Contrary to popular belief, there are actually many benefits to cosleeping with your baby! In this post I am sharing everything you need to know about the benefits of cosleeping, FAQs, and our personal experience! This post may contain affiliate links.
Benefits of Cosleeping & Why We Do It
DISCLAIMER: The AAP DOES NOT support bedsharing, please do your own research! I am sharing my PERSONAL opinions, thoughts, experience, and research – NOT recommendations.
Table of Contents
Before we go into my experience I want to set a definition for cosleeping and bedsharing so we are all on the same page. And I also want to outline some safety guidelines for cosleeping!
Though the term “cosleeping” is more widely recognized it has a couple of different interpretations and can be misleading. “Bedsharing” is more straight-forward but not as widely used. I tend to use cosleeping as my term of choice because it’s easily recognized, but bedsharing is probably the most accurate for our situation. Below are some of the definitions and ways you can “co-sleep:”
- Family Bed/Bedsharing: When the baby or child physically sleeps in the bed with one or both parents.
- Room Sharing: When the baby or child sleeps in the same room but different bed or crib/bassinet either within close proximity or across the room.
- Sidecar Arrangement: This is when a crib is attached to the side of the parents’ bed, usually next to the mother within arm’s reach. She can easily breastfeed by lowering or removing the sidebar. You can search for commercial cosleeper or sidebar cribs on the market.
- Baby Welcomed as Needed: The baby or child goes to sleep in their own room and own bed but is welcomed into their parents’ bed if they wake up and cannot go back to sleep during the night.
This article on cosleeping safety guidelines has been the most helpful to me! But I listed below some of my own tips.
- Make sure your partner is on board (family decision)
- Keep baby close to mom (especially if breastfeeding)
- Back is always best: Keep baby on their back when sleeping
- Get rid of gaps/spaces between walls or furniture and the mattress where baby could roll and get stuck
- No couch or chair sleeping with baby
- Ideal sleep surface:
- Firm mattress
- Tightly fitted sheets
- No loose or heavy pillows or blankets
- Place baby so his head is above (closer to the headboard) mom and dad and away from the covers/pillows
- Guardians who smoke or drink or take medications that make them sleepy should NEVER bedshare
- Don’t overdress baby, they can easily overheat. Make sure their head is above the covers and no hats!
- Cool surroundings, an ambient temperature of between 68-72 degrees is best
- No swaddling – you want baby to be able to move and wriggle to let you know if something isn’t right
Ok, now that we have logistics out of the way a few I’d like to answer a few FAQs I have gotten and go over some of the major criticisms.
Personally, no. At first, I was apprehensive to start cosleeping for this very reason but I was at my wit’s end after four months of getting up every 1-2 hours in the night to nurse him and STAYING UP trying to get him to go back to bed so I was ready to try literally anything. Luca has an easy going personality now but he was anything but easy as a newborn. We started cosleeping so that I could actually get some sleep and let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, a complete game-changer.
I quickly learned that I have a sixth sense when it comes to sleeping with Luca. Some argue that that very sense is what will hinder you from having a good, solid, deep sleep because you are always somewhat “aware” that he’s in the bed. But I disagree, cosleeping was the only thing that actually allowed me to get sleep in those early days of exclusive breastfeeding and it was GREAT sleep compared to what I had been getting! I know it sounds crazy but after that first night, I never worried about rolling on to him. 16 months later and I do not regret a single second of him sleeping with us.
Cosleeping FAQ: Doesn’t it ruin marital relations?
Nope. I mean it definitely could, but over the last year of being new parents, Alex and I have learned that we have to make a conscious effort to be intimate both emotionally and physically. No, we’re not cuddling while we sleep but we have found other ways to stay close! CLICK HERE to read a great article on keeping your marriage a priority after kids!
Cosleeping FAQ: But how do YOU get any sleep!?
I actually sleep better knowing my baby is right there. That’s just me. I know this is not the case for everyone, and I fully support doing what is best for your family, but I get great sleep when cosleeping. Yes, I slightly wake up when he makes noise but at this point, we are pretty synced up and will both just go right back to sleep.
Cosleeping FAQ: Does he nurse all night?
He used to nurse much more at night! I used to just leave my boob out and he would come close/latch when he needed. It was great for me because I barely woke up and he still got what he needed!
At this point (16 months) I nurse him down to sleep and he’ll usually wake one time to nurse during the night. 99% of the time though it happens before I get in bed. It’s like he senses I’m not there and just needs some comfort. I know for sure it’s not for hunger anymore so I have been giving him my empty boob (my “shitty-titty” haha) hoping he will stop altogether soon!
Cosleeping FAQ: How will my baby learn to be independent if he sleeps with me?
