Ask Amma

Where Should Baby Sleep?

In Where on 26 May 2012 at 1:30 am

Difference of opinion: Where should baby sleep? I strongly feel its always better to have the baby bed next to the mother rather than putting the baby on a crib. My husband feels that sleeping separately would make baby independent and he also feels that we might accidentally hurt the baby if we all sleep on a queen bed ( we currently have no room for a king bed). How do I convince my husband?

mom-to-be in Maryland

You have told me your opinion and your husband’s opinion regarding where baby should sleep.  There is one more opinion that deserves consideration, and that is the opinion of the one who is sleeping – the baby!  Nestled in the arms of a parent, comforted by human warmth, sound and breathing rhythms, babies sleep and learn about the world around them.  Unlike other primates that “cling” to their mothers, “human infants are dependent upon their mothers to ensure that proximity is maintained,” says Professor Helen Ball of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab of Durham University in her article Bed Sharing and Co-Sleeping: Research Overview .

You may want to ask yourself, must one read and research to figure out where baby should sleep?   Without reading a word, the baby knows very well where s/he should sleep.   Nevertheless, since there is a lot of push in Western and Westernizing societies towards separate sleeping (for babies, though not for the grown-ups!), some doctors have written popular articles that defend the baby’s rightful place in the family bed by explaining the Scientific Benefits of Co-Sleeping.

To put to rest your fears of hurting the baby, keep in mind that unless under the influence of drugs or alcohol, mothers remain aware of baby even while asleep.  Other family members might not have this “protective awareness,” and hence in the family bed, it is safer to keep baby next to mother.

Several bestselling books and sleep consultants will tell you that sleeping separately helps babies sleep “through the night” and recommend techniques to crush baby’s resistance to doing so.  These techniques ignore some basic Infant Sleep Facts.  Babies know their sleep rhythm.  They would call into question the much-marketed goal of all-night sleeping, or redefine it to allow for intermittent waking, nursing and resumption of sleeping.  Sharing sleep fulfills baby’s emotional and physical needs at that stage of development – when a need it fulfilled, it will be outgrown.  Giving up hope does not equal independence.

Sharing sleep with baby allows parents to hear the baby’s voice, long before baby resorts to crying.  A baby sleeping separately must cry aloud to get heard, whereas a baby in the bed can cultivate other forms of communication, and parents similarly learn to recognize baby’s signals, such as change of breathing pattern, searching with mouth to latch on, relaxation or tension of fists, stretching neck, sighs, uncertain glances, looking like he is about to pee.  Responding to these signals saves baby’s energy (otherwise used in crying) and gives baby time to look around and take in all the sights, sounds, movements, communication patterns.

Mayim Bialik has written beautifully about sharing sleep with her family in Beyond the Sling.

See also:  James McKenna, “Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone” on neuroanthropology.net.

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  1. I my husband and I have been co-sleeping with our 20 month old daughter since she was a newborn. We had a co-sleeper bassinet next to our bed, but she could rarely sleep alone unless she was especially tired. Co-sleeping has worked amazingly for us, we have a queen sized bed

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  2. I also want to add that I agree with Ask Amma, let your baby decide where they are most comfortable. Is the baby content and happy to be sleeping alone, or do they want to be close to you? I believe co-sleeping is best for baby. It also facilitates better breastfeeding at night because mother and baby get more sleep. I would read more about the psychological and developmental benefits of co-sleeping, and how the negative stigma surrounding co-sleeping is not a reality. Read any book by Dr. Sears or go to askdrsears.com.

    http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/sleep-problems/co-sleeping-yes-no-sometimes

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