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Cozy Nights, Cherished Bonds: Embracing Safe Cosleeping with Your Newborn

As you prepare for the incredible journey of parenthood, one topic that often comes up is the idea of cosleeping with your precious newborn. When done safely and responsibly, cosleeping can create a stronger bond and provide a nurturing environment for both baby and parents. In this blog, we will explore evidence-based information and equip you with the knowledge and tools needed to embark on a safe cosleeping journey. Join us as we delve into the wonders of cosleeping and learn how to create a sleep sanctuary for you and your little one.


Understanding the Benefits:

Cosleeping offers numerous advantages for both babies and parents. It promotes a sense of security and emotional bonding, enhances breastfeeding, and helps regulate a baby's temperature, heart rate, and breathing. We will dive into the scientific research behind these benefits, empowering you with a deeper understanding of how cosleeping can positively impact your family. You will gain insight into the emotional and physiological benefits that come with keeping your baby close during sleep.


Cosleeping, when done safely and responsibly, can offer a range of evidence-based benefits for both babies and parents. By exploring the scientific research behind these benefits, you can gain a deeper understanding of how cosleeping can positively impact your family. Let's delve into some of the key benefits supported by evidence:


1. Sense of Security and Emotional Bonding:

Cosleeping can provide newborns with a sense of security and emotional closeness. Research has shown that proximity to parents during sleep helps infants regulate their stress responses and promotes feelings of comfort and security [1]. The physical presence of parents can also enhance the emotional bonding between parents and their baby, fostering a strong attachment [2].


2. Enhanced Breastfeeding:

Cosleeping can greatly facilitate breastfeeding, particularly during nighttime feedings. The close proximity to the mother allows for easy and convenient access to breastfeeding, promoting frequent and responsive feeding patterns. Studies have found that breastfeeding frequency is higher among cosleeping dyads, which can have a positive impact on milk production and the establishment of a successful breastfeeding relationship [3].


3. Regulation of Temperature, Heart Rate, and Breathing:

Another benefit of cosleeping is the regulation of a baby's temperature, heart rate, and breathing. When babies sleep close to their parents, their bodies can synchronize with the parents' body rhythms, helping to regulate these vital physiological processes [4]. This synchronization is believed to have evolved as a protective mechanism, ensuring that infants are attuned to their caregivers' presence during sleep.


4. Improved Sleep Patterns:

Cosleeping has been associated with improved sleep patterns for both babies and parents. The close proximity to the caregiver can promote more frequent but shorter awakenings for breastfeeding or comfort, resulting in more consolidated sleep overall [5]. This can be particularly beneficial for breastfeeding mothers, as they can respond to their baby's needs more easily, leading to increased sleep satisfaction for both mother and baby [6].


5. Emotional Well-being:

Cosleeping has been linked to enhanced emotional well-being for both babies and parents. The close physical contact and nurturing environment can contribute to reduced feelings of anxiety and stress in infants [7]. For parents, cosleeping can foster a sense of closeness and emotional connectedness, leading to increased feelings of confidence and satisfaction in their parenting role [8].


By understanding the evidence-based benefits of cosleeping, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your family's needs and values. Remember, it is essential to prioritize safety and follow recommended guidelines to create a secure sleep environment for your baby.


Safety First: Expert Recommended Guidelines:

Ensuring the safety of your newborn is of utmost importance. We will provide you with essential guidelines recommended by experts in the field of infant sleep safety. These guidelines will cover topics such as creating a firm and flat sleep surface, keeping pillows and soft bedding away from the baby, and ensuring a smoke-free environment. By following these practices, you can create a secure sleep environment that minimizes potential risks associated with cosleeping. You will have peace of mind knowing that you are taking all necessary precautions to keep your baby safe during sleep.


When it comes to cosleeping, prioritizing your newborn's safety is crucial. To create a secure sleep environment, it's important to follow guidelines recommended by experts in infant sleep safety. Here are some key guidelines to consider:


1. Create a firm and flat sleep surface: Ensure that your mattress is firm and flat, without any sagging or indentations. A firm surface reduces the risk of suffocation or accidental entrapment.


2. Use a fitted sheet: Ensure that the fitted sheet on your mattress fits tightly and securely. This helps prevent the sheet from coming loose or becoming a potential hazard for your baby.


3. Consider a safe sleep surface: If you choose to cosleep directly on your bed, consider using a separate sleep surface that attaches securely to the side of the bed, such as a bedside sleeper or cosleeping bassinet. These options provide a dedicated space for your baby while allowing them to remain close to you.


4. Maintain a clear space around your baby: Create a clear and unobstructed sleep area for your baby. Make sure there are no gaps or spaces where your baby could become trapped or suffocate. Keep any loose cords or objects away from your baby's reach.


5. Keep pillows and soft bedding away from the baby: Remove pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, and other soft bedding from the sleep area. These items can pose a suffocation hazard, especially for younger infants who may have limited mobility or head control.


6. Avoid sleeping on couches or armchairs: Cosleeping on couches, armchairs, or other soft surfaces is strongly discouraged. These surfaces increase the risk of accidental suffocation or the baby becoming trapped between cushions.


7. Ensure a smoke-free environment: Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other respiratory problems. It's crucial to maintain a smoke-free environment both during the day and night.


8. Position the baby safely: Place your baby on their back for sleep, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This position reduces the risk of SIDS. Avoid placing the baby on their side or stomach while cosleeping.


9. Use appropriate bedding: Dress your baby in a sleep sack or use a fitted sheet specifically designed for cosleeping. These minimize the risk of loose bedding covering the baby's face.


10. Avoid excessive bedding or clothing: Overheating increases the risk of SIDS. Dress your baby in appropriate clothing for the ambient temperature and avoid excessive blankets or overheating the sleep environment.


11. Create a soothing atmosphere: Dim the lights in your bedroom during nighttime feedings or diaper changes to promote a calm environment. Consider using a white noise machine or soft lullabies to provide soothing sounds that can help your baby relax and sleep.


12. Consider individual circumstances: Keep in mind that individual circumstances may affect the suitability of cosleeping. Factors such as parental smoking, medication use, obesity, or excessive fatigue may increase the risk associated with cosleeping. Discuss any concerns or specific circumstances with your healthcare provider.


By following these evidence-based guidelines, you can create a secure sleep environment that minimizes potential risks associated with cosleeping. It's important to stay informed and adapt these guidelines based on your specific situation to ensure the safety and well-being of your baby during cosleeping.


Bonding through Breastfeeding:

One of the beautiful aspects of cosleeping is the convenience it offers for breastfeeding mothers. Cosleeping provides a wonderful opportunity for breastfeeding parents to establish a close and nurturing bond with their baby. Some of the benefits of nighttime breastfeeding, including the promotion of milk supply and the facilitation of bonding between the parent and baby. Additionally, tips on establishing a successful breastfeeding routine while cosleeping, such as finding comfortable nursing positions and ensuring easy access to breastfeeding supplies like pillows and burp cloths. You and your baby will enjoy the intimacy and closeness that cosleeping can bring to your breastfeeding journey.


Let's explore the unique relationship between breastfeeding and cosleeping and how they can complement each other, fostering a deeper connection between mother and baby.


1. Promotion of Milk Supply: Nighttime breastfeeding while cosleeping can help promote a healthy milk supply. Breastfeeding on-demand throughout the night stimulates the production of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production. The close proximity and ease of access during cosleeping make it convenient for frequent nighttime feedings, which can support optimal milk supply.


2. Facilitation of Bonding: Cosleeping encourages a strong emotional bond between parent and baby. The physical closeness and skin-to-skin contact that naturally occur during breastfeeding and cosleeping contribute to the release of oxytocin, often called the "bonding hormone." Oxytocin enhances feelings of love, trust, and attachment, strengthening the emotional connection between you and your baby.


3. Comfortable Nursing Positions: When cosleeping, finding comfortable nursing positions is essential for both you and your baby. Experiment with different positions to determine what works best for you, such as side-lying nursing or the biological nurturing position (relaxed, laid back position). These positions allow for relaxation and support proper latch, ensuring a comfortable and successful breastfeeding experience during the night.


4. Easy Access to Breastfeeding Supplies: Having essential breastfeeding supplies within easy reach can further enhance your cosleeping breastfeeding routine. Keep pillows, nursing pads, burp cloths, and a water bottle nearby to ensure your comfort and convenience during nighttime feedings. Consider using a bedside shelf or a breastfeeding caddy to organize and keep your supplies easily accessible. Keeping diapers, wipes and a flash light at the bedside for night time changes while keeping the lights dim, so as not to wake baby fully, helps to keep night time "in the dark" and establish a good night routine.


5. Communication and Responsiveness: Cosleeping promotes responsive parenting and close communication between you and your baby. By having your baby within arm's reach, you can quickly respond to their feeding cues, which may lead to more frequent but shorter feedings throughout the night. This responsive feeding approach supports your baby's needs and encourages a sense of security and trust.


6. Gentle Nighttime Bonding Rituals: Cosleeping offers the opportunity to establish gentle nighttime bonding rituals. You can incorporate soothing activities like gentle massages, quiet lullabies, or reading bedtime stories into your before bed/cosleeping routine. These rituals create a peaceful atmosphere and deepen the connection between you and your baby during the special moments before sleep.


By embracing cosleeping and nighttime breastfeeding, you can experience the intimacy and closeness that these practices offer. The convenience and emotional connection that come with cosleeping create a nurturing environment for both you and your baby, fostering a strong breastfeeding relationship and a beautiful bond that will continue to grow over time.


Navigating Common Challenges in Cosleeping:

Every parenting journey comes with its fair share of challenges. While cosleeping can be a wonderful experience, you may encounter some obstacles along the way. From night waking and frequent feedings to transitioning your baby to their own sleep space when the time is right, we will provide guidance on how to handle these situations effectively. You will feel empowered to overcome any hurdles and ensure a harmonious cosleeping experience for your family.


Let's explore some of the challenges you may encounter in your cosleeping journey and how to effectively handle them:


1. Night Waking and Frequent Feedings: It's common for cosleeping infants to wake frequently during the night for feedings. To make nighttime feedings more manageable, consider side-lying nursing positions that allow you to nurse comfortably while lying down. As previously stated earlier, you can also create a bedside nursing station with essentials like water, burp cloths, and a dim night light to minimize disturbances.


2. Transitioning to Independent Sleep: As your baby grows, you may eventually consider transitioning them to their own sleep space. This transition is unique for every family, and the timing will depend on various factors, including your baby's readiness and your comfort level. Gradual transitions, such as moving to a bedside crib or using a transitional object, can help ease the process while maintaining a sense of closeness. A "side car" set up with a crib, toddler bed, or even a twin bed works well.


3. Addressing Sleep Associations: Over time, babies may develop sleep associations with cosleeping, such as relying on parental presence or specific routines to fall asleep. If you find that these associations become challenging or restrictive, you can gently introduce new soothing techniques or gradually encourage independent sleep skills. This process may involve creating a consistent bedtime routine and gradually reducing parental presence during sleep.


4. Establishing Boundaries and Safety Measures: It's important to establish clear boundaries and safety measures to ensure a secure cosleeping environment. Consider using bed railings or cosleeping bassinets to create a separate sleep surface for your baby while keeping them close. Communicate openly with your partner about safe sleep practices and establish guidelines to ensure everyone's comfort and safety.


5. Personal Adjustments and Self-Care: Cosleeping can affect your own sleep patterns and personal space. It's essential to prioritize self-care and find strategies that work for you. This may include creating a relaxing sleep routine, taking naps when possible, and seeking support from your partner or loved ones to share the nighttime responsibilities.


6. Seeking Professional Support: If you're experiencing persistent challenges or concerns, it can be helpful to consult with healthcare professionals, lactation consultants, or sleep specialists. They can provide personalized guidance and support tailored to your unique situation, helping you navigate any difficulties you may encounter in your cosleeping journey.


Remember, every family and baby is unique, so trust your instincts and adapt strategies to fit your specific needs. With patience, open communication, and a willingness to adjust as needed, you can overcome challenges and create a harmonious cosleeping experience that works well for your family.


By addressing concerns and implementing practical solutions, you'll be equipped to embrace the benefits of cosleeping while navigating any hurdles that may arise, ultimately fostering a loving and secure sleep environment for your family.


Cosleeping, when practiced safely and responsibly, can deepen the bond between you and your newborn, fostering a nurturing environment that promotes emotional connection and well-being. By understanding the benefits, following evidence-based guidelines, creating a sleep sanctuary, and addressing potential challenges, you can embark on a safe and joyful cosleeping journey. Remember, every family is unique, and it's important to adapt these recommendations to suit your specific situation. We invite you to join us on this amazing adventure as we empower you with knowledge and support on your path to safe and blissful cosleeping.


What has been your experience with cosleeping? Share your thoughts and any tips you have for creating a safe and nurturing sleep environment for your baby.


Join the conversation and share your cosleeping journey with us! Whether you have valuable insights, personal experiences, or questions to ask, we invite you to comment below and be part of our supportive community. Together, let's create a space where parents can learn from each other and celebrate the joys and challenges of cosleeping. Don't forget to share this article with other parents who may benefit from the information. Together, we can empower families to embark on a safe and nurturing cosleeping journey.


Prenatal Coach , Birth & Postpartum Doula, Fort Collins, CO
Prenatal Coach , Birth & Postpartum Doula, Fort Collins, CO

References:

[1] McKenna, J. J., & McDade, T. (2005). Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breastfeeding. Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, 6(2), 134-152.

[2] Feldman, R. (2007). Parent–infant synchrony: Biological foundations and developmental outcomes. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(6), 340-345.

[3] Ball, H. L. (2003). Breastfeeding, bed-sharing, and infant sleep. Birth, 30(3), 181-188.

[4] Mosko, S., Richard, C., & McKenna, J. (1997). Infant arousals during mother–infant bed sharing: implications for infant sleep and sudden infant death syndrome research. Pediatrics, 100(5), 841-849.

[5] Volpe, L. E., & Ball, H. L. (2010). Infant sleep and night feeding patterns during later infancy: associations with breastfeeding frequency, daytime complementary food intake, and infant weight. Breastfeeding Medicine, 5(4), 159-167.

[6] Middlemiss, W., Granger, D. A., Goldberg, W. A., & Nathans, L. (2012). Asynchrony of mother–infant hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis activity following extinction of infant crying responses induced during the transition to sleep. Early Human Development, 88(4), 227-232.

[7] Mindell, J. A., Sadeh, A., Wiegand, B., How, T. H., & Goh, D. Y. (2010). Cross-cultural differences in infant and toddler sleep. Sleep Medicine, 11(3), 274-280.

[8] Doan, T., Gardiner, A., Gay, C. L., & Lee, K. A. (2007). Breast-feeding increases sleep duration of new parents. The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, 21(3), 200-206.

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