It is a commonly accepted rule never to wake a sleeping baby. Where a sleeping baby should lie, however, is still up for debate.
Bringing a baby into the parental bed—known as co-sleeping—is controversial in the United States. Some regard the practice as dangerous, especially after the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported at least 515 deaths of infants and toddlers younger than 2 years of age sleeping in adult beds from January 1990 to December 1997. According to the CPSC, placing babies to sleep in adult beds puts them at risk of suffocation or strangulation.
Others argue that co-sleeping encourages bonding and breastfeeding, helps nursing mothers get their sleep cycles in sync with their babies and allows infants to fall asleep more easily.
This week, our local Moms Council weighs the benefits and potential dangers of falling asleep with a baby.
What are your thoughts on co-sleeping? Did you or do you let your children sleep with you? Why or why not? When it comes to putting baby to bed, what's the best way?
Genevieve Suzuki: I subscribed to the attachment parenting practice of co-sleeping with our child. It was great when Quinn was first born. I didn’t have to go very far to feed her—I was breastfeeding, so it was really convenient.
As Quinn gets older, however, I feel like the kicks to the temple are wearing me thin. I don’t know how to get her out of our bed, either. She seems to like our morning cuddles, which sort of make up for those vicious kicks. Dr. William Sears, the author of The Baby Book, said his daughter wanted to sleep in her own bed at 3. Quinn’s at 2 years and 3 months. I’m counting the days, Dr. Sears. Here’s hoping Quinn follows suit and opts for bedtime independence before preschool—it’s either that or we have to get a much bigger bed.
Carol Yeh-Garner: I personally think that co-sleeping is a natural thing for parents to do, especially when the baby is a newborn and infant. That baby wants and needs a lot of attention and will be waking up often throughout the night, so why not make it easier on everyone if the baby is in the bed?
There are new-fangled products that allow the baby to sleep in-between mom and partner so that no one rolls onto the baby. There are also co-sleepers that attach to the side of the bed if in-bed co-sleeping isn't something people are comfortable with.
We had our babies in our bed in a product called a Snuggle Nest in between our pillows. It was so helpful to have the baby there so we could comfort him or her without having to get up out of the bed. Often, just a hand on them was enough to get them to quiet down. Also, because I was nursing, it was easier to just sit up and nurse than walk down the hall. It was the convenience of co-sleeping as well as the closeness to our babies that were the deciding factors that led us to co-sleep with our children.
Ray Pearson: We let our first child sleep in our bed and then were advised from our pediatrician that it was not a good idea for reasons of our child learning to become an independent sleeper. However, all three of our children have slept with us for naps and at times when they felt fearful or insecure. They eventually returned to their beds.
I think the most success came after baby three. We were able to stay on schedule and when he would cry we learned to not pick him up automatically, which was torture for us. If the crying kept going on we would let him know he was all right, but not pick him up unless he was wet or not feeling well. Eventually he learned to go to sleep on his own.
Edie Sanchez and Judy Halter: Putting a child to sleep is one of the hardest and sometimes most frustrating aspects of parenthood. The important thing is to figure out what works for you and to know that it is a very personal decision.
I know parents who let their kids cry it out when they were babies and they are wonderful families. I also know wonderful families who kept their children in the co-sleeper for a long time and spent more time on the bedtime routines. Your family culture really has to dictate how you handle it. That, and how well you sleep if your children are co-sleepers. Every little noise can add to the sleep deprivation that all parents experience with new babies.
This from a mom of older preschoolers: Her children were not "easy sleepers" as babies so the parents found ways of soothing them, always in a dark room at bedtime. They did find the co-sleeper bed more convenient for feeding and going back to sleep. They made sure there was a similar routine most evenings and a sound machine was always turned on when the room was dark.
She now reports: "Our son always wanted us to go to sleep with him and give him back rubs. Some nights this seemed to take forever but we talked about the day [and] he shared his thoughts and feelings. He loved my undivided attention, and I loved to see him relax and let go of the day. Now I tuck him in and say goodnight. He looks at his books and then falls asleep on his own. It was his decision and he was ready."
This from the mom of an infant: “For us, putting our baby to bed is all about a routine. The 4 B's: Bath, Book, Bottle, Bed! Mellow [as opposed to noisy or lively] playtime before the routine starts is also good. She falls asleep very quickly after the bedtime routines." This mom found co-sleeping disruptive to her nights so the baby has always slept in her own room.
As always, we recommend checking out some of the very good websites and books on getting children to sleep well. There is much written about it.
Meet our moms (and dad):
Genevieve Suzuki has one 2-year-old daughter. In addition to having her own law practice, she writes feature stories for Encinitas Patch. She is also the author of "The Original Poi Cats on O'ahu," a children's book published in Hawaii.
Carol Yeh-Garner is the mom of a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl who are constantly teaching her how to be a better person. She is also a local HypnoBirthing instructor and HypnoFertility practitioner.
Jennifer Zeglen is a mom to two imaginative girls, ages 4 and 6. She is also a local naturopathic doctor with a family medicine practice.
Ray Pearson is the father of three children, ages 26, 23 and 17. He lives with his wife in Carlsbad and devotes most of his nonwork time to young people and the Rotary Club.
Stacey Ross has one 7-year-old boy and 8-year-old-daughter who remind her daily how precious life is. In addition to running two websites, she writes feature stories for the Carlsbad Patch as well as shares local and national deals for the "Frugal Family" column.
Judy Adams Halter and Edie High Sanchez are certified Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB) instructors with a combined 50 years of parenting experience. Halter is the mother of four children, ages 21, 19, 17 and 14. Sanchez has two grown daughters and three grandchildren; two girls, ages 1 and 5, and a boy, age 7. Both women live in La Jolla.