5 Benefits to co-sleeping past infancy

Katherine - posted on 01/19/2011 ( 98 moms have responded )

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Cosleeping, also known as “sharing sleep” or having a “family bed,” is a parenting practice that still smacks of taboo in our Western culture. But recent scientific studies are building a much stronger argument for the benefits of sharing sleep with our children.1 Yet even with the scientific support and the changing cultural perception of cosleeping, the subject is typically constrained to parents of infants.

It is still socially taboo to admit that you share sleep with toddlers or older children, but research shows that the taboo is unfounded. Children who cosleep are generally more independent and secure, develop close and lasting bonds to their families, and report more happiness and general life satisfaction than children who sleep alone. There are many reasons that sharing sleep with your children is healthy and beneficial even after they’ve started walking, but below are five of the best reasons.

Five Reasons to Continue Cosleeping Past Infancy
1.Cosleeping Can Further Both Trust and Independence
One common argument against cosleeping is that it will create children who are more dependent on parents than children who sleep alone, or that cosleeping children will never learn to sleep alone. “But this is like saying that by putting a baby in diapers, she’ll be in diapers throughout her life, or that by using a stroller or carrying her, she’ll never learn to walk.”2

As a matter of fact, the opposite is actually true: children who shared sleep with their parents are actually more independent than their solo sleeping peers. Recent research has shown:

*Solitary sleepers have actually been found to be more dependent on their parents than co-sleepers.

*Co-sleeping boys ages three and older were shown to have no greater difficulty separating from one or both parents than solitary sleeping boys. (In this study, girls were not observed for this trait.)

*The majority of family bed graduates consider themselves more independent than their peers.3
And why shouldn’t cosleepers be more independent?! They learned from infancy that they could trust their caregivers to quickly respond to their needs, no matter what time of day or night it was. “You are not encouraging dependency when you sleep with your baby. You are responding to a need and teaching your child about trust.”4 “Children, given time to learn to trust those around them, and thus learn that their own feelings and needs are legitimate, will develop a true, enduring sense of independence.”5


Melissa of Simple Whimsy and her family snoozing peacefully.
2.Parents Are the Ultimate Security Blankets
The image of a child sucking his thumb or carrying around a treasured blanket or teddy is a very familiar one in our culture. Search the internet and you’ll find all kinds of advice columns and articles on how to transition children away from these practices. But research has revealed something very interesting: children who cosleep do not need replacement security figures. Children feel more secure as a result of being close to their caregivers.

“When a child routinely goes to sleep in the presence of an adult, or with an adult holding her, it’s extremely rare to find thumb sucking or attachment to security objects.” In a study of children ages one to seven years old who all sucked their thumbs, 96% of them “had been left alone to fall asleep as infants. In stark contrast, there were no thumb suckers among a large group of children who had physical contact with an adult while falling asleep.” In a different study of children between three and five years old, researchers found “that solitary sleepers were far more likely to use a security object than co-sleepers. The researchers concluded that children use security objects as substitutes for nighttime human touch.”6

Our culture emphasizes the desirability of teaching children to self-soothe, and parents are encouraged to introduce security objects to help in this process. But in the dark of the night, why not allow a child to experience the love and comfort of a parent? If we teach our children to rely on things for comfort, what effect will this have on them later in life during times of stress? Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to reach out to people?

3.Cosleeping Can Have Positive Effects on Self-Esteem and Family Closeness
As Dr. Sears says, welcoming children into the family bed sends incredible “I care” messages. It says “you are special to us, day and night.”7 A little one welcomed into the family bed receives “countless hours more tender snuggles, and more affection than if she were left alone to sleep. If she wakes up at night, all she has to do is see you or reach out and touch you to feel the world is safe and right.”8

