Co-Sleeping vs. Crib Sleeping

You and your baby dozing off together: The image is adorable, but co-sleeping, or sharing your bed with an infant, is often frowned upon in Western cultures.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warn parents not to put their infants to sleep in adult beds, arguing that the practice puts babies at risk of strangulation and suffocation. According to the CPSC, at least 515 infant deaths between January 1990 and December 1997 were linked to children sleeping in adult beds.

Despite the risks, many new studies showcase the advantages to co-sleeping, and the practice seems to be a rising trend. In his book on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, pediatrician William Sears cites co-sleeping as a proactive measure that parents can take to reduce the risk of death in infants. Sears stresses that co-sleeping babies learn to imitate healthy breathing patterns and spend less time in a state of deep sleep, in which the risk of apneas increases. In Japan co-sleeping is the cultural norm, and rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome are among the lowest in the world. Harvard psychiatrist Michael Commons and Notre Dame anthropologist James McKenna state that babies who sleep alone are more susceptible to stress disorders.

Three years ago, users on Yahoo! Answers France initiated a question about where babies should spend the night (hyperlink, and the question remains popular on Yahoo! Answers globally. Especially heartwarming, I thought, is the latest discussion in Australia, dating back three months. I also found great advice from our Malaysian Answers community.

As with most controversial topics, there are convincing studies to support either side of the debate. The important thing is to find the right decision for you and not to be intimated by advice of those who hold opposing viewpoints. Remember, co-sleeping is not for everyone, and all experts agree that anyone sharing a bed with an infant should apply the following safety tips:

• Never smoke in the room where your infant sleeps.
• Do not take any drugs or alcohol that can affect your sleep.
• Do not share an adult bed with more than one child at a time.
• Never leave your infant alone in an adult bed.

If you are a parent who has shared the bed with your infant and you want to transition him or her to the crib, there is a great discussion on Answers India that can guide you on this process.

Lastly, I thought it would be fun to take a poll and see what those of you reading the blog have decided.