As attached as parents typically are to their children, they prefer to have their baby sleep on their bed. Even if that might eventually cause difficulty in sleeping, with the child waking up, crying or occupying more space on the bed.
According to a Penn State study, mothers who co-sleep with their infants are likely to be more depressed, worrying about their baby’s sleep. Co-sleeping (the baby sleeping with one or both parents) is a very common practice in India, with some parents continuing to share their bed with older children too. At the same time, this practice is condemned in the US, one of the major reasons being the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which means the unexplained death of a child less than one year of age.
Co-sleeping can cause a child’s death
“Typically, since many of the countries in the West are cold, they use heavy blankets and quilts. And if your newborn is sleeping with you, there’s a risk that the child might get trapped in the blanket and suffocate to death since they can’t move the heavy blanket away. In India, however, we don’t have too much bed clothing that may obstruct the infant’s breathing,” Dr Debmita Dutta, parenting consultant and founder, What Parents Ask, explained.
Again, there’s a risk that parents might roll on to their newborn, who is unable to resist it. Dr Dutta told Express Parenting, “For an infant, who is less than four months old and yet to develop neck control, sleeping between parents is the most dangerous form of co-sleeping. Once the baby is able to turn over, he or she is much more secure.”
On the other hand, co-sleeping with your baby can impact your conjugal life too. As per a study, conducted by parenting website Born Smart, in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Jaipur and Pune, in 2015, around 75 per cent of couples confessed that co-sleeping destroyed intimacy between them. And if couples disagree on the issue of co-sleeping with their baby, it leads to further tension in the family.
To co-sleep or not
The baby needs his or her parents initially for sleeping and feeding, no doubt. So, ideally a mother can sleep on a double bed with a railing or any other form of protection on the baby’s side. This is helpful in case you have to feed the child at night frequently, Dr Dutta advised.
Till the first six months, the child can sleep with parents, after which he or she needs to be shifted to a separate bed. Dr Dutta said, “If children are not put on a separate bed at the right age, doing so becomes difficult as they grow older. By the time the child is seven to eight months old, he or she should be shifted to a crib in the same room since you would still have to wake up in the middle of the night to change diapers. But the child needs to have a separate bed. Post that age, the child tends to protest, and suffers separation anxiety, and might have night fears if made to sleep alone.”
Having said that, keeping the child in a separate room forcefully or making the child cry himself or herself to sleep is not really a good idea, believes Dr Dutta. “Children need to be allowed the freedom of separation. And whenever the child is scared or anxious, parents need to reassure him or her of their presence. Parents have to make their child understand they are right there.”