3 Baby Sleep Strategies
Co-sleeping vs. Crib sleeping
STEPHANIE: I started co-sleeping with Sara the day she was born. She was in the little plastic bassinet on the opposite side of my hospital room, and she was crying nonstop. The nurse suggested that I put her in bed with me, that my body heat would calm her. It worked -- and it stuck. I adