Birth Blog

Where Should the Baby Sleep?

by Julia West on February 20, 2014

Inevitably after a glowing couple brings home their little bundle, the questions start coming in about where and how the baby sleeps. Somehow these poor babes get labeled as “good” or “bad” based on how many hours a day they consistently sleep. Parents are encouraged to train them to sleep through the night and in their own room before the baby gets spoiled to eating and being held any time they choose. To be honest, this is not only an unfair expectation of parents and babies, but its also unreasonable and in some cases, even unhealthy. So, where should the baby sleep?

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To me, this area of parenting is natural. I can see plainly that babies were meant to be close to their mamas- constantly. Before birth, they are used to hearing mom’s heartbeat, feeling her warmth and going where she goes. After birth, they expect the same. In fact, baby’s temperature and breathing matches mom’s when they are skin to skin. To be separated for hours during the night is stressful for little ones. It is healthy for them to be with mom! There are lots of ways for baby to sleep with or near his parents:

– In the bed with mom and dad (we did this for months!)
– In his parents’ bed, but in a cosleeper
– In a bassinet or rock-n-play near the bed (we did this for months!)
– In a pack-n-play in mom’s room
– In a crib in a separate room (we’ve done this for months!)
– In a sling or wrap for naps (my two year old still does this!)

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Any of these could be appropriate for the same parent/child pair. Be flexible- find what works best for you and your baby. Babies in the same family may be different and one baby can change sleep patterns over time. It is important that moms feel able to try different arrangements so that everyone gets the best sleep.

Dr. Sears lists several benefits to baby sleeping near mama:

– Baby sleeps better. When babies wake and they are alone and hungry, they may get very awake by the time someone gets to them. When baby is near mama, he can be tended to quickly and lulled back to sleep before getting totally awake.
– Mama sleeps better. Same story as above. When mom doesn’t have to get up and walk to another room, she is able to get back to sleep more quickly. I can attest to this- I was honestly was NOT sleep deprived with my newborn. I still LOVE sleeping next to a tiny little warm body curled up next to me. For the first few weeks, I put baby in a bassinet next to my side of the bed. I would pull him in bed with me whenever he roused to eat, then put him back when I was done. When he was more sturdy and strong, he slept with us in the bed regularly. I was completely aware of his movements and breathing throughout the night. My husband slept well, too! He was rarely ever awake longer than it took to roll over. At some point, my son got really active in his sleep and we seemed to be in his way! That’s when we transitioned him to sleeping in his own space.
– Breastfeeding is easier. I woke only for a few minutes per night to nurse my baby, snoozed while he ate, readjusted us both, then got back into deep sleeps. I did not have supply issues- my supply met his demand. And my baby thrived- he grew big and chunky and healthy, quickly! Often, I’m afraid this idea that babies should be put on a schedule asap is what thwarts many mothers’ best efforts to maintain a healthy supply and to put weight on babies. God intended for babies to eat a little bit, very often. Keeping baby close at night increases the likelihood that baby can eat throughout the night, as needed.

The most common concern parents (and onlookers) seem to have is regarding baby’s safety if he sleeps with his parents. This study actually shows that cosleeping reduces SIDs!!

Here are a few quick tips to cosleep safely:

– Baby should only sleep with parents when they are not under the influence of drugs, alcohol or sleep aids.
– Baby should not cosleep in a waterbed or couch.
– Baby should not sleep with older children in the bed.
– Baby should not be overbundled.
– Parents should use common sense and follow their intuition about safety.

Every family is going to have different circumstances to consider. When any friend or student asks my advice about sleeping arrangements, I tell them my experience and evidence, then I tell them to make the decision that is best for their family. I tell them to be flexible and to adjust the arrangement as needed. Babies change daily and weekly! And I remind them that they don’t have to answer to any one about their decision- not even me! 🙂

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