Co-sleeping has always been a controversial topic in the parenting world. There are those who swear by it, and there are those who would never in a million years. I get it! I didn’t co-sleep with my first daughter, for fear of accidentally rolling over and smothering her or something. But with my second baby girl, I plopped her right down next to me in bed the night I brought her home from the hospital. And there she slept, every night and most naps, for 9 months. I didn’t intend to co-sleep, but with a newborn and a nearly-4 year old, we just all needed SLEEP. I put co-sleeping firmly in the “You Do What’s Best for You” category, along with breast vs. bottle feeding and cloth diapering.
But a new study suggests that co-sleeping with your baby isn’t just beneficial when they’re infants; the research says bed-sharing is good for toddlers, too.
Dr. Nils Bergman, a pediatrician from the University of Cape Town in South Africa suggests that toddlers should co-sleep with their parents for at least 3 years. He also says that healthy newborns should sleep on their mother’s chests. According to Dr. Bergman, not only did the newborns in the study sleep better this way, it was also easier on their hearts.
Researchers studied the sleep of 16 infants who slept on their mom’s chest, rather than in a cot or crib next to the bed.
They found that when babies slept alone, their hearts were under 3 times as much stress. The babies who co-slept also seemed to have better quality sleep, with fewer disruptions.
But Dr. Bergman says the benefits don’t end with babyhood. His research suggests that toddlers who sleep alone have a more difficult time bonding with mom; he even goes as far as to suggest that sleeping alone can damage developing brains and lead to bad behavior. The findings are controversial, to be certain. There are many, many experts who believe that a cot or crib next to the bed is the safest place for babies to sleep.
The study also fails to address the impact of co-sleeping with a toddler on mom (and dad!). Parents need sleep, too.
And possible unpopular opinion alert: in my own experience, after spending every hour of the day meeting my children’s needs, I need to not be kicked and punched and rolled over on in my bed. Sleep deprivation in parents takes it’s toll on everyone.
As with most aspects of parenting, it all comes down to doing what is best for you and your family. Co-sleeping work for you? Awesome! No desire to co-sleep? That’s awesome, too! There is no right or wrong way to raise your children, as long as the decisions you make are in the best interests of your family. And as much as I love my toddler, sharing a bed with her every night sounds like my actual worst nightmare.
Those legs may be short and deliciously chubby, but they can pack a wallop. Right on my orbital bone. At 3 a.m.
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