And parents who fall asleep and/or wake up next to their children know how sweet it can be in those sleepy twilight hours. With everyone relaxed and cuddled up, children feel peaceful and ready to share their thoughts and stories, things that you might never hear during the hustle and bustle of daily life. “[Y]ou can get to know a family bed child on a level you might not otherwise. In the words of Thomas Anders, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, and director of the school’s infant and family sleep laboratory: ‘Co-sleeping encourages family closeness.’” These sentiments have been reinforced by research: the “vast majority” of both family bed graduates and their parents report that they are incredibly close to their families.9

4.Children Who Cosleep May Be Easier to Get Along With and Better Adjusted Than Their Solo Sleeping Peers
Psychologists in years past theorized that children in family beds were maladjusted, insecure, needy, and that their parents were languishing in bad marriages. Recent research blows the old theories out of the water. Here is a sample of what we’ve learned:

*Children who never slept in their parents’ beds were harder to control, less happy, had more tantrums, handled stress less well, and were more fearful than routinely co-sleeping children.

*Co-sleepers showed a feeling of general satisfaction with life.

*Children who didn’t co-sleep end up getting more professional help with emotional and behavioral problems than co-sleepers.

*Boys who slept in the family bed had increased self-esteem and less guilt and anxiety. Girls had more comfort with physical contact and affection.

*Children who had co-slept felt they weren’t as prone to peer pressure as others their age.10
Psychologists have long agreed “that children who have responsive, sensitive, accessible parents are much more likely to be happier later in life. It should come as no surprise, then, that children whose parents are there for them day and night turn out so well.”11

5.Everyone Sleeps Better
As long as cosleeping works for you12 and your child, why change it? If you can get past learning to nurse while sleeping and wild toddler sleeping arrangements,13 continuing to share sleep with your little one may help your whole family sleep better into your child’s preschool years and beyond.

And when I say that everyone sleeps better, I really mean it. Scientific studies have shown that a family who sleeps together actually enters the different stages of sleep together almost simultaneously. Dr. Jay Gordon shared a beautiful illustration about the science behind this concept in his book, Good Nights: The Happy Parent’s Guide to the Family Bed (and a Peaceful Night’s Sleep!)14:

Science is finally beginning to discover what babies have known all along: Babies are designed to sleep with their parents. And parents are designed to sleep with their babies.
At the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, anthropologist James McKenna, Ph.D., watches an intimate dance unfold. It’s a dance in which there’s no leader, no follower, and yet almost seamless choreography.
A mother and father sleep with their baby between them in a large bed in the laboratory’s comfortable bedroom. It’s similar to the way they sleep at home, only with infrared video cameras monitoring their sleep stages, zooming in on every roll of an eyeball, every twitch of muscle, all night long.
All is quiet and still, except for the rapidly moving, closed eyes of the baby, mother, and father. They’re all dreaming at the same time. Moments later they enter a stage of light sleep together: The mother stirs, awakens for just a moment, and drifts back to sleep, moving her head a little to the left, her arm to the right. The baby stirs, moves her head to the left, her arm to the right. Then the father follows with the same pattern. McKenna, director of the lab, smiles broadly and nods his head.
“It’s incredible watching these sequences unfold,” says McKenna, acclaimed as the father of this type of sleep research and the world’s foremost authority on the biological basis of cosleeping. “The synchronization that happens when parents sleep beside their baby is remarkable.”
Similar experiments in England find the same dance with family bedders. But place the baby in another room, and it’s like putting a wall between a pair of ballroom dancers. Everyone reverts to their own rhythms, their sleep cycles coinciding only by chance.15
http://naturalparentsnetwork.com/five-be...

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Johnny - posted on 01/19/2011

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I just want to add that co-sleeping is only dangerous if you do not follow proper safety protocols. The exact same thing applies to putting children in cribs.

Minnie - posted on 01/19/2011

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I won't ever tell a mother she has to sleep with her babes.



But I'll defend cosleeping to the death! We are still enjoying cosleeping- still with our 4 1/2 year old and bedsharing with our 27 month old.



Breathing of the same air is not dangerous. It's not sitting in a stagnant cloud between mother and babe, seriously. The force of each other's breath, movement in the room (we also always sleep with a fan on) keeps the air circulating. We don't sleep in a paper bag.



