CoSleeping: sharing your bed with an infant. A somewhat controversial practice, however, it is common in many countries around the world where an entire family of all ages may share the same "family bed". In Japan for example, all families cosleep until the child reaches toddler age.

In America, cosleeping is often covered up by parents because the party line of the AMA is that it is dangerous and leads to dependency and manipulation by the child as you try to wean her from the family bed.

Independent studies have shown that babies who cosleep breathe better. There is an interaction between the exhaled breath of the parent and receptors in the infant's nostrils that stimulate deep breathing. It has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS(Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other stress disorders. Infants are usually ready to stop cosleeping once they have normalized their breathing patterns around 5 months.

Cosleeping facilitates baby-mother interaction and allows the pair to synchronize their sleep/waking/feeding cycles.

Since cosleeping does result in the death of about 60 infants each year in America, the following precautions are imperative and must be followed when cosleeping, :

  • Parents should not sleep with their babies if they are smokers or have ingested alcohol or drugs.
  • Bedding should be tight fitting to the mattress.
  • The mattress should be tight fitting to the headboard of the bed.
  • There should not be any loose pillows or soft blankets near the baby's face.
  • There should not be any space between the bed and adjoining wall where the baby could roll and become trapped.
  • The baby should not be placed on its stomach.
  • Adjust sleeping arrangements as needed as baby develops new skills - rolling over, crawling, climbing

The safest arrangment for cosleeping is to place the infant between the mother and the edge of the bed, along with something to prevent the child from rolling off. This removes the danger of overlying by the father. It has been noted that there may be an awareness of the position of baby by a sleeping mother and a connection between them that does not exist with the sleeping father.

On a personal note, my little sister almost drowned in a water bed when she was sleeping in it and it sprung a leak. Absolute caution and awareness must be exercised while cosleeping.

references:
McKenna, J., Babies Need Their Mothers Beside Them,
Available March 25, 1999
http://www.naturalchild.com/guest/james_mckenna.html

McKenna, J., Rethinking "Healthy" Infant Sleep,
Available March 25, 1999
http://www.parenthoodweb.com/library/RethinkingSleep.htm

McKenna, J., Mosko, S., Dungy, C., McAninch, J.,
Sleep and arousal patterns of co-sleeping human mother/infant pairs: a preliminary physiological study with implications for the study of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS),
Am J Phys Anthropol, 83(3):331-47 1990 Nov.

McKenna J; Mosko S., Richard C.,
Bedsharing promotes breastfeeding, Pediatrics, 100(2 Pt 1):214-9 1997 Aug.

McKenna J; Mosko S; Richard C; Drummond S; Hunt L; Cetel MB; Arpaia J,
Experimental studies of infant-parent co-sleeping: mutual physiological and behavioral influences and their relevance to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome),
Early Hum Dev, 38(3):187-201 1994 Sep 15
Sears, W. SIDS: A parents guide to understanding and preventing sudden infant death syndrome,
New York: Little Brown & Company, 1995.