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Why co-sleeping with baby works

According to the renowned William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., there is a very good argument to support co-sleeping, or sleeping with your baby.

The pair prefer the term ?shared sleep? when it comes to parents and babies sharing beds and sleep-time. They claim that teaching or training the young baby to put herself to sleep is only a tradition in the U.S., and a recently developed one at that. In most other cultures, parents share sleep with their children. Doing so can be a very healthy and natural progression from womb to mother?s breast to beside mother during sleep.

Shared sleep is much more than a shared bed; it is shared sleep cycles. Baby learns not to resent going to sleep and instead to associate it with his favorite, most comforting people in the world (and a big warm bed!).

Some important observations regarding sleep-sharing are discussed in Dr. Sears? The Baby Book. Dr. Sears quotes Dr. James McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at Notre Dame. Dr. McKenna studied sleep-sharing pairs for more than a decade. His conclusions show that sleep-sharing encourages synchronized sleep cycles between parent and child. Often, when one member of the pair coughs or stirs, so does the other, often without waking. Further, each member of the pair tends to often, but not always, be in the same sleep stage for longer periods when sharing sleep.

If baby is in a separate crib, he is more likely to be in a light sleep cycle when mother is in a deep cycle, and vice-versa. It is more exhausting for a mother to be woken from a deep sleep than from a light sleep. As babies wake during the light stage of sleep, it makes sense for her sleep cycle to be in sync with her mother?s.

Dr. Sears? and Dr. McKenna ?s studies show that mothers report feeling more rested after sleeping with their babies, vs. sleeping separately. I can attest to the fact that when my baby isn?t sleeping so well, it?s much more tiring to get myself out of bed than it is to only half-awaken and roll over to comfort or feed him.

Dr. Sears points out that all young children eventually outgrow wanting to sleep with their parents, and that our children are babies for such a short time. Why not be there for them during the long, dark nights to reassure them that they are safe?


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