We also aren't going to force our children out of the bedroom so no issues there. They're not going to be snoozing with us every night at 18. But you know what? I remember being a teenager and both my mother and myself thoroughly enjoying late-night talks and then sleeping in the same bed together. And I have no troubles getting off to sleep myself.



This seriously is a hang-up of western culture. Even IF teenagers slept in the same room as their parents there is nothing WRONG with that. And there is nothing WRONG with bedsharing with an infant, if it is done safely. It's not stunting development, it's not hindering independence- really, people do go off and do other things during the daylight hours. We are a family and we like to sleep together. Humans have done this for as long as they have existed and continue to do it across the globe- and enjoy doing it.

Tara - posted on 01/20/2011

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Just wanted to point out to Mandy that over 90% of the worlds population co-sleep.
And if it were so dangerous our species would never have survived at all.
How do you explain those numbers Mandy?
Co-sleeping when done safely is better for babies than sleeping alone.

Charlie - posted on 01/19/2011

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"I completely am against co -sleeping. It just causes more upset for your child when teaching them to sleep in there own room. It will just confuse them. own bed from day 1. "

As you can tell by the many statements here it is far from the truth .

"They are not supposed to sleep that close to you. Dangerous with breathing and all."

Dr James Mckenna is the worlds leading expert on infant sleep and SIDS he actually recommends it ( following the guidelines of course ) not only are they "supposed" to sleep next to you it is biologically meant to be he even wrote a paper on it :
Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives:
Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone

by James J. McKenna Ph.D.,

"In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world. "
Interesting !

"irrepressible (ancient) neurologically-based infant responses to maternal smells, movements and touch altogether reduce infant crying while positively regulating infant breathing, body temperature, absorption of calories, stress hormone levels, immune status, and oxygenation. In short, and as mentioned above, cosleeping (whether on the same surface or not) facilitates positive clinical changes including more infant sleep and seems to make, well, babies happy. In other words, unless practiced dangerously, sleeping next to mother is good for infants. The reason why it occurs is because… it is supposed to."

http://www.naturalchild.org/james_mckenn...

Jenn - posted on 06/06/2012

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I co-slept and extended breasted both of my daughters. My youngest stopped breast feeding at 26 months and they both continued to co-sleep with my husband and I until just last summer, ages 4 and 6. I was the first to want them in their own beds but as I do, I waited until they were ready. Hubby still misses them :) it was a very sweet and special time for our family. Neither child has attachment issues or need security blankets, animals, etc.

Sex was never an issue! We have a large house and got pretty creative which made it fun and sexy. I would lay with the girls until they dozed off and could masterfully exit the bed without them even stirring. They slept all night!

Transitioning them to their twin beds in their room was so easy! I lay with them nightly for about a month, then they didn't need me anymore. Occasionally on weekends, they climb into our bed in the middle of the night and we are perfectly happy with that. Children grow up SO fast and I cherish this time that they want to be close to us, even if it is becoming less.

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Toshia - posted on 06/06/2012

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With drop side crib _ ive looked into that_ how do you get them to stay in the bed (not fall) when they are mobile later in the first months and so on!!!!

Toshia - posted on 06/06/2012

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I am going to co-sleep hopefully for maybe 6m-1y but not past that. I mean sheesh can you say NO sex life what so ever with a toddler in our bed!!! Wtheck how do grown ups have grown up relationships with their little one in the (family bed) is there some other bed for sex then? idk..... im wanting to EBF so co-sleeping while breastfeeding sounds great, past that though,,,,not for me i think!!!!

Charlie - posted on 01/23/2011

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Another way is to have a drop side crib and remove one side so it is open and level with your bed this way you still have your bed , you are still co sleeping and they have their own little bed attached to yours , as long as it is secure against your bed it is fantastic and you can put them down anytime , I usually put Harry down for a sleep and then come in an hour later .

Katherine - posted on 01/22/2011

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I co-sleep and I get my daughter off to sleep and then I go to bed later on. I put a rail up in the bed and it's not that high off the ground.

