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Co-sleeping ... What's your opinion?

Whether you bring your baby to bed with you when he or she wakes up in the middle of the night ... or simply bring him or her straight to bed with you, it's hard to say "no" to some cuddle time with your little one. The "family bed" issue is one that has both proponents and opponents taking a side of the "bed."

So, for those who love the idea of co-sleeping ... what are the reasons?
  • Encourages breastfeeding by making nighttime feedings more convenient.
  • Helps a nursing mother get her sleep cycle in sync with her baby's.
  • Helps babies fall asleep more easily, especially during those first few months.
  • Helps parents who are away from their child during the day reconnect and regain that closeness.

Despite the possible pros, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns parents not to place their infants to sleep in adult beds, stating that the practice puts babies at risk of suffocation and strangulation. And the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees.

So, if you still want to co-sleep, make it as safe as possible.
  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Always leave your child's head uncovered while sleeping.
  • Make sure your mattress fits snugly in the bed frame so that your baby won't become trapped in between the frame and the mattress.
  • Don't place a baby to sleep in an adult bed alone.
  • Don't use pillows, comforters, quilts, and other soft or plush items on the bed.
  • Don't drink alcohol or use medications or drugs that may keep you from waking and may cause you to roll over onto, and therefore suffocate, your baby.

If you are a co-sleeping proponent, transitioning your baby to his or her own crib by 6 months is usually easier — for everyone — before the co-sleeping habit is ingrained. Eventually, though, the co-sleeping routine will likely be broken at some point, either naturally because the child wants to or by the parents' choice.

There are other ways you can keep your little one close by, but just not in your bed. For example, put a bassinet or crib next to your bed. This can help you maintain that desired closeness, which can be especially important if you're breastfeeding.

The co-sleeping choice is one many of us struggle with as parents. When my children were born, I got into the habit of co-sleeping (I was a working mom and wanted extra snuggle time at night). It was a difficult transition when the time came for my babies to have their own beds. My only advice is that co-sleeping is a personal choice, and each family has to do make a decision based on their comfort level with the co-sleeping arrangement.


Written by Kelly, a single mom with two children in college ... and finally getting some sleep.

September 2011