Studies have shown that independence in children arises more often out of a solid emotional base and through secure relationships. Basically, when your baby knows he can depend on you to meet his needs it makes for a more confident and secure person. Especially during the first six months, it is important to go to your baby and comfort them when they cry. This gives them a basis of reassurance and shows them their needs will be met. Not saying that COI is bad, I have many friends who do it who I love and support because they are doing what’s best for THEIR family. COI is just not for me personally!
Cosleeping Criticism: You are spoiling your child.
I can’t stand when people say I am spoiling Luca by cosleeping and babywearing. He for sure LOVES his mama (and rightfully so!) but in no way do I feel that by comforting and being close to my baby I am “spoiling” him. It’s actually setting him up to be a more emotionally stable and self-confident child and adult. Young babies cannot communicate so they cry to let you know if they need something. Sometimes all they need is to feel the touch or their mama and just that touch or closeness communicates SO MUCH. They need that security, they need to know you are there for them!
As Luca has grown and become more communicative I don’t go to him for every little fussing like I used to when he was a newborn. I can tell which cry is which and I’m strategic about helping him straight-away or giving him a minute to figure it out on his own. SIGN LANGUAGE has also helped a ton on this front because we avoid some frustration in communication by him telling me what he needs!
“The most frequently cited reasons for recommending separate sleeping quarters for parents and children include preservation of the marriage; promotion of the child’s individualism and autonomy; avoidance of suffocation; promotion of the child’s social competence; and strengthening of the child’s gender and sexual identities.” -Excerpt from Mothering.com. Read the full article HERE.
I cannot dive deep into this in this post but suffice it to say there is no evidence proving solitary infant sleep prevents these criticisms. That is to say, the criticisms listed above are not direct outcomes of or mutually exclusive with cosleeping NOR solitary sleep. And furthermore, if your baby sleeps independently that doesn’t mean you will avoid the problems listed above. These issues are complex and there are many, many other factors to be considered; cosleeping should not be the only thing to blame. All of the above could also happen in relation to solitary sleep, it’s just not spoken about.
If you are interested in reading further, this article offers some really awesome insight into the reality of cosleeping and why we should consider its benefits instead of writing it off as taboo. It is the norm in many cultures and for good reason!
*Please hold your criticism if you do not agree with my choices, cosleeping/bedsharing is an incredibly personal decision. I am sharing because it is my reality but no one talks about it. Maybe by sharing I can help ease the minds of those who have chosen it for their families or are thinking about choosing it. Us mamas have to stick together and support each other!
First off, IN MY OPINION, cosleeping is not a bad thing. It’s actually one of the most natural things you can do as a new family. You are not creating a monster, you are helping your child develop, teaching them how to better handle their emotions and build stronger relationships in the future. You are doing a great job and whatever sleeping method you choose for your child is GREAT. Just like “Fed is Best,” sleep is also best – for baby AND mama!! Do what you have to do, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it!
I feel like cosleeping/bedsharing is greatly under-discussed in our society, sometimes completely ignored altogether. Why is that? Over the years it has been deemed as unsafe and even harmful to the development of children. My take: there are TONS of harmful/unsafe practices we could be doing with our children, sleeping close to my baby is hardly at the top of that list. It feels natural to me, it’s my instinct to sleep near my baby.
Yes, too many babies have died as a result of bedsharing and you can read the detailed AAP report HERE, but there is one major thing they left out. The alcohol/drug consumption levels in the adults were never reported in conjunction with this report and unfortunately, that was the reality of the majority of these reported cosleeping deaths. It ended up making bedsharing seem horrible but didn’t give the full picture.
There are pros and cons to both cosleeping and solitary infant sleep, I think the pros of cosleeping should be spoken about more as should the cons of solitary sleep.
So yes, we chose bedsharing and we are still doing it at 16 months. We bedshare with our toddler and I’m tired of feeling guilty about it. We love it, Luca loves it, why should I have to feel ashamed!? I got over this feeling a while ago and it’s been so much better since accepting that this is OUR decision. I’m done justifying it, I’m done making excuses, I am owning it and I’m talking about it.
For the first six months of Luca’s life, I felt so guilty having him in the bed with us, like it was some terrible thing and we were creating a terrible habit. I was so torn because it felt so natural to me, I mean really, what could be more natural than a baby wanting to sleep near his mama and vice versa? You can’t deny that even we, as adults, crave that human touch and closeness, what makes a baby any different?
I had the six-month mark in my mind as the pre-determined time when we would transition him to his crib and become a “normal” family. It literally made me sick to think about and I made myself crazy leading up to that milestone. When six months came I had a realization – no one is making me do this, if I don’t feel ready, I don’t feel ready and I shouldn’t force myself to do something I don’t feel comfortable with.
CLICK HERE for Luca’s 8-month old update post!
CLICK HERE for Luca’s 16-month old update post!
