Co-sleeping versus crib sleeping can be quite the battle amongst moms; however, more often than not, it's either a misunderstanding (like thinking that co-sleeping is dangerous), or just a different parenting opinion where people need to agree to disagree. But that doesn't mean we still can't learn from each other.
There are a lot of good lessons those who choose cribs can learn from co-sleepers -- things that will make your baby safer and happier and you happier, too.
1. Keep newborns close by. The anti-cosleeping AAP still recommends room-sharing with babies, especially those under 6 months and at the highest risk for SIDS. Putting a co-sleeper (which is like a bassinet that attaches to your bed) or a bassinet or even the crib in your room is strongly advised, since room-sharing is shown to reduce the rate of SIDS and facilitate breastfeeding. Plus, it's a lot easier on you to soothe the night wake-ups when baby is close.
2. Don't wait until they cry. A baby who is crying has generally been awake for a little while anyway, and has shown many signs of hunger long before they start crying out. Having a good monitor very close to you at night may wake you up a little when baby moves, but you'll hear lots of movement before they cry, meaning baby won't be too stressed to latch on well and will go back to sleep quicker. And that means everyone gets more sleep.
3. Keep the atmosphere cool and fresh. Keep the room cool, but don't overdress to compensate. Co-sleeping moms usually have their baby dressed the same as themselves. You can use a thermometer to get your room like your baby's, remembering that even most adults sleep best when their bedroom is a little cooler, and many like air flow from a slow fan or slightly cracked window, which also helps reduce the risk of SIDS. Also, follow safety recommendations -- no blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, or stuffed animals, and put the baby on their back.
4. Don't treat the crib like a playpen. When you co-sleep, this actually is totally impossible. Your baby isn't just left alone on the bed when awake, either before falling asleep or when they wake up. Even if you love that time to yourself when the baby plays by themselves in the morning, it's really not advised to treat cribs like a playpen (and playpens are only supposed to be used under supervision anyway).
5. Be safe and sober. Co-sleeping is demonized because negligent parents get drunk and pass out with a baby, or fall asleep on the couch with a child on their lap ... even though that has nothing to do with co-sleeping at all, just crappy parenting. Still, all parents need to be responsible and safe with their babies. A drunk parent should never be caring for a baby at all. And if you are passed out drunk, you might not hear the cries from your baby when she really needs you.
6. Don't be afraid to help your child fall asleep. Children do learn to fall asleep on their own and it doesn't have to be tears at bedtime all the time. Make nighttime pleasant. I still read to my 7-year-old with him in my lap, tuck him in, and turn on music for him. It's okay to have comforting nighttime rituals. Baby should fall asleep happy, not exhausted and tear-streaked.
Any other things you think crib sleepers can do to make nighttime still a bonding experience? What else can we learn from each other?
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