Co-sleeping is a debated issue. On top of that, if your child is in daycare, it can present another layer to the decision you make about whether or not to do it.
In this article we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of co-sleeping, and what people are saying about it online.
Understanding the different forms of co-sleeping and how they change the debate around it
The first thing to know however, is the need to understand the specific terms of co-sleeping. Since co-sleeping can happen in different environments, and in different styles, the debate should focus around those circumstances. It should not be about the ‘blanket’ issue of co-sleeping (no pun intended!).
So what are the co-sleeping terms to be aware of on this issue? Here are some:
Bed-sharing with your toddler: this is co-sleeping in the same bed. Most of the ‘con’ arguments around co-sleeping are about the potential risks of bed-sharing.
Sofa-sharing with your toddler: this is falling asleep on the couch together, which is generally not a good idea. It exacerbates the fears associated with bed-sharing. And, most can see why: the limited space, and the cushy material can more easily suffocate or trap a child.
Room-sharing with your toddler: you can be co-sleeping while in two separate beds! This is stereotypically believed to be the better choice, but can be preferential. You can buy specially-made co-sleeper beds for this type of arrangement.
The other factors that affect the pros and cons of co-sleeping are:
- Whether you and your child are sleeping in a waterbed
- Whether you are smoking, drinking alcohol or using other substances while co-sleeping with your child
- Whether other siblings or children are also in the bed
- What you are wearing – stringy material, jewelry, etc. could get caught during the night
- How obese you are
- How sensitive the caregiver (parent or sitter) is to a child’s movements in bed
- The type of guardrail or barrier being used to prevent rolling off the bed
The cons of co-sleeping with your toddler or child
Here are some of the noted cons about co-sleeping with your toddler. However, do know that these are not necessarily ‘proven.’ They can also be dependent on personalities and the specific situations you and your child are in.
Lack of ability to sleep alone: what to do about daycare?
This presents a challenge especially if you are planning to send your child to daycare. Co-sleeping and daycare can be a challenging equation for parents, as read about in forums like this one.
If your child is so used to falling asleep next to you, and being able to snuggle comfortably all the time, they may have trouble when that routine is broken. This can create an adjustment period when it’s time to start napping at daycare.
Solutions to this co-sleeping weaning period can include:
- Sleep training before daycare starts.
- Introducing another ‘comfort’ element, like a lovey or bottle to soothe your child to sleep alone.
- Teaching daycare providers on how to soothe your child to sleep, such as by rubbing their back.
- Using the ‘cry it out’ method (though we know that’s hard).
Lack of rest for parents
This is a big one. If your little one kicks, turns and cries during the night, it may make it hard for you to get the rest you need as a parent. And a cranky parent can be as worse as a cranky kid (don’t you think?).
Fear of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) when bed-sharing or sofa-sharing
While this is a fear, advocates of co-sleeping are saying it is a misconception. Reports of SIDS have happened while co-sleeping, but apparently, not by a huge percentage compared to all cases. Plus, some argue that the specifics are important to identify in these reports (such as the ones noted above).
The pros of co-sleeping with your toddler or child
Again, while all of these ‘pros’ sound great, they can be situational. Like the cons, it’s hard to say if these benefits of co-sleeping are proven facts, or in need of more research. And sometimes, they may just sound like the kind of parenting you’d like to do, and that can be preferential.
More intimacy with your child, and more stress-fighting hormones
The snuggle and cuddle during co-sleeping feels good, doesn’t it? Science says there’s more benefits to cuddling than we realize, due to the hormones it releases. It can reduce stress, which in turn, can help our physical bodies fight sickness and depression. So imagine how all that loveable touching at night can affect your child during the day!
However, keep in mind that hugs may not be equated with co-sleeping in all these studies. And, one article we found does state that “evidence to support those claims regarding the emotional and psychological benefits of co-sleeping has not been scientifically documented.”
But, to counter the lack of scientific documentation, some say parents may just feel better about themselves by spending time with their child in bed. If your child is going to daycare, this may be a way for you to increase your parent-child bond, making up for the time away from each other.
Easier time breastfeeding
If you’re still nursing, some will say that co-sleeping makes that easier. There will be less getting up and back into bed this way. And, if you’re picking up your child multiple times a night out of their crib, you’re probably going to bring them back to mommy’s big bed anyway at some point.
And, the article linked to above also states that “prolactin (milk producing hormone) levels are increased with increased nighttime breastfeeding.” So if you’re having trouble in that department, maybe this might help? By toddler age, we’re not so sure this is necessary though.
This can be turned into a con though, if the constant waking up during the night to feed is hard to wean.
Less risk of SIDS
While this may sound contrary to the ‘con’ noted above, the studies linked to there show there may actually be less risk of SIDS with co-sleeping. Yours to decide after reading the research!
To conclude: whether or not you co-sleep is up to you!
So far, as you can tell, the pros and cons of co-sleeping are hard to define. Some points outweigh others, and the science is not fully defined (as it rarely is). Plus, you’ll also meet parents who are convinced of either method. The important thing is that you do your own research, and make a decision that fits with yourself. Safely co-sleeping with your child, such as in the same room, but not the same bed, is one way to start. And, a plan for adjusting that routine before registering for daycare could solve the over-attachment issue.
See more on our blog:
- 4 Strategies to help your toddler get a good night’s sleep
- Do young kids need sleeping aids like melatonin? Keep these things in mind
- The importance of sleep in early childhood
- Attachment parenting and daycare: how does it work?