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. They might even sleep with their baby nestled up against them all through the night.
Though there are many ways to cosleep, some are far safer than others. (Bedside sleepers, we’re looking at you and giving you a gold star!)
But all forms of co-sleeping have one thing in common: they’ve been the safe sleeping practice preferred by families throughout history.
Though parents in many modern Western countries have popularized separate bedrooms and detached cribs, for thousands of years going to sleep curled up near your newborn has been the norm.
In fact, parents from many different cultures have long understood that cosleeping 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.
What are common cosleeping 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!)
But your baby isn’t the only one who benefits from co-sleeping. Parents are able to care for their own bodies and minds by making nighttime nursing easier and getting a few much-needed extra hours of shut-eye.
What is the difference between co-sleeping and bedsharing?
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 cocoon in.
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.