Co-sleeping Until Age 5 is Healthier, May Reduce Stress

Image © simaje

Co-sleeping is a controversial topic among both parents and health care professionals. Major organizations have spoken out against co-sleeping — I think we all remember how Consumer Reports bashed co-sleeping and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is also opposed to co-sleeping. While the AAP doesn’t come right out and say, “We strongly frown upon co-sleeping” their recommendations regarding baby sleep are clearly very supportive of crib sleeping over co-sleeping. This said, there are some very positive reasons to give co-sleeping a whirl. Dr Margot Sunderland, director of education and training at The Centre for Child Mental Health in London, is one expert that believes co-sleeping helps children grow up to be calm, healthy adults, and she explains her study-based opinion in her book The Science of Parenting. She points out that children who sleep with their parents may experience less stress than children who sleep alone.

How do you feel about co-sleeping?

  • 1,130 Votes Co-sleeping is healthy and safe for babies.
  • 64 Votes Co-sleeping is dangerous for babies.
  • 61 Votes I'm not sure how I feel about co-sleeping.

View Results

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Image © marta1978 via SXC

In her book based on 800 scientific studies, Sunderland notes that co-sleeping is healthier than sleeping alone since separation from parents may increase a child’s flow of cortisol, a stress hormone. In fact, a neurological study showed that the brain activity of being separated from a parent was similar to being in physical pain. Sunderland examined many studies that have used scans to see how kids’ brains react in specific situations. Sunderland maintains that long-term co-sleeping – up until the age of five years – is healthy for children. Other studies also support co-sleeping as a safe and healthy choice. For example, research by James J. McKenna Ph.D. notes that co-sleeping may actually help reduce the risks of SIDS. Another co-sleeping supporter, Meredith F. Small, points out that when a baby and mother co-sleep the baby learns how to regulate his heart rate, muscle movements, breathing and brain wave activity. The same studies showed that while babies who sleep alone do not regulate body functions as well, fuss more and breathe more sporadically.

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11 Responses to “Co-sleeping Until Age 5 is Healthier, May Reduce Stress”

  1. ishsurf says:

    you’re missing something in the poll about whether co-sleeping is good for parents. I can only get kicked in the stomach so many nights in a row before I go nuts. We co-slept until my daughter was about to crawl. it was all over after that.

  2. e-side says:

    Since we started to co-sleep ten months ago, we are all sleeping well and are more relaxed. Our 19 months old child is very sociable and independent. The book The Science of Parenting was suggested to us by our pre-natal midwife and it`s FANTASTIC, a must-have. It explains how the child mind develops. There are lots of very useful, practcial techniques.

  3. Inspire Planning says:

    I put my 14 month old to sleep in his crib and at around midnight he comes to be with my husband and I. I absolutely love this and will likely keep it up until he is around 2. Love having extra snuggle time, they won’t be babies for long!

  4. renami says:

    I have to agree with Ishsurf… I mean, I ´m still not a mother but I´m already planning and searching the best ways to create a good enviroment for my baby, so I´d like to know how do you do about the intimacy moments of the couple…
    Thanks a lot and sorry my english!

  5. kiwigirl says:

    I am thinking of using a “Baby Delight Supreme Snuggle Nest” as the safest option to co-sleep with my expectant new-born and get the benefits of co-sleeping avoid the dangers. We are in rented furnished unit so have no choice on our double bed on wheels (easy to make a gap between the bed and the wall). I was wondering though, whether a baby would have the same benefits of co-sleeping if they are in one of these and not snuggled against the mother – esp. the regulated breathing. Also wondering what you do after they outgrow this at 4-5 months? I looked at the “Arms reach co-sleeper”, but they also are only recommended till about 6 months.

  6. Yorkie says:

    I am pleased to hear that cosleeping is advocated. I use a Babybay and my 5 mth old has sleot through the night every night from 8 weeks… She is about to outgrow it and I am feeling the pressure to put her in her own room but my instincts tell me we would both be happier to continue to cosleep. I do sympathise, however with people whose babies keep them awake during the night and in that case I would have out her in her own room perhaps..

  7. mekick says:

    I hate surveys with “push poll” bogus options. Of course very few people will click the box that calls co-sleeping “dangerous”. That is inflamatory. There are plenty of folks who feel it is not optimum developmentally, but those respondants will not click “dangerous”.

  8. Amelie says:

    Of course. Other cultures do it and it’s normal. I did it with my babies when I nursed and until about age 5. My sister did the “cry it out” technique. Both of her children ironically had attachment issues and as toddlers were extremely shy and clingy. What do with give kids? Stuffed animals to hug at night. Yes, people will say, what about intimacy? Your sex life? Well, there are other rooms than the bedroom.

  9. savinco2 says:

    @kiwigirl- we started with the Snuggle Nest when my baby was a newborn. It worked fine till he was maybe about 4 months. After that we went through a series of ‘experiments’ trying to sleep train him, try the crib. It just didn’t feel right to me. So he was back in bed between us. We would move down on the bed so our blankets couldn’t cover him accidentally- we could do this since both my husband and I are not too tall, so we had enough length of the bed. Then one day, within a week of starting to crawl, he decided to crawl off the bed when he woke up from a nap and we were in the other room. Needless to say, we were shaken and knew we had to find a solution immediately. Thankfully our bed is the low kind and we had some padding on the floor. After that we threw out the bed, put our mattress on the floor, pulled out his crib mattress and put that on the floor as well. So now his mattress is against the wall with our mattress pressed tight against it on the other side. So we all just sleep on the floor now, and sleep well. I feel assured that I can reach out and touch him anytime at night. We have more room on our bed, so we are sleeping much better, but also we dont wake him as much by moving on the bed.

  10. a mum says:

    Its amazing how out of touch we all sound really ..why isn’t parenting our babies an instinctive act any more ..why so much doubt..Ive had two children and done things differently with each of them depending on their personalities , my relationship with them , the situation at the time..always tried my best for them in the moment. I would just say sleep with them if it feels right and don’t if it doesn’t work for you for whatever reason. Try to trust in yourself as a loving , nurturing mother and there probably isn’t a right or wrong if you are being loving and nurturing as you are doing it.

  11. GI1derY says:

    My parents co-slept with all 7 children. I’ve co-slept/am co-sleeping with both of my babies and plan to do so with any children I have in the future.

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