Parents are rather shy about their nighttime habits with their babies and are especially reluctant to tell the whole truth about co-sleeping. Understandably, most pregnant women hope to be models of maternal serenity. They imagine that on their return from the hospital, they would simply place their newborn in the bedside bassinet and set the alarm to wake and feed them a few hours later. Unfortunately, things don't always go according to plan.
More often than not, your baby does not fall asleep easily, several nights in a row, dozing off in your arms or on your chest but starting to scream as soon as you move to put them down. This is certainly a situation that tends to cause great fatigue and deep anxiety for the mother. This arrangement may last until a friend asks you the taboo question you'd been scared to ask yourself: "Have you considered co-sleeping?" But what exactly is co-sleeping?
Co-sleeping refers to sleeping in the same bed or a separate mattress in close proximity to your child, while bed-sharing refers to actually sleeping in the same bed. Both terms generally refer to having your child in an adult bed with the parent - a practice that goes against the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which recommends that infants should be placed on their backs and sleep in their own space with no other people. Moreover, co-sleeping should be avoided at all times with babies younger than four months because of the risks of sleep-related fatalities such as sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation, and strangulation. However, co-sleeping is much more common and less divisive in many other parts of the planet. According to a Yale University research, bed-sharing is traditional in at least 40% of all documented cultures.
After a period of successful co-sleeping, other questions may arise. Can my partner come back to "our" bed? What should we do during "hot" nights? Will the little one sleep with us forever? Nurses, pediatricians, family members, friends, and the internet have many answers about it. While co-sleeping is a subject parents talk about in hushed voices, you can find plenty of co-sleepers online, hiding in plain sight.
A 2015 CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) survey revealed that 61% of parents in the U.S. practice bed-sharing with their children, at least from time to time, up from only 13% in 2000 and 5.5% in 1993. This number may even be higher since many parents are not really transparent about their co-sleeping habits. Research has shown that when talking about their children's sleep, mothers and fathers often refer to where they begin their night, generally forgetting to mention that some kids move to their parent's bed later in the night.
Picture: Mom and baby co-sleeping (ChildUp & DALL-E - 2023)