Co-sleeping is when parents and children sleep in the same bed, or sometimes just in the same room. More often than not, it’s when a child actually shares a bed with their parents.
Its quite a controversial topic that has caused a lot of debate.
On the one side, you have parents and experts who perceive it as dangerous. On the other, there are vehement supporters of co-sleeping. Scientific research on the subject is often confusing and contradictory, so it’s difficult for parents to know what’s best for their kids.
But where did it all begin? Is co-sleeping a modern fad, or is it rooted in history?
Origins of Co-Sleeping
Despite the controversy surrounding it, co-sleeping has actually been around for centuries. The idea of an infant sleeping alone in their own room only came about approximately two centuries ago. Before this, co-sleeping was the norm. This shows that cultural norms can truly impact our perception of what is acceptable.
There may be quite a lot of opposition to co-sleeping, but logic tells us that if it worked for centuries before society progressed and changed their behavioral norms, it must be relatively harmless.
I’ll add a personal anecdote here. When my brother and sister and I were infants, our father would often come home from work late when my mother was already in bed. Having not seen us all day, he would immediately go to the crib and fetch whichever of us was the baby at the time, and bring us to sleep in his arms.
Now, that’s not something I’ve copied in my own parenting, and I would certainly never have risked waking one of ours once we finally got them off to sleep! But I also don’t believe that it harmed me or my siblings at all. In fact, having such a loving and affectionate father was a great blessing through the years. Although, let’s be clear that co-sleeping is not, by any means, the only way to show that you’re a loving parent.
But let’s discuss some of the pros and cons.
Benefits of Co-Sleeping
Even if you’re hesitant about the idea of co-sleeping, it’s important to discuss the benefits of it before drawing a conclusion.
One of the benefits of co-sleeping is that it helps your child to get a better night’s rest. Infants who sleep near their parents have more stable temperatures and heart rhythms than those sleeping alone. An unstable temperature and sleep anxiety can have detrimental effects on the development of a child, so this fact alone highlights the positive impact of co-sleeping.
Another benefit of co-sleeping is that the parents are right there, and even when they’re sleeping they are subconsciously aware of the presence of their child. This means that if the child becomes ill or an accident occurs, their response time is much faster. With solitary sleeping, it is the piercing cry of the child that triggers a parent’s reaction. However, with co-sleeping, the parent has the time to react before the situation reaches that point, as they will sense movement beside them.
Potential Negative Aspects of Co-Sleeping
One of the most hotly debated aspects of co-sleeping is that it has often been associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or “SIDS”. This is where research tends to be inconclusive. Some researchers claim a definite link between co-sleeping and the onset of SIDS, while other experts actually say that it helps to prevent it.
Quite frankly, the jury is out. The best thing you can do as a parent in this respect is to consider both conclusions thoughtfully, and use your own discernment.
Other potential negative aspects of co-sleeping include invasion of privacy and a child becoming too dependent. There are ways to address these things. Parents who feel like their child’s presence is impacting their intimacy may consider putting a bed beside their main bed. That way they can be present for the child while also maintaining their own romantic relationship.
There comes a point when a child is old enough to sleep in their own room. This is at the discretion of both the parents and the child, but common sense tells us that having a teenager in the parental bed is not appropriate!
Over to you …
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts if you’d like to leave a comment below.