Is there anything more controversial in the parenting world than the topic of bed-sharing?
Well, probably, because everyone has an opinion on anything related to child-rearing, but sleeping arrangements are pretty high up there.
Now a clinical psychologist is throwing his hat into the ring by pointing out that sharing a bed with your baby or child does not have negative psychological outcomes for the child, as long as it fits into the "cultural preferences" of the family.
"In communities where co-sleeping is widely practiced (as it is in much of the world) or where parents make a conscious choice to co-sleep, studies show there are no negative psychological effects on kids compared [to] those who sleep independently," Dr. Yoni Schwab said in response to a reader's question on Parents.com this week.
Parenting that serves the emotional needs of the parent more than the child often leads to more problems.Dr. Yoni Schwab
In fact, some studies show there are benefits to co-sleeping, including motivation to continue breastfeeding (if you are able and want to) and better sleep for newborns. But everyone has to be comfortable with the arrangement for it to work, especially when it comes to older children, Schwab added.
"Parenting that serves the emotional needs of the parent more than the child often leads to more problems," he said.
There Are Still Physical Risks
The safest place for a baby to sleep is on their back in a crib in your room, at least for the first six months, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS). Bed-sharing is not recommended since it can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or suffocation, the society adds.
"Adult beds are not designed with infant safety in mind," CPS said on their website, noting that infants can become trapped between the mattress and the wall, can fall off a bed, can suffocate in soft bedding, or a parent can mistakenly smother their infant by rolling onto it.
Products designed for co-sleeping, such as infant beds that attach to an adult bed, are not recommended by Health Canada, CPS said.
In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a set of new recommendations that underscored the dangers of bed-sharing, but placed a greater emphasis on the benefits of room-sharing. Specifically, babies should sleep in their parents' room (but in their own crib) for at least a year to reduce the risk of SIDS.
But the AAP also recommended that overnight feedings happen in the adult bed instead of on a couch or a comfy chair, because at least a bed can be cleared of bedding and cushions. The risk of falling asleep while feeding a baby on a couch is much more severe, the AAP said.
"We recognize the fact that not only do mothers often inadvertently fall asleep with the infant in their bed, but many mothers choose to bed-share," co-author Lori Feldman-Winter said.
"We thought it was prudent to provide guidance on making the bed-sharing arrangement as safe as possible and provide guidance on what populations are most at risk when bed-sharing."
While discussing the psychological effects (or lack thereof) of bed-sharing, Schwab noted that these are separate from the "serious physical risks" of co-sleeping.
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