We started because it made sense for us. It was practical for breastfeeding and all the night-wakings plus it felt natural. It feels right and GOOD.
Initially, we started bedsharing with Luca in the SunggleMe. As a C-section and exclusively breastfeeding mom, having him right there was THE ONLY way I could get any sleep (he woke up every 2-3 hours for monthsssssss). At around four months he transitioned out of the swaddle and SunggleMe and has been sleeping soundly right in the bed in between Alex and me since then.
CLICK HERE for my Newborn Essentials post!
I will never forget the first night we had him sleep right there in the bed with us, it was the first time since I had gone into labor that I actually woke up feeling rested the next morning. It was even better than having him in the SnuggleMe. He woke up a few times to nurse during the night, but I barely noticed (we did side-lying nursing and honestly, I just left my boob out so he would latch himself on when he needed to). It was a game changer and I was hooked. I talk more about this below in the Benefits of Cosleeping section!
Could I have had (or still have) slight PPA? Sure. I definitely have a fear of something happening to him in the night and I won’t be there for him (even though our rooms could not be closer). But I also actually LOVE sleeping with him. I know it’s the opposite for many parents and they can’t wait to have the bed to themselves again, but that’s not the case for us. The cuddling is just beyond, the security of knowing he’s right there is reassuring and waking up seeing his cute little face (and now hearing him call “mama” on repeat) is the best thing of my life.
Babies don’t keep.
I know within the next year our days of cosleeping will come to an end, so I’m soaking up all these cuddles while I still can. He won’t be in our bed forever!
I’m not trying to convince anyone it’s the right thing to do AT ALL, I’ve even talked to sleep coaches about sleep training Luca because I see the benefits and we will do that when the time comes. But I have also read articles about how cosleeping actually creates the opposite of what people assume and can be very beneficial to their development, especially emotionally.
Most people assume a cosleeping child will be super attached to his mom, unable to fall asleep on his own and just a whiny baby all-around because he is “spoiled,” right?
Speaking from only my personal experience with my one child, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Luca is not perfect (there is no such thing!). I’m just sharing what I’ve noticed about him in relation to the criticisms of cosleeping. Already at 16 months, you can see he is independent, emotionally secure (minimal separation anxiety thus far), and sociable even though he is not in daycare or around other kids his age every day. He rarely whines unless he is hurt/teething/in a leap. He is a generally happy kid and will go to almost anyone (he does understand stranger danger for the most part and is a bit shy around new people which I think is a good thing!). I also wore him anytime we went out for the first eight or so months and I really believe this also emphasizes emotional stability in children.
That said, I have no proof that cosleeping and babywearing have a direct effect on his demeanor and why he is the way he is, I’m just relaying the facts to you. This is what we do and this is who he is. Bedsharing and babywearing have worked for us and in no way are they better than any other methods, they simply worked/are working for us and he is the total opposite of what people assume upon finding out we are cosleepers.
Logistics of Cosleeping with a Toddler
As far as logistics of cosleeping with a toddler, you can get bed rails for your bed. We did not. I have no specific reason, we just chose to put pillows on the floor in case he was to roll off or want to get down. We put him to bed around 8pm and stay up until about 10/11pm so for those few hours we have the monitor close by to keep an eye on him. He has not rolled off yet (knock on wood). If he wakes up before we get to bed he will just sit straight up and call out for us like he knows not to move and that we will come for him. It’s pretty wild.
I also teach him how to properly get out of the bed; we practice every morning when we wake up so that if he felt so inclined he knows how to get down safely. It definitely took a few months and there is a learning curve, but at this point, he pretty much has it down!
Our Cosleeping Bedtime Routine
As far as our bedtime routine it’s SUPER basic. It consists of a diaper change, putting pj’s and sleep sack on, turning on the sound machine, brushing teeth, reading a book and laying down in our bed together. Yep, we are still nursing to sleep, we will eventually stop. I don’t stress about it anymore, it’s our time and I treasure it!
Luca does not get a bath every night, he has never enjoyed it so we didn’t feel we needed to include it in the routine. We definitely bathe him more often now that he moves around and gets dirty during the day, but it’s still not every single night!
1. More Sleep Time
This is one of the major benefits of cosleeping/bedsharing and why we started in the first place. More actual sleep time for parents and baby alike. No one has to physically get up or out of bed to feed the baby so you both actually sleep for a longer time.
2. Synchronized Sleep
When mom (and/or dad) and baby sleep together they get on a closer and more synced up sleep schedule. This is so true! 9 times out of 10 Luca and I will wake up at the same time.
3. Easier for Breastfeeding
Having baby right next to you means you can do side-lying nursing overnight as needed. The first night we did this was LIFE CHANGING for me! So much easier and convenient, plus I finally SLEPT! one of the biggest benefits of cosleeping for me!