Krista - posted on 01/22/2011

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was sleeping in the longue next to her while she was a newborn (with her in a bassinette) then when she absolutely coudlnt fit into the basinnete anymore I slept on the floor next to her cot in her room until we got the new baby video monitor

Mandy, as far as I'm aware, that does qualify as co-sleeping. No you didn't bedshare, but you were within arm's reach of her, and she was able to smell you and sense your nearness. So you would have still gotten some of the benefits of co-sleeping anyway.

Personally, I'm not comfortable with bedsharing. We have a very high bed, and I'm overweight, so I don't think we could do it safely. I do love those co-sleeper jobbies that snug up right NEXT to the bed, though, because the baby still has her own space and you can't roll onto her, but she's still nice and close. I'm seriously considering one of those for our next kid.

Krista - posted on 01/22/2011

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I guess what I have a question about is this: how does the whole bedtime thing work for you co-sleepers? Do you wind up all going to bed at the same time as your baby/toddler? I can't imagine going to bed for the night at 7pm -- I wouldn't get a damn thing done. But I also can't imagine keeping Sam up until 11 at night (our usual bedtime), when we all have to get up at 6am during the week. He'd be an absolute BEAR on that little sleep.

So how do you guys do bedtime?

Stifler's - posted on 01/22/2011

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I don't co sleep and sometimes we do it in our spare room for fun. In our old bed from when we were young and childless and went at it like rabbits LOL.

Minnie - posted on 01/22/2011

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It's been answered before, Cyndel, but anyways, people who cosleep do it else where :).



The couch, the floor of any other room, the table, the counter, the shower...you get the picture!



We've got a bed in my husband's office for times when a bed is nice for that.

Cyndel - posted on 01/22/2011

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We co-slept with our son until he learned to roll (we had uncovered cement floors and we couldn't afford carpets), then we put him in a crib in our room until he was ten months. He woke up about three times a night, He is a really light sleeper so we figured we were waking him up, We put him in his room, then after the first week he only woke up once a night until he was 14 months when he started sleeping through the night.
For a few months he would come into our room at night (once he was in a toddler bed) but he kicked us to the point that we woke up sore and more tired then when we laid down so we trained him to sleep in his own bed. We bring him into bed with us when he is sick. But beyond that he stays in his bed.
When I have this baby in a few months I will co-sleep with it probably longer then I did with our son. We now have wood floors with soft carpet ontop so I don't worry so much about real injury from the short fall from our bed. Plus now I can make a roll bar for the baby.
Any way, we aren't much for long term co-sleeping. However I wonder what the effects/benifits would be for co-sleeping siblings (up to a certain age of course)? I'm considering putting both into one bed in a few years. Maybe, maybe not, not sure.
But i know a family who co-sleeps long term, and their youngest is the boldest most independent and self-reliant child I know.
Other question, parents who long term co-sleep, how does it affect your sex life? Is it a major disadvantage to you or are you satisfied with it?

Peggy - posted on 01/21/2011

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Both my children had their cribs in my room when they were little.. my oldest slept in hers till she was almost 2 then started sleeping in bed with me and did so until she was about 8 or 9. When she finally started staying in her own room she was fine.. not scared ect. She NEVER went to daycare nor ever had a babysitter if my grandmother couldnt watch her... the day she started preschool she didnt have a tear nor was she latched on to my leg as in having separation issues. She has grown to be a very caring, independent mature teenager who gives me no trouble. She is a Sophomore in High School taking Honors classes completing her Junior credits. My youngest would either fall asleep with me and I would carry her to her bed or I lay with her every night till she falls asleep in her own bed. She used to wake up in the middle of the night every night and come crawl in bed with us. For the last 3 months she no longer wakes up. She is also a very sweet affectionate girl. I personally LOVE the co-sleeping!! It gives us extra cuddle time just mommy/daughter... and you would be surprised things that they feel comfortable talking about when its in a quiet/relaxed setting. I did find that my girls didnt kick or flip/flop as much if they were sleeping on the side of the bed and not in the middle.. and normally sleep longer in the morning.

