Saturday, November 17, 2012

Don't Lose Sleep Over New Co-Sleeping Study

A new study has found that women who co-sleep with their babies are possibly more prone to stress than those who don't.

I co-slept with both of my kids, and I could not disagree more.

According to a Fox News article, "Breastfeeding and co-sleeping with baby affects mom's welfare," the study followed 195 women in a Chicago suburb for six months after they gave birth. The study showed that mothers who slept with their babies had "less-than-optimal daily rhythms" of the stress hormone cortisol. Those who had the best rhythms were moms who breastfed and then did not share a bed with their baby.

Apparently, an "optimal rhythm" of cortisol is one in which the levels are high in the morning and then decline in the evening. The study showed that women who co-slept with their babies had less of a decline of cortisol throughout the day.

This study is bogus on many levels:
  1. Researchers only tested 195 women. That's hardly an adequate sampling of the overall population.
  2. They only tested women from a single Chicago suburb. Who's to say new moms in other areas of the country would have similar results?
  3. There is no evidence of a correlation between the cortisol levels and the co-sleeping. Maybe these women were stressed to begin with. Maybe they were poor, single moms. Maybe their pregnancies were unexpected and/or unwanted. Maybe they had other children to deal with or stressful jobs. Who knows? 
Photo courtesy Marta Dehnel, stock.xchng

All I know is that co-sleeping was the best thing that could have happened to me as a new mom. My daughter would NOT sleep unless she was physically touching me. I tried the whole "cry it out" thing, and after hours of nonstop crying (both my daughter and me), I decided that there had to be a better way. You want to talk about stress, try standing outside the bedroom door while your infant daughter is alone in her crib screaming herself hoarse.

She ended up sleeping with me almost every night until she was about 6 years old. I still occasionally sleep in her bed if she's feeling particularly needy.

My son, on the other hand, slept with me for less than a year. He didn't need as much physical contact, so he was in a "big boy bed" in no time.

As for the relationship between SIDS and co-sleeping, this article by Dr. Sears says that worldwide research has shown that the SIDS rate is lowest in countries where babies typically sleep with their parents. The vast majority of deaths from co-sleeping result from parents who smoke, who are obese, or who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The bottom line is that co-sleeping works for many families, and a single study should not discourage a mom from listening to the needs of her infant. You know your child best. Follow your instincts, and do what comes naturally. It's the best way for everyone to get a good night's sleep.


  1. I completely agree. I co-sleep too and love it! My son grew out of at 5 years old. He sleeps with me now when he is sick and comes in (sometimes) about an hour before we wake up in the morning. My daughter did not start out co-sleeping, she likes her own space and I respected that. She now sleeps with us at the bottom of the bed. She still needs her space, but wants to be close. I think each family should do what works for them because each child has their own needs.

  2. I said I would NEVER co-sleep, my dad is a fireman and when I was about 10 he went on a call where a little girl had passed away, a SIDS death. It traumatized me for life, don't ask me why my parents thought it was a child appropriate subject but they did. When I had kids I knew I would do everything under the sun to prevent such a thing and I had the best of intentions until I laid the screaming child down on the bed and she promptly fell asleep! She stayed until she was almost 3 LOL and now I have her sister who is 2 in my bed still. I think co-sleeping is great. I miss them when they leave or even roll to the other side (we have a HUGE bed) I know the risks but I also think you have to do what is right for you and your baby. A sleepy mommy can only do so much. I actually found an awesome product while I was in Australia not long after she moved into our bed and I know its available in the US now its called Respisense its like angel care only it fits on the diaper, you do get some false alarms but I emailed back and forth with Erik the creator a bunch and I feel confident that if something were to occur I would have a good chance of knowing. Nothing is fool proof but it made me sleep easier. I loved your post. I totally support co-sleeping though I think it is awesome!

  3. I feel co sleeping provides emotional security to infants and young kids. It enhances emotional bond between the kids and parents. The time just before the sleeping should be fun filled and time to share and discuss about daily activities. It is completely healthy and provides lots of satisfaction to parents also. However, the parents can introduce separate sleeping when the kid grows a little on once a week basis and depending upon the comfort they may increase the frequency.It all depends upon the comfort of the family and there should not be any hard and fast rules.

  4. At the end of the day, you have to do what's best for your family. I had a bassinet for my son for the first few weeks and he absolutely hated it. He ended up sleeping with me. When we moved into our new apartment when he was about 6 months old, he would not sleep in his crib, he only wanted to sleep with me. Now at 17 months, he still sleeps with me. I've decided that he will let me know when he's ready for his own space. I truly believe that co-sleeping is my opportunity to bond with my child. It's such a great experience. It's not for everyone, but it definitely works for me.