I hear of so many parents who are co sleeping unhappily. They are unable to relax with a baby in their bed and getting very little sleep. Perhaps the baby is fidgeting and waking them up all night long or maybe they are just having a hard time adjusting to having three in a bed. But they soldier on, thinking that this is what their baby needs. Often, you will all find a pattern, you will learn to sleep in close proximity to each other and bliss will return to your nights. Many times a bout of sickness, eczema or teething will be the cause of restlessness and once it is over peaceful sleep can resume.
But what if it doesn’t get better? Should you continue on unhappily?
There are many ways to co sleep with your baby and it is worth experimenting with a few until you find a way that works for the whole family. Here are a few options that might work for you –
Side car – This option allows for easy night feeding but provides a bit more space for everyone. A cot is attached to your bed with one side removed so that your mattresses are flush and you can roll over to baby or she can roll over to you. For some people the idea of the extra space is all that it takes to have a better nights sleep, even if it doesn’t end up getting used and you sleep cuddled up instead! It also means that you can feed laying down, so you wont have to get out of bed and try and resettle your little one by putting them down after every feed. It is also a good starting point for those who are wanting to start transitioning their child in to their own bed.
Hammock – There is a huge range of baby hammocks on the market. These can be set up right next to your bed or even above it and provide a soothing motion which can settle baby back to sleep when they begin to fidget and move. Hammocks are also wonderful for relieving the discomfort of reflux, as they enable baby’s head to be inclined slightly.
Floor mattress – Either as a family bed or just for baby, this idea stems from the Montessori method. It is a safe place for your baby to sleep and enables independence and exploration. Babies are not restricted and have the freedom to explore the whole room (which should obviously be made safe for such explorations). It also means that as they learn to crawl, children can be in control of their sleep habits, simply climbing on to the mattress when they need to rest. I would like to add, this doesn’t work for all children. Many (my son included!) will still need a loving person to help settle them to sleep with a cuddle, a feed or their own preferred method.
Cot – Kept close to your bed so you can respond quickly to their needs, this may be the answer for your family.
The definition of co sleeping is when your baby sleeps in close proximity to you. All of the above are variations on how to do it. Bed sharing, where your baby sleeps in your bed, is what most people think of when they picture co sleeping, and although it is a lovely way to sleep and has benefits such as stimulating milk, ease of breastfeeding, the ability to meet your baby’s needs while continuing to get your own rest, regulating your babies temperature and stimulating their breathing, leading to a safer nights sleep – among many other benefits – if it doesn’t work for your family, it doesn’t mean you cant continue to co sleep in other ways.
The benefits of co sleeping are endless. You will be able to meet your baby’s needs more quickly than if they were in their own room, bolstering their feelings of security and in the long term this will lead to a healthy attitude to sleep. In meeting their needs and teaching your child that you will always be there for them, you will give your child the confidence to test their independence in later years, secure in the knowledge that you will always be around. The bonding that comes from the whole family bedding down together is something really quite special, and gives everyone the opportunity to reconnect after a long day. This can be particularly beneficial to working parents who can rekindle their nursing relationship and use this time to just enjoy being together.