pictures of safe co sleeping
So what is co-sleeping?
Whether you’re a preparing parent-to-be looking into all of the sleep set-up options out there, or have simply heard about co-sleeping on the playground and are wondering what’s up — let us introduce you to one of the oldest and most parent-loved sleep practices out there.
We’re about to break down the what, why, and how of co-sleeping, while giving you all the inside insights you need to decide whether co-sleeping is right for you and your family.
Let’s Start with the Basics: What is Co-Sleeping?
Co-sleeping is often used as a catch-all term to describe the experience of sleeping with your baby close by.
Co-sleeping may look a little different for every family. Parents may lay their child in a safe bedside sleeper that attaches to the side of their own bed, or they might share a bedroom with their child but encourage baby to sleep in a separate crib (this kind of sleep practice is more often — and more accurately — referred to as “room sharing”). They might even sleep with their baby nestled up against them all through the night.
Though there are many ways to co-sleep, some are far safer than others. (Bedside sleepers, we’re looking at you and giving you a gold star!)
With a safe sleep tool like a bedside co-sleeper by your bedside, you’re able to sleep with your baby no more than an arm’s reach away. This makes nighttime nursing a breeze, while giving you up-close-and-personal insight into when (and how!) your baby needs a little extra support during the night.
When Did Co-Sleeping Become a Thing?
Though parents in many modern Western countries have popularized separate bedrooms and detached cribs, for thousands of years parents have been going to sleep with their newborn baby curled up close to their side.
In fact, parents from many different cultures have long understood that co-sleeping promotes healthy emotional and physical development while bonding you and your baby, easing the stress of nighttime nursing, and gifting everyone in the house a more restful night of rest.
(A full night of rest—now that’s something at the top of every new parent’s wish list!)
But as soon as mattresses and cribs became the new in-trend home fashion statement of the 19th century, parents in the Western world increasingly kicked children out of their own beds and moved them into mattresses and rooms of their own. In America, Canada, and Europe, some parents continue to boot children out of their own bedroom and encourage them to sleep through the night alone.
However, anthropologist John Whiting surveyed 186 cultures and found that solitary sleeping might be a Western trend, but it’s far from a universal norm. He discovered that almost 70% of children living and growing around the world sleep in the company of others.
That proves that co-sleeping isn’t just a trend — it’s the most popular and longest-loved sleeping practice in history.
Co-Sleeping Benefits: What Parents Like Best
When it comes to co-sleeping benefits, there are some that support your body, some that support your mind, and some that are fully focused on helping your baby develop healthily.
Research has shown that parents remain physiologically connected their baby long after they’ve given birth. Co-sleeping builds off this connection by setting parent and child in the close proximity they need to become responsive to breathing patterns and uniquely attuned to wakefulness.
Experts have also discovered that this kind of night-time close contact leads to a host of other benefits for baby, by helping them:
- Stabilize their body temperature
- Breathe more regularly (partly by matching their breathing patterns to their parents)
- Use energy efficiently
- Grow more quickly
- Feel more calm and experience fewer moments of heightened stress
It also helps mothers (especially those who are getting used to getting sleep after c-section) by making it easy to nighttime nurse without getting out of bed, or offer comfort without continuously needing to reach over crib bars.
But How Does Co-Sleeping Deliver All These Benefits?
To grow healthily in body and mind, your baby needs to be able to receive—and respond to—a ton of sensory feedback. When babies are shut alone in their room at night, they lose the opportunity to grow their sensory awareness during their sleeping hours.
But when babies are able to sleep close to others, they learn to bond and build meaningful connections while learning, growing, and developing an ability to separate and identify different sensory input.
This helps them breathe more regularly, while experiencing less stress overall by learning what it feels like to be safe, secure, and protected.
(And that’s good news—because when babies are less stressed, they put more energy into healthy growth and reap the rewards of a healthier immune system!)
Before We Go: What Is the Difference Between Co-Sleeping and Bed Sharing?
Many parents who start to explore co-sleeping will find another term pop up in their suggested searches: bed sharing.
Bed sharing is just as it sounds — it’s the practice of inviting your newborn not just into your bedroom, but onto your mattress as well.
Though bed sharing may boast some of the same benefits as other forms of co-sleeping — including increased bonding between parents and child and a less stressful night’s sleep for all — it can also be far less safe.
