This is part 2 of a 4-5 (?) part post series on Co-Sleeping. If you missed the first, please check out Co-Sleeping: My Story.
By now you know I’m a tired, tired hypocrite, who is advocating for co-sleeping, but has not actually co-slept. Other than my own personal opinions & feelings, there is a ton of science supporting co-sleeping. So much so that The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now encourages room-sharing (or co-sleeping on a separate surface) in its policy regarding SIDS prevention. “Room sharing is a form of co-sleeping and it is known that roomsharing decreases an infants chances dying by a third of one half compared with babies sleeping alone.” http://cosleeping.nd.edu/frequently-asked-questions/#33
Dr. James McKenna is considered the father of co-sleeping and is the face behind many co-sleeping studies. He has published over 139 relevant scientific articles. Dr. McKenna says that human babies should not sleep alone and that babies need their mothers beside them.
“Mother-infant cosleeping with breastfeeding is humankind’s oldest and most successful sleeping arrangement. Cosleeping remains a cross-cultural human universal, a species-wide behavior, an expectable and physiologically normal sleeping arrangement likely designed by natural selection to maximize infant survival and well-being. Only in a relatively few select cultures (Western, industrialized societies) have infants ever slept outside the company and presence of their breastfeeding mothers.” http://cosleeping.nd.edu/frequently-asked-questions/
In short, being in close proximity to it’s mother is a genuine, physiological need for a human infant.
Here is Dr. James McKenna on the biology of infant sleep:
Although this is lengthy, I also recommend watching this 13 minute video produced in 2005 by the University of Notre Dame, interviewing Dr. McKenna.
Dr. William Sears is another attachment parenting & co-sleeping advocate, and his advocacy started with his own family’s experiences! http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/sleep-problems/sids-latest-research-how-sleeping-your-baby-safe
Co-sleeping seems to get a bad rap since people lump it in with unsafe co-sleeping (on the couch, in a chair, on soft surfaces, with pillows & blankets, with a babysitter, while Mom is under the influence of drugs or alcohol etc.) and bedsharing of all kinds. In fact, research shows crib sleeping babies are twice as likely to suffer a “sleep related fatality” (including SIDS) than those who sleep in bed with their parents. In other countries where co-sleeping and bedsharing is the norm, the SIDS rate is a fraction of the United States’.
Dr. Sears talks about the latest studies on SIDS & Co-sleeping, examining the numbers and concluding that “if the incidence of SIDS is dramatically higher in crib versus a parent’s bed, and because the cases of accidental smothering and entrapment are only 1.5% of the total SIDS cases, then sleeping with a baby in your bed would be far safer than putting baby in a crib. The answer is not to tell parents they shouldn’t sleep with their baby, but rather to educate them on how to sleep with their infants safely.”
Interestingly, the co-sponsor of the campaign warning parents how “dangerous” sleeping with their babies is, is the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which is a group of crib manufacturers. Hmm…
Co-sleeping while following safe co-sleeping guidelines can lead to a successful breastfeeding relationship and a happier, healthier Mom, baby & family! Although no studies have definitively linked safe co-sleeping with a reduction in the SIDS rate, Dr. James McKenna notes that “studies show that while co-sleeping, infants breastfeed more frequently and for longer total duration; they have more arousals, many of which are induced by the mother’s movements or sounds, and that the infants spend less time in the deep stage of sleep from which some infants have difficulty arousing (apnea). [...]the mother’s and infant’s acute responsiveness to the other’s activities, [...] seem to change the infant’s physiology in ways that look potentially helpful in resisting a SIDS event.” http://www.naturalchild.org/james_mckenna/sleeping_safe.html
Have you co-slept with any of your babies?