4. Easier for C-Section Mamas
For me, another one of the main reasons we started cosleeping was due to my C-section and breastfeeding; it was extremely physically difficult to sit up or down/get out of bed and into bed so it made the most sense for me to have him right there in bed so I could just prop myself up to nurse him.
5. Less Separation Anxiety
You would think the opposite but some bedsharing families (myself included) actually report that their children have less separation anxiety.
6. Helps Upkeep Milk Supply
You wouldn’t think that one of the benefits of cosleeping is upkeeping your milk supply, but it is! Bedsharing can keep baby on a solid nighttime feeding schedule (which helps your body to know to keep up with production). This is really important, especially in those early weeks of breastfeeding!
7. Reduces Risk of SIDS
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently recommended that having baby sleep in the same room as mom and dad for the first year of life reduces the risk of SIDS. It’s also easier to soothe and comfort baby when you are right next to them. It’s important to note that the AAP does not recommend bedsharing, they recommend room-sharing only!
8. Fussier/Colicky Babies Will Sleep Better
I will never forget the early months of Luca’s life when he had colic – he cried more hours in the day than not, including overnight. I was out of control exhausted and defeated. Having him sleep in the bed with us was a game changer though – maybe he just needed to be close to his parents. Can you blame him!? Human touch is an innate desire in all of us, babies are no different!
9. Instant Comfort
Being close to mama and feeling her touch, smelling her scent means baby can be more easily and quickly comforted. This usually translates to baby going back to sleep quicker too, which to me is a huge benefit of cosleeping because we are both sleeping so much better!
10. Extra Bonding Time
You have to soak up every second with your babies and working parents feel this urge even more so by being away from their babies all day. You can get that extra bonding time and a stronger sense of intimacy by cosleeping!
11. Monitor Baby Better During Illness
The first time Luca got a cold and a fever I was terrified! I was so happy he was in the bed with us in case his fever spiked or he threw up in the night! I wrote a post about natural cold remedies for babies if you are struggling with this too!
12. Waking Up Next to Your Smiling Baby is the BEST
Enough said, nothing better!!
13. Less Gear Needed for Travel
Who would ever think a benefit of cosleeping would be easier to travel, but it is! No need for bulky sleeping gear like a travel crib when your baby sleeps in bed with you! Although we did bring an awesome travel pack n’ play on our trip to have a safe place for him to nap and play when he was younger!
14. Less Anxiety for Mom
I know this is at least part of the reason why I still cosleep. Like any parent, something happening to my son is my worst nightmare. I know mine is a little more extreme than parents who choose solitary sleep because I just do not want him to sleep far from me god forbid anything were to happen. I guess my reasoning is that I would be right there to save him/comfort him if he were to get hurt or distressed. Either way, whatever the reason is, I just feel safer and less anxious having him near me and right now that is a good thing.
15. Helps Baby Develop Confidence, Stronger Relationships, Higher Self-Esteem, and Emotional Stability
Isn’t it crazy that babies can be developing on these deep emotional levels at such a young age? Many parents want their babies to be “independent,” especially when it comes to sleep, pretty early on. But studies have shown that babies cry for a reason and forcing them to manage those feelings alone is actually not the best way to foster independence. Rather, independence arises naturally out of a secure relationship that is built upon many instances of reassurance and having their needs adequately met.
I’ll leave you with a quote from an article I recently read that solidified my support for cosleeping:
“In fact, when bedsharing occurs in the context of ongoing healthy social relationships, toddlers and children are more independent, not less, and when they’re older, they have stronger sexual identities, not weaker ones, and are able to handle stress better.” – Mothering.com. Read the full article HERE.
Check out EVEN MORE BENEFITS HERE!
Linking some articles I have read and loved regarding cosleeping! Let me know your favorites and I will add them to the list!
CLICK HERE for the link to a research-based cosleeping database. Dr. McKenna, a professor at Notre Dame University, has been studying mother-baby sleep for most of his career and founded the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory.
CLICK HERE for the link to the article I mentioned above, it takes a scientific/neurological approach to bedsharing with babies and children and my left-brained mind loved it!
CLICK HERE for guidelines on safe bedsharing practices. Note again the AAP does not support bedsharing, please discuss with your pediatrician!
CLICK HERE for a great read on pro-cosleeping with evidence to back it up!
CLICK HERE for the Mothering.com article that changed the way I view cosleeping even as a cosleeper. It has a logical and evidence-based approach that can appeal to everyone!
CLICK HERE for Dr. McKenna’s cosleeping safety guidelines.
Thank you for reading my post on cosleeping!
I am hoping this post gives you some piece of mind and some relatability on some level! I just wanted to share our experience as well as the pros of cosleeping because I feel like it gets such a bad rap! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences or if you relate to how I feel – us moms have to stick together!!