The feather-topped, super-soft, oh-so-pillowy mattresses that most of the Western world prefers can’t properly support your baby throughout the night. Your baby needs firmness and stability under their body while they sleep to ensure their body’s healthy growth.
Though baby will love having you nearby as they rest, they won’t love your sleeping surface. Nor will they love all the extra blankets, pillows, and other comfort materials that adults love to surround themselves with as they sleep.
As comfy as it might be for adults to tuck into a long night surrounded by a cloud of goose down, those comfort items can easily get wrapped around your baby throughout the night and lead to unsafe situations. That’s why parents should choose safe sleep for babies when setting up their environment.
By choosing a bedside sleeper that fits flush against their bed, parents can control the specifics of their baby’s environment. (The first step? Pick a bedside co sleeper that’s right for baby and right for your room!)
Baby can sleep securely nestled within an arm’s reach of their parents, but feel comforted and protected on a mattress that is firm enough to support them and ensure safe sleeping. They can receive, learn, and grow from all the sensory input they receive throughout the night — while their parents sleep soundly knowing that they are safe in a bedside sleeper built just for them.
Co sleeping is not a new practice. For most of recorded history, parents have ensured the safety and healthy development of their littles one by sharing a sleeping space with them. (While making breastfeeding easier and getting a more peaceful night’s rest themselves, that’s what we like to call a win-win!) But if you’re new to co sleeping—or just want a refresher on how to safely co sleep with your little one!—then there are a few co sleeping should-dos to keep in mind.
What To Understand About Co Sleeping Before We Get To the Dos and Don’ts
To this day, many cultures around the world sing the praises of co sleeping and consider it the normal— and natural— way of easing baby’s stress while helping them learn to breathe regularly and healthily develop in body and mind.
Studies have confirmed that co sleeping is a safe practice that improves your sleep as a parent, supports your baby’s healthy development, and promotes bonding with your baby through proximity and touch (a perfect trifecta that makes parents sing the sleep practice’s praises).
But though co sleeping is one of the oldest and most popular methods of sleeping with a newborn around the world, getting the safety dos and don’ts of co sleeping with a newborn down is what leads to peace of mind—as well as long and restful nights of sleep for the whole family.
What a Safe Co Sleeping Environment Looks Like (and How to Prepare Your Own)
Before baby and parent tuck in for a more caring and nurturing night of rest, the co sleeping environment needs to be prepped for peaceful nights of catching Z’s.
Though it might be tempting to settle in and just invite your baby into your bed, this sleeping position (which is often called bed sharing) can put your co sleeping newborn at risk by surrounding them with super-soft pillows and blankets that aren’t built with their safety in mind.
That’s why every safe co sleeping environment should be designed to offer your little one comfort and security as they snore the night away.
To create a safe co sleeping environment (the kind that will deliver all the co sleeping benefits you’re after while also delivering the peace of mind you deserve, there are four key “must-dos” to remember:
- Co sleep with your baby close
- Create the right room conditions
- Ensure your baby’s safe sleep position
- Choose the right bedside sleeper
Ready to help your baby co sleep safe and sound? Let’s break these safe co sleeping “must-dos” down further!
Co Sleep with Your Baby Close By Your Side
There’s nothing better than turning over in the middle of the night to see your little one sleeping sweet and sound, with their eyes closed and the kind of gentle smile on their face that lets you know that they’re resting easy.
Parents who choose co sleeping cite the extra bonding time as one of the biggest benefits: and we can’t help but agree (that’s one of the big reasons we love co sleeping so much)! Because when you sleep no more than an arm’s reach away from your little one, you have plenty of extra time to take in their features, listen to every gentle coo, and care for every small crisis call that comes through the night.
That kind of nighttime bliss can’t be beat. But you can put the brakes on that bonding—and foster a potentially unsafe sleeping environment—if you choose to sleep too far away.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe sleep guidelines, you should be within easy reach of your sleeping baby for at least the first six months of their life (that’s to make sure that you’re always around when a crisis call hits, no matter how big or small).
And according to scientific research, sleeping next to your baby has historically been a way for babies to learn how to regulate their breathing patterns in positive ways. That’s because when you’re breathing close enough to your baby for them to hear you easily, they’ll start naturally matching your breathing rhythm (cool, right?).
