Co-sleeping gets a bad reputation, especially whenever it shows up in the news. We’ve grown accustomed to the idea that babies and toddlers have to have their own bed from birth, and that keeping them close to you at night is somehow a bad thing. While there are definite downsides to co-sleeping, there are a ton of benefits, as well. What are the pros and cons of co-sleeping with your toddler?
Pro — You Get to Sleep
We all love our children dearly, but let’s be honest — the lack of sleep is probably one of the worst parts of the early part of their lives. Co-sleeping helps you get a little bit of extra sleep. Sure, you’ll still have instances where you need to get out of bed to change a diaper, or make a bottle if you’re using formula. However, in those moments when your baby stirs or gets fussy, you’ll be right there next to them to help calm them down and get them settled back to sleep.
Con — Loss of Bed Space
This one isn’t a deal-breaker or anything, but unless you’ve got a big bed, co-sleeping can leave you scrambling for space. As your toddler gets older, don’t be surprised if you find your growing child pushing you out of bed. If you get lucky, you’ll have a toddler who likes to snuggle, but if you’re like most of us, you’ll have a toddler who likes to splay themselves out to take up as much space as humanly possible. If that means driving Mom, and maybe Dad, out of bed, so be it.
Pro — Nighttime Breastfeeding Is SO Much Easier
Getting out of bed to feed your baby or toddler is one of the biggest parts of the first year or so of life. If you’re breastfeeding and co-sleeping, you don’t even need to get out of bed — just roll over to the side you’re feeding from, get them started and doze until they’re done feeding. If they’re uncomfortable or need to be burped or whatever, they’ll let you know.
Con — You’ll Have Less Sex
It can be hard to get in the mood when you’ve got a little one in bed with you, so co-sleeping can have a detrimental effect on your sex life. If this is a problem for you, you might want to discuss alternatives with your partner— either taking the time to spice up your sex life out of the bedroom, or waiting until your toddler moves to their own bed. And yes, they will eventually move to a bed of their own — you don’t need to worry that they’ll be sleeping with you until adulthood.
Pro — Less Chance of SIDS
Co-sleeping has a bad reputation as being a cause for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) because of parents rolling over on their children while they sleep — in fact, the death of an infant is usually the only time you see co-sleeping mentioned in the news. They couldn’t be more wrong, though — studies have found that only 15 percent of SIDS cases are related to co-sleeping. More than twice that many SIDS cases happen to babies sleeping by themselves. Co-sleeping is the best way to help make sure your kids are OK while they’re sleeping.
Pro — Easier to Transition to “Big-Kid Bed”
One of the biggest arguments against co-sleeping is that your kid won’t ever want to transition to their own big-kid bed — but that’s not true. There have been no studies to suggest your child will have trouble learning to sleep alone. In fact, once they get to the point where they start craving and exhibiting independence, you may find you can’t even keep them in your bed. They’ll be so excited to have their own bed that once you have it available, they’ll hop right out of your bed and into theirs.
Pro — No Need for Sleep Training
Sleep training — literally training babies to sleep — may be popular in Western countries, but letting babies cry it out to teach them to sleep doesn’t have any measurable benefits, and studies suggest it can be damaging to the bond between parent and child. Co-sleeping means you are right there to comfort your child when they wake during the night — helping you get more sleep and reinforcing your bond at the same time.
Co-sleeping is a very personal decision — it’s between you and your partner. You can get advice and information from your doctor, other moms or online forums, but whether co-sleeping will work for your family is entirely up to you. Take time to do your research, try out different types of sleeping arrangements and find the one that works best for you. As long as you practice safe co-sleeping habits, it can be a fantastic way to bond with your child while getting a little bit of extra sleep in the process.