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Co-sleeping: Whose bed is it anyway?

The co-sleeping debate rages on. This very personal decision is one that should be considered from all angles. Here are some co-sleeping tips from a mum who’s been sharing her bed for a little longer than she expected to…

Family co-sleeping

Photo credit: Christopher Futcher/iStock/Getty Images

I write this with two other people sleeping soundly beside me. Nope, no naughtiness going on here. These people are small, cute, cuddly: my children. We are a family of co-sleepers. A controversial statement and one that has provoked a wide range of reactions over the years, from curiosity, to bewilderment, to blatant, undisguised disgust. I remember one friend—who, unsurprisingly, is no longer a friend—telling me: “You’re not doing the best for your son.” I stared at her, lost for words, a first-time mum who was trying her hardest to do just that.

Like all aspects of parenting, where your children sleep is entirely down to you. In my case, I followed tradition—I’m from a family of co-sleepers—and instinct. It felt completely natural to have my newborn son in bed with me, particularly as I was breastfeeding on demand (a.k.a. all of the night, every night).

If you do want to share a bed with your child(ren), make sure you take all necessary safety precautions. Oh and invest in a super king-size bed if possible. Trust me, it’s worth it.

What does co-sleeping research say?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that there is a higher risk of infant death while co-sleeping, especially when the baby is less than 11 weeks old, if either parent smokes, has drunk alcohol recently or is on any type of medication that makes them sleep more heavily than normal.

On the other hand, advocates of co-sleeping claim that it makes breastfeeding easier and more successful for both mother and baby, which studies have linked to a lower risk of cot death.

Safe co-sleeping tips

  • Make the sleeping area safe for your infant. Eliminate all risks, for example fill a gap between the bed and the headboard with a pillow.
  • Get rid of the duvet to reduce the risk of your infant overheating. Make sure no loose blankets, pillows or other coverings could trap your baby or cover his or her face.
  • Never, ever share a bed with your baby if you’ve been drinking, smoking or taking medication that makes you drowsy. It’s a no-brainer.

Read more on safe co-sleeping >>

Time to stop co-sleeping?

While I’m an advocate of co-sleeping, I’m at the stage now where I’m wondering if it’s gone too far. My son is six, he shared my bed until he was almost two and is now great at settling himself in his own bed. My daughter, on the other hand, is a different story. She’s almost four and I have more fingers than the number of nights she’s spent in her own bed. It’s not her fault. It’s all she’s ever known.

The thing is, I kind of like having her toasty little body curled up to me. I’m single so nobody else is there to do it. She’s the perfect oversized hot water bottle on a cold winter’s night. And waking up to her beautiful little face grinning at me is just the perfect start to the day. However, I’m aware that it has to stop soon. I’m not quite sure who is more dependent on whom but I’m 30-something and she’s three so I need to suck it up and take this one by the reins. She’s an amazing, bright, sparky little girl but she can be clingy with me and particularly shy in social situations. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that she is glued to my side all night, every night.

Sleep training here we come…

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Can you leave your baby to cry?
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