Which is a pretty amazing way of saying that co sleeping with a baby isn’t just a way to bond on an emotional level. Every part of your baby’s system and your baby’s healthy development processes will benefit from the act of sleeping close to you—and feeling you there by their side every minute of the night.
Create the Right Room Conditions for Safe Co Sleeping
Dark, light, with the window open, with the window closed, with the thermostat set to a toasty 82 degrees—we all have an opinion on what kind of conditions create the best night’s rest.
But when co sleeping, the room conditions need to be designed with your baby’s needs in mind.
That means the room shouldn’t be too toasty (aim for between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit), and there shouldn’t be extra pillows, stuffed animals, or blankets crowding the mattress. (These kinds of fluffy materials can quickly grow unsafe if a baby rolls onto them or gets wrapped up during the night.)
And even if you love the feeling of being extra-hot through the night (we can’t blame you for wanting to beat that winter chill or make the most of the summer heat!), welcoming your newborn baby might mean putting those preferences away for a little while. Because as soon as your baby takes up residence in your room, it’s time to start thinking of it as their space as well as yours.
But there’s good news: you don’t have to fully let go of your old sleep habits to guarantee that your baby is protected, well-rested, and unconditionally supported throughout the night.
By choosing a bedside sleeper that is expertly engineered with your baby’s comfort in mind (and beautifully designed with 100% beechwood to be eco-friendly and fit your bedroom style!), you can create a cozy environment for both you and your newborn.
Even better: you’ll soon be rewarded for your efforts. Because you’ll be enjoying more sleep (get ready for your new parent friends to be jealous!) and curbing separation anxiety while making nighttime nursing easier than ever.
Ensure Your Baby’s Safe Sleeping Position
There’s no debate or discussion about this one: experts agree that babies should sleep on their backs (just ask the American Academy of Pediatrics—or any other trusted source!).
And though expert consensus on this is fairly new (there weren’t firm guidelines on safe sleeping positions for babies until around the late 20th century), trusted voices have been on board with the necessity of a firm sleep space for a while now.
In case this baby is your first (or you just need a refresh!), the surface underneath your baby should always be firm and clean, and any blankets should be light and kept far away from covering your baby’s head.
When you’re co sleeping, these guidelines remain the same.
It’s important that your baby has space to lie comfortably—and safely—on a made-just-for-them mattress that isn’t too soft or pillowed. Babies can easily sink into too-soft bedding, which can quickly become dangerous if they’re not yet old enough to know how to safely roll away from too-plush materials.
But just because your baby is sleeping on a firm mattress doesn’t mean they’ll be left feeling uncomfy through the night.
With the right parent and baby-loved bedside co sleeper to keep them cozy and secure, they’ll be able to fall asleep every night while feeling like they’re on cloud nine. Because the best bedside co sleeper isn’t just designed to keep your little one safe by your side, it’s designed to nurture them in the loving half-moon shape of a hug, wrapping them in comfort whether day or night.
Which brings us to…
Choose the Best Bedside Co Sleeper and Take the Guesswork Out of How to Safely Co Sleep
While you may prefer a weightless waterbed or a soft-as-a-cloud pillow topper that leaves you feeling like you’re sleeping on air, babies need baby-secure beds that have been rigorously tested for safety.
And while many crib and bedside co sleeper manufacturers promise safety, they also build your baby’s sleeper out of cheap fillers and plastics, while being finished in toxic chemicals and varnish that leach harmful gasses all night long.
By choosing a bedside co sleeper that is made of eco-friendly, fully non-toxic, and ethically-sourced beechwood, you won’t just experience all the expected co sleeping benefits. You’ll also feel the difference that going with an all-natural option makes.
Because while adult mattresses just weren’t designed to properly support your baby (that’s the hard but honest truth!), made-just-for-them mattresses like the kind you’ll find on the best co bedside co sleeper will sit tightly against the co sleeper frame so there are no gaps, space, or crevices that your baby could accidentally slip into.
By choosing a product specially designed by experts to provide a safe co sleeping environment, you can spend less time worrying about how to safely co sleep—and spend more time catching Z’s while your little one calmly and restfully sleeps by your side.
Because enjoying the feeling of spending more time sleeping beside your baby, knowing that they are spending their night comforted and protected by your nearby touch?
That’s just priceless.