Cassie - posted on 01/21/2011

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I LOVE the co-sleepers t-shirt. Although they should add a few... It should say "Co-sleepers do it in the kitchen... and the bathroom... and the living room... on the table..."

Well... maybe that would take up too much room on the shirt. I love it just the way it is! And I love bed-sharing with Kiera and co-sleeping with Emma!

Rose - posted on 01/21/2011

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thanx for the info. I have been thinking it's actually a negative thing that i still cosleep with my 14 month old baby. At first it was for fear of SIDS but now I enjoy it.

Charlie - posted on 01/20/2011

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Well I live in NSW but had to go to the ACT to give birth and I was so amazed at how natural they were in regards to things like co sleeping , breastfeeding ect ect .

[deleted account]

In NSW they are not allowed to reccomend bed sharing to anyone. The nurses were brilliant at the 2nd hospital i was at and i was forgotten about at the 1st so i think if i had o i could have shared.

[deleted account]

i only used it for a bit, once she stopped getting into everything i quit using it...my SO wanted her in it more than i did, he was always nervous of stepping on her....

Stifler's - posted on 01/20/2011

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my husband calls ours that too. he thinks it's oh so cruel. even though i don't think i even put the kid in it once a week these days.

Jennifer - posted on 01/20/2011

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p.s. this is my formal apology to Loureen for misspelling your name!

Stifler's - posted on 01/20/2011

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i was trying to breastfeed logan and the nurse comes in and goes "put him in bed with you and lie down and let him feed and shove a pillow next to him with the rail up... we're not allowed to let you cosleep or advocate for cosleeping now which is bullshit". I was like... but he won't stop crying if I put him back in that crib thing.

Charlie - posted on 01/20/2011

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I gave birth in Canberra Australia where they do advocate for Co sleeping and even suggested I do it in hospital , I heard them suggest it to my roommate too !

[deleted account]

It wasn't aloud in the hospital, she took it upon herself to suggest it to me since i was telling her i was going to wear the baby. She thought we would enjoy and benefit from it . I doubt she would go around suggesting it to everyone. She figured i was "that kind of person" i guess.

Stifler's - posted on 01/20/2011

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they don't advocate for cosleeping here. it's not allowed in the hospital either!

[deleted account]

wow, the nurse at my hospital suggested co-sleeping from birth and told me how to do it properly. My 13month old wont co-sleep anymore, she decided she wanted her own room. It was nice while it lasted..



i want that t-shirt so bad...LOL

Stifler's - posted on 01/20/2011

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my husband is all for it it used to be me that was like I DON'T WANT A 5 YEAR OLD IN MY BED TAKING UP ALL THE ROOM IN MY FACE 24/7. Same as Jennifer, the more i learn about it the more it sounds like a good idea.

Jennifer - posted on 01/20/2011

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the thought of bedsharing with a newborn is a bit frightening to me, but thats because they shove it down our throat here that sleep sharing will kill your kid. the more i know about it, the more i love the idea, though. my son is 14 months old now and i would absolutely LOVE to bedshare with him, and i know he would love it too (he is a very sweet, cuddly little guy) but my hubby is totally against it. he consideres it a "bad habit." his mom co slept with his younger brother until he was about 3, then somehow the bedtime duty fell to my husband. the only way to get him to sleep was by laying on the floor next to his bed for an hour (or so) while "Frasier" was on television. because of that my husband thinks kids need to learn to sleep independently as early as possible. what he doesn't know is that when we decide to have another, we WILL be bed sharing to make breastfeeding easier hahah.



i saw a t-shirt once that read "co sleepers do it in the kitchen." it made me giggle :-P

[deleted account]

Loureen, i think that might be one reason i did co-sleep. No getting up in the feezing cold. Having him in bed with me i knew he was warm enough. Both my boys are winter babies and both of them hated the cold, as soon as they got cold they were awake so i put them in bed with me and they were warm and slept heaps better.

[deleted account]

I had the opposite problem, i had a slow letdown at first. I encouraged it by hand expressing, so eventually the problem went away.

Charlie - posted on 01/20/2011

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At one stage when I was letting down way too fast I had to breastfeed him lying on top of my chest while I layed on my back to slow down the milk coming out , it worked a treat !

The best thing is in winter you can stay in your bed all warm and cozy , no getting out into the chilly air !

Stifler's - posted on 01/20/2011

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In the hospital they told me to try it lying down but I could never get comfortable :( Probably would have got the hang of it if I did it for longer.

[deleted account]

I wear an F. You still got two sizes on me though!! I figured it was easy for me to BF because of the size. I didnt leak, i just went bra-less

Charlie - posted on 01/20/2011

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Try it with H cup size breast , haha .

I have to wear a bra because I leak majorly but I hear him rustle toward my boob and just flick the latch off , you just learn to find the sweet position to lie in ( it took me a while) once you figure it out though its so simple .

[deleted account]

bf laying down was the easiest position for me. when laying down on your side your nipple and their mouth line up perfectly. Everyone has their preferences though.



Loureen after a bit gabby started doing that too. Its so cute :)

[deleted account]

While establishing breastfeeding and while they are little i actually find it so much easier to feed them laying down.
My kids never found it themselevs but thats because i had to always wear a bra otherwise we would wake up with a saturated bed. I always put them int heir own bed first whether or not it was the bassinette or their cot. It was only once they woke that they came and still do come into my bed.

Melissa - posted on 01/20/2011

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many people say its great with breast feeding well I could never breast feed laying down or while sleeping hence the reason its so hard at first with a newborn when they take 45 mins to 1.5 hours to feed and for u to stay awake. I personally dont see how anyone breast feeds laying down I wouldnt even be able to latch her on

Stifler's - posted on 01/20/2011

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That's so true, and why I hate bottle feeding. He was always awake by the time the milk was warmed up and then I had to like rock him back to sleep.

[deleted account]

ohh there is a HUGE sleeping benefit when you BF and co-sleep. Mothers naturally know how to attend to their babies when sleeping. Instincts take over. My SO actually thought i was awake once because he came in while i was starting to feed gabby, i was asleep. Their was no hassle getting up 3-4 times a night to make bottles or even to go get her out of the crib. When you need to get up with the baby, and have the kid in a fit to wait for the bottle, no wonder its so hard to get them back to sleep! They are fully awake now! Half the time she would look for milk without even waking up. I barely had a sleepless night since she was born.

Minnie - posted on 01/20/2011

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Well, here's the catch: I don't believe there are any benefits to cosleeping, you are right, Bonnie.

Because....I believe that cosleeping is the biological norm for infants and their mothers. No benefit, just normal. Just like there's no benefit to breastfeeding, no benefit to keeping a child intact...just normal. It is what it is, and has been for millions of years.

But truly understand that I don't expect a mother to share her bed if it goes against the grain.

Tara - posted on 01/20/2011

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@Teresa,
It is better from the viewpoint of biology and anthropology that infant mammals should sleep where their food source is readily available, where their breathing and heart rate can regulate itself according to the mothers etc
There is no amount of science that would ever convince me that babies are better of down the hall in their own bed in their own room.
9 months in utero and then BAM on your own kiddo, just doesn't seem natural to me.

Bonnie - posted on 01/20/2011

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I really don't see any real benefits to co-sleeping other than it may allow parents to get more sleep overall. I don't see how co-sleeping makes a child more independent. Usually the more a child co-sleeps, the more they want it and expect it. If I don't have to do it( which is most nights), than I don't.
Sherri, you are right. When they are sick that is when they want to snuggle in bed with mommy and daddy the most and then all the germs are throughout the bed. They are breathing, coughing, and sneezing all over you.

Katherine - posted on 01/20/2011

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I love co-sleeping, it's just so natural. I did it with bith of my girls and my LO still sleeps with me.

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