One of the most controversial topics on parenting… co-sleeping. Is it healthy? Is it harmful? It seems like no matter who you ask, there is a different opinion on this one. While there is a ton of info out there that “shame” the parents who decide that co-sleeping is right for them, what they neglect to tell you are all the benefits that accompany a shared bed with your little.
Every family is unique. My advice on this topic is to learn what works best for your family and be sympathetic to those who may have a different opinion. When I became a new mom, I read hundreds of articles warning you of the risks of co-sleeping. While there is some truth to the fact you need to take precautions with kiddos under one, due to the increased risk of SIDS, the majority of these articles were basically saying you are a terrible parent if you let your little climb in bed with you during the night.
Sadly, I had this stuck in my head throughout the first couple years with my little girl. She always had a hard time going down at night and struggled with night terrors that frequently interrupted her sleep. Instead of trying to comfort her, I had it in my mind that she needed to learn to fall back asleep on her own. We both would wake up several times a night, Harleigh due to her terrors and me due to the screaming. It was frustrating for everyone. In the mornings, I would wake up exhausted and she had some serious tantrums during the day.
I decided something had to change. This just wasn’t working for us. So I decided to kick everything I had previously read on the “dangers of co-sleeping” and try it out. Come bedtime, I brought her in our bed, read her a book and she would always reach for my hand to hold. We would both close our eyes and before I knew it, she was peacefully sleeping. The night terrors soon faded and we both were sleeping through the night! Instead of waking up exhausted and irritated, I woke up well rested and felt like a better Mother. Her day time tantrums improved as well. It seemed like everything was functioning better and this was how our family was intended to be.
The only thing left on my mind was the guilt of being labeled a bad parent because I co-slept with my little. So once again I started some research and found some pretty compelling arguments for why co-sleeping is actually BENEFICIAL! Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t feel guilty if co-sleeping is right for you:
Co-sleeping encourages independence
Most people believe co-sleeping creates kids who are super clingy. Turns out that research shows that kids co-sleep develop independence earlier because they do not feel separation anxiety.
Experience less behavioral problems
Kids who co-sleep typically show increased self-esteem, are less likely to give in to peer pressure and demonstrate more overall happiness. Also, studies show they are less likely to experience stress disorders later in life.
Increases family bonds
Parents who co-sleep develop intimate bonds with their littles. Research has demonstrated that these kids feel more connected to their parents than those who sleep along. Our family has definitely experienced this affect and can tell a huge difference from when we were focused on separating our sleeping habits.
It Actually Reduces the Risk of SIDS
Co-sleeping babies are in physiological sync with their mothers which regulates the infant’s breathing, heart rates and body temperature. Conversely, babies who are left to cry alone experience elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause damage to a brain that is developing.
We finally now have a great pattern of putting Harleigh Rose down in her own full size bed where she falls asleep peacefully holding either my or my husband’s hand. Once she is asleep, we transition into our bed – where Harleigh knows she is welcome if she wakes at night. I usually hear her climb into bed with us in the middle of the night. She finds a place where she feels secure between my husband and I, then drifts back to sleep without making a sound. I know she is comforted, and so am I. Plus, the best thing in the world is waking to her smiling face in the morning. No longer do we feel frustrated, stressed or irritated about nighttime.
While co-sleeping works for us, it’s not for everyone. This message in no way is intended to shame those who prefer independent sleeping. As previously said, the biggest advice I can give is learn what works best for your family. Don’t make the same mistake I made and force something that is clearly not in the cards for you. However, if you are experiencing something similar to us, find comfort in knowing that co-sleeping is perfectly healthy.
– Mama of Roses –