One of the most controversial parenting issues of this generation is co-sleeping. Those who do it are passionate about the benefits, while those who don’t are just as adamant about their concerns.
We’re not here to judge, so if you are going to co-sleep with your children, here are some basic do’s and don’ts to keep everyone safe and ensure a good night’s sleep happens for all involved.
Do ensure your bed frame, if you’re using one, doesn’t have a space between it and the mattress/box spring at the top or bottom for a young baby to get trapped. Same for spaces between a wall and bed, if that’s where your bed is situated. A mattress on the floor in the middle of the room is always safest.
Don’t use heavy blankets or really soft pillows; layer light blankets or use a quality duvet in a washable cover for heat and cooling.
Do ensure babies are sleeping on their back.
Don’t overheat you, your baby, the bed or the room, as excess heat has been linked to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.) Best to wait until a baby is six or nine months old before they are in the bed with you.
Do use a special baby crib that is designed to be right beside your bed for really young babies, or if co-sleeping isn’t working out for anyone involved. Experts feel the benefits are almost the same as traditional co-sleeping.
Do use the biggest sized bed your room can handle and your wallet can afford, especially if more than one child is sharing with you and your partner.
Don’t co-sleep on a couch, waterbed, a high or super soft bed, or if you or anyone else in the bed isn’t sober, has been doing drugs or is a smoker. Obesity can also put a small baby at risk.
Do put babies between adults in the bed if other children are also sharing sleep space, as most kids don’t understand the risks of suffocation. Another option is to wean children out of co-sleeping or have one parent share a bed with older kids and one parent with the baby, or allow kids to create a fort-type bed on the floor beside yours. The key is to keep toddlers and older kids away from babies in the bed.
Don’t let pets or stuffed toys in the bed with young babies.
Don’t feel guilty if you decide at any point that co-sleeping is hindering a good night’s sleep for anybody involved and you need to wean kids back to their own beds. Sleep is one of the most important necessities of life for both adults and children, so if nobody is getting any quality sleep, there are bound to be other problems throughout the day.
Do wean your kids slowly from co-sleeping to their own bed. It’s not easy if they’ve been in bed with you for a long time, so take it slow. Start with a mattress or blow-up bed beside yours for a week or two. Then move it further from your bed, but still in the room and closer to the door. Maybe a few nights with the temporary mattress in the hall outside your room with the door open will ease your child’s sleep separation anxiety before you actually get them into their own bed.
Be very patient with them when they get out of that bed and their own bedroom a hundred times each night. Laying with them or sitting on the floor by their bed until they fall asleep is best for the first few months. Remember – it’s all about making them feel safe and secure.
Do whatever works for your family in terms of deciding what age is best to stop co-sleeping. Every family is different. Others will always find a reason to judge and criticize, but if everyone is having a full night of quality sleep, it’s up to the people involved when the co-sleeping should end.
Some families allow it only on weekends or holidays after the age of five, while others don’t take issue with their little ones climbing in with them during the night.
The key is always comfort, safety and quality of sleep when you’re considering the do’s and don’ts of co-sleeping.