For families who share sleep with their children, it can be hard to understand why such a nurturing practice leads to so many raised eyebrows. Despite the cultural taboo against co-sleeping, there are many practical reasons why you should feel good about sleeping next to your children at night.
Protection from nighttime dangers
Human infants are born helpless and need constant care. Throughout human history, mothers have slept with their babies to protect and care for them during the night. The modern convention of putting babies to sleep in a separate room from their parents does not in fact benefit the baby.
Co-sleeping increases the chances that a parent will be able to quickly respond and intervene in the event that their baby is in crisis. Co-sleeping babies also enjoy added benefits of sleeping in physiological harmony with their moms which helps to regulate the infant's breathing, sleep state, arousal patterns, heart rates and body temperature.
Lowers risk for SIDS
One of the main arguments used against co-sleeping is that it will increase the risk of SIDS. This has not been proved true. In fact, according to Dr. William Sears, parenting expert, pediatrician and author of the book, The Baby Sleep Book and SIDS: A Parent's Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, “Co-sleeping, if practiced wisely and safely, can actually lower the risk of SIDS.” During his research, Sears has found more than 250 scientific references to support the benefits and disprove the myths about the dangers of bed-sharing.
Promotes deeper bonding and self-esteem
A deep sense of love and trust develops among family members who share sleep. Bed-sharing is not only good for infants, it is good for toddlers and children of all ages. Although Western culture often views children who sleep with their parents as spoiled and dependent, the opposite is actually true. Sharing sleep allows children to feel safe and comfortable at night because they know that an adult caregiver is always nearby.
Giving children the opportunity to develop independence naturally has been proven in many studies to correlate directly with increased self-esteem, less behavioral problems, less risky behaviors and increased happiness and satisfaction with life. Co-sleeping children are less likely to suffer from stress disorders than children who did not share sleep with their parents.
For breastfeeding moms, co-sleeping is the most convenient and comfortable sleeping arrangement because it does not require the mother to get out of bed several times a night to nurse her baby. Not only do nursing moms get more sleep and feel more rested, babies benefit too.
As explained by Dr. James McKenna in his 2005 study in Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, “After all, mother–infant co-sleeping represents the most biologically appropriate sleeping arrangement for humans… If anthropological evidence on infant sleep and development were integrated and used as a starting point to inform infant sleep research, there is no doubt that the question we would be asking is not if it is safe for an infant to sleep next to its breast feeding mother, but rather, is it safe not to!”