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The Family Bed

Independent sleeping is relatively new in human history and the family bed was the norm until about 100 years ago, and still is in most parts of the world. Certainly, no prehistoric cave-dwelling parents would have had separate caves for their babies!

It is quite natural for babies to want closeness, day and night. Most of us still prefer to share our bed with a loved one, and the need for physical closeness is never truly outgrown. Having said that, your children will not be in your bed forever. Most children want to have their own bed sooner or later! Studies have shown that bed sharing is not only safe when practiced sensibly, but also helps children grow into secure and well-adjusted adults.

Pros:

  • No one has to get up – especially convenient in winter.
  • Baby feels warm and safe.
  • Parents feel secure knowing baby is right there with them.
  • If baby has kicked off her blanket, she can simply be tucked in again.
  • For many babies, this is the only place they get any significant stretches of sleep.
  • If you are away from home, baby’s sleep may not be interrupted as much.
  • Baby can help herself to the breast without really waking mummy. (A co-sleeping mother may breastfeed more often, but still gets the same amount of deep sleep as a mother with her baby in a separate room.)
  • Can deepen the bonding between parents and baby.
  • Promotes breastfeeding, increases milk production and inhibits ovulation.
  • Co-sleeping decreases the amount of crying at night.
  • When co-sleeping is practiced as a parenting choice, it is generally a positive and satisfying experience for both parents.

Cons:

  • Parents may not sleep very well with baby sleeping between them – some babies thrash their arms and legs, and make a lot of noise while asleep.
  • Parents’ movements may disturb baby during sleep.
  • Parents may feel a loss of privacy and intimacy.
  • Some babies help themselves to a feed more regularly than the mother would prefer.
  • Even the staunch family bed supporters admit it works best with only one child at a time. Not so easy with two or more!
  • It may be hard to leave baby with a babysitter for the night.
  • You may need to buy a bigger bed!

You should not sleep with your baby on a couch, on a waterbed, if you and/or your partner smoke, if your toddler already shares your bed, if you have been using alcohol or medication that makes you very drowsy.

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