Exploring the Co-Sleeping with Baby Argument

Co-sleep with your baby or set up separate sleeping arrangements? Two moms weigh in on the question.

Illustration by Elias Stein

Liz Enlow, M.D., mother of one, neonatologist who encourages separate crib sleeping:

“I’ll be the first to say that it’s very complicated, both from a parent and from a pediatrician standpoint,” Enlow says. While she knows from the data that “bed-sharing [one form of co-sleeping] is associated with an increased risk for suffocation and sleep-related deaths,” she fully recognizes that there are some benefits as well, for both baby and mom. “But being in the position I’m in and seeing the things I’ve seen, there’s no way you can erase seeing a mother who has lost her baby.”

Coping with a colicky baby who was not an easy sleeper was difficult, Enlow admits, but family support made it possible for her daughter, now 2½, to stay in a crib in her own room. She and her husband took turns caring for the baby at night. Her mother stayed with the family for a few weeks to assist with daytime tasks. “I am willing to recognize that my privilege of having that much family support directly contributed to our ability to manage it without bed-sharing,” she says.

Because newborn days are exhausting, especially when trying to breastfeed a difficult sleeper, Enlow suggests that parents place a crib beside the adult bed or try a commercial co-sleeper or side sleeper. “I think it’s the perfect solution because you get all the closeness of co-sleeping and bed-sharing and the benefits of having easy access at night to breastfeed, but you still have your own safe and separate sleep environment.”

Up to 45% of parents say they have bed-shared with their babies in the past two weeks, according to a 2014 interview with Jeffrey Colvin, M.D.

 

Of the sudden, unexpected infant deaths in 2014, 25% occurred because of accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.

Kelli Emge, mother of two, co-sleeping advocate

“We didn’t plan on it,” says Kelli Emge of the bed-sharing arrangement that resulted from many nights dozing off while breastfeeding her newborn daughter. Kelli and her husband tried room sharing at first; their daughter slept fitfully in a Rock ’n Play Sleeper beside their bed. But after about a month, “she just ended up there [in the adult bed],” Emge says. Thus, the couple “started doing research on how to make the situation safe.”

Emge consulted La Leche League and the group’s Sweet Sleep resource for advice, and also relied heavily on the guidelines in Sleeping with Your Baby, by James McKenna, Ph.D. The couple changed their queen-sized mattress to a king and removed the frame, placing the mattress directly on the floor. They placed pillows around the bed and then child-proofed the room, removing cords and chargers and any debris or clutter. “It actually made our bedroom more peaceful,” Emge says. And the arrangement “made nursing easier. I probably would not have nursed as long or as well if I had to walk down the hallway,” she says. By the time their daughter was crawling, she was sleeping regularly in her parents’ bed.

Emge’s second child is a more consistent sleeper who sleeps in a separate crib in his parents’ bedroom. This room sharing arrangement works well. “If he does have trouble sleeping, we can just grab him and put him in our bed because we’ve already set it up to be safe,” she says.

 

****(Author was Jennifer Hogan Redmond, Couldn’t Find)****

 

No-cost cribs and other services in Greater Cincinnati are available by calling 211 or (513) 721-7900. Cradle Cincinnati (CradleCincinnati.org) connects parents in particular areas with needed services as well.

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