When North was born he slept in a Moses basket beside our bed for the first 6 months of his life. Sometimes I would fall asleep with him nuzzled next to me in bed during a night time feed but this always made me a bit nervous, especially when he was younger. After 6 months of practice with North, co-sleeping with Indigo has become completely natural and normal. I trust myself and my instincts not to squash her, and I feel completely at ease with her in our bed. I can honestly say I am getting more sleep because she is in our bed more often. If I feel like stretching out during the night, or sleeping on my back, I simply move her to the basket beside my bed. I have noticed she actually sleeps much longer stretches when she is cozied up next to me, probably because she feels secure that all of her needs can be met, and she feels she is never alone- a very daunting feeling for a baby who has just come out having been attached to you for nine months straight. There is mounting evidence that co-sleeping, when done safely actually decreases the chances of SIDS. Studies have shown that when a baby and mother sleep face-to-face (a co-sleeping mother and baby will naturally sleep on their sides facing one another), the mother’s exhale (carbon dioxide) gently blows into the baby’s face which causes the baby to take a big breath in to fill herself with oxygen. Therefore, co-sleeping babies tend to hold their breath less often and for a shorter amount of time. Mothers and babies sleep in similar sleep cycles and a mother often goes into a lighter sleep a few minutes before the baby does, instinctively drawing the baby closer to her breast so the baby is able to latch on without even stirring.
Although some people worry that co-sleeping can cause nighttime problems for the future, this depends on a parent’s interpretation of the so-called “problems”. If you do not want your child to sleep in your bed by a certain age then you can gently transfer them to a new environment. I found North to be very adaptable until he was just over one, after that he became much more attached to his bedtime routine. As long as I kept a secure and comfortable bedtime routine in place, where he slept wasn’t much of an issue.
Even if you don’t want to make co-sleeping a habit, try it at least for the first couple weeks your baby is born. It will allow you to get some much needed rest after your delivery, it could help to establish a wonderful breastfeeding relationship (because the baby is able to suck for as long as possible, stimulating your milk supply), and it is a great introduction to your baby and her little personality, bodily cues and temperment. Finally, it has taught me to trust myself as a Mother and to do what I instinctively feel is right, instead of listening to old school western thoughts about how parenting should be done. Since Indigo was born I haven’t had to step out of my warm bed once during the night to answer a cry. And if she needs a change? I simply poke Brad on the shoulder and ask him to get up for a little bum bum bonding time. I mean, he needs to be involved too, right? Heaven.
(For guidelines to safe co-sleeping see here.)