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September 15th, 2008
12:16 PM ET

Sharing the bed with baby

By Shahreen Abedin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

On Sunday we were hanging out with friends when I heard my husband say something that immediately raised red flags for me. “Yeah, by November the baby should be out of our room and in his own crib.” Gulp! About a month ago, he had voiced his desire to have our then-8-month old sleep in his own crib all night, but my compromise was to install a bed rail guard on one side, so we would have the option of putting the munchkin on one side of us, instead of between us.

Yes, we are co-sleeping parents. And apparently there are many opinions about co-sleepers among “crib-sleeper” parents, as highlighted in the current issue of Parenting magazine. ( read Parenting article). According to its national survey, nearly half of all crib-sleepers feel that co-sleeper parents are “irresponsible” and that they are putting their baby’s health at risk. Almost 40 percent think we’re spoiling the baby by not fostering an independent sleeper.

It’s always seemed unnatural to me that we would banish our small child to sleep alone. It was also more efficient for me to have him right there when I was breastfeeding throughout the night. And when my baby wraps his arms around my neck and snuggles with me, it’s clear that he feels secure and slumbers much better. Four other couples we know also share their beds. I’m not sure whether it matters that three of them are also of South Asian descent (like me), and the other couple is from Spain. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, since many cultures find it unusual to NOT sleep with your baby.

I understand that SIDS concerns are associated with co-sleeping, and that’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend the practice. (read AAP recommendation) That’s a safer stance to take than risking parents rolling over onto their babies in bed, causing harm or even death.

We started sleeping with him in the bed only after he was a couple of months old. When he was teeny he slept in the bassinet pulled up right next to me. And when he sleeps in the crib, since we never put him in our bed without one of us with him, we are careful about all of the other SIDS risk factors (read about SIDS) including keeping blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals out of the way, placing him on his back, and avoiding overheating.

From a safety standpoint, we’re doing OK. No smushed babies here. One of the tenets of co-sleeping that I do think is critical is that it’s based upon agreement by all three parties: both parents and the baby. If any one of these people is uncomfortable with the arrangement, then it’s time to give it up and put “baby in the corner” (crib, that is).

So, now I need to learn how to transition to this new arrangement and I need help. For you co-sleepers out there, what helped you make that transition, and when did you do it? Was it emotionally harder for you than it was for the baby? For you crib-sleepers, do you think parents like me are putting their own needs above the baby’s? If SIDS wasn’t a concern, would you still have a problem with it?

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soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. over six years

    I have a six and a four year old. I still sleep with them every night. It is entirely because I can't seem to fall asleep without them. My bedroom is too far away from their bedroom, and I just can't sleep knowing that I won't wake up if they call for me. When they were little, I had a mattress on the floor in a separate bedroom that we slept on. It was hard like a crib mattress and free of pillows blankets and toys. It seemed much safer than getting out of bed in the middle of the night to change or feed the baby. I can't tell you how many parents that I know of who have dropped their baby in the middle of the night. I certainly would have been one of those parents.

    As for intimacy between my husband and me, the kids are asleep for a good 4 hours before I go to bed. There is plenty of time for hanging out with my hubby before I actually go to bed. (Even if we didn't have kids, I might sleep in another room. My husband is a very restless sleeper, and I find it hard to sleep soundly next to him.)

    All I know is that it works for us. We all get plenty of rest and get along very well. I'm sure that someday soon they will kick me out of their room, and I'll have to find a way to take back a corner of the King bed my husband thinks is all his.

    September 23, 2008 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Gee

    My daughter just turned 3yrs and still sleeps with mom and dad(when he's home). I use to be one of those that thought letting your kids sleep with you was wrong. Now as a parent myself I feel like I'm keeping her safe.

    As far as SIDS isn' safer to keep your child close than in another room where you will be less likely to hear and react quicker. Good moms don't crush their babies or let the dads.

    Enjoy your baby as long as it keeps you and your little one happy and safe.

    September 24, 2008 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Beth

    We have a 2- and a 4-year old, both girls. We have slept together since they were born. I do not regret that decision. It has been a time to bond and cuddle and be together. They're little only once and I want to be able to look back and remember those precious moments and unique conversations we have as they drift off to sleep in their Mommy's arms. It makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world. Whatever works for your family is the right thing. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

    September 28, 2008 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Valerie Levine

    I am a psychologist and have written a book that can help parents teach their kids how to sleep independently. "Break the Co-Sleeping Habit" explains the difference between co-sleeping as a plan versus co-sleeping as a habit that parents can change. Techniques are provided that apply to all ages of children.

    February 24, 2009 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Melissa

    Well I can't say I am surprised by some of these postings. I am a co-sleeping parent and have heard it from other parents I know. The bottom line is that is is your decision as the parents. I am a new parent and as all of you parents know there are opinions about the "right" and "wrong" way to do everything involving your child. As long as you are co-sleeping responsibly, it should not be an issue. My son is 8 months old and has been sleeping through the night since 3 months. I can basically put him anywhere and he sleeps soundly. I am lucky in that. I breastfeed as well and decided on co-sleeping for a number of reasons besides the convenience of having him next to me for nursing.
    I understand it is not for everyone but I can't stand people using these awful scare tactics to stray people from co-sleeping. Leave co-sleeping parents alone! My son is such a happy boy and even though he is only 8 months old he definitely shows no signs of insecurity. He goes to anyone that wants to hold him and loves other babies. All I ever hear is how laid back and happy he is. I know it's a long road from him being an adult but I feel I am helping him know that he is very loved and that his mommy and daddy will always be here when he needs us.
    My mother lost a baby to SIDS and she did not co-sleep. For all of you that are throwing that around and not experienced it firsthand, please stop. I hope that no one pondering the idea of co-sleeping has let people sway them from it. Just read into the safe ways to do it and you will be ok.
    As for the original question of when and how to switch to a crib...I am in the same boat. But from everyone I talked to, every child is different. Sorry I couldn't offer my advice, but I couldn't pass this posting up and not say something. So best of luck to you and sweet co-sleeping. 🙂

    March 11, 2009 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. 1st-Time Parent

    This is *not* a cultural thing.

    My wife and I are both caucasian (white anglo-saxon american) and sleep with our child, just like our parents did (whom are all white anglo-saxon.)

    Felt the need to burst the bubble that co sleeping is only done by african/asian cultures.

    June 8, 2009 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. co sleeping mommy of 3

    Human beings the only mammal that tries to put their babies in another room...There is too much information out there, research it yourself. US has highest infant mortality of any industrialized nation.

    I would never put my baby/ young child in a room to sleep. I think its completly unsafe!

    SIDS is believed to be caused by overheating and overcooling – not being good ad temp regulation....a mother sleeping next to a baby does this naturally with out even waking up.

    SUFFOCATION IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

    Also, sometimes babys "stop" breathing. When a steady breathing rythym is nearby, it reminds the baby to breath.

    Yes there are times when it is not approp. Drugs, Alcohol, overtired, Obese....

    Also, all of my children are ready for a sleepover at relatives houses whenever...They have NO separation anxiety. 🙂

    June 17, 2010 at 03:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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