but that is not always the case.
One risk of co-sleeping is the possibility of suffocating your baby, while another is that there's no flat surface like in a crib, so the baby is automatically at a higher risk for suffocation due to the mattress. Physicians also recommend that babies don't sleep with a lot of blankets and sheets because that's also a suffocation risk.
It is safer for your infant to sleep in the same room as you, and there are bassinets that can be placed right next to your bed.
Human babies are the most defenseless and vulnerable creatures on earth. They can't walk or talk, and they can't even fully use language to communicate. In fact, only humans can help their children.
It is important to note that there are underlying cultural factors that contribute to the benefits of co-sleeping, and what works for others may not necessarily work for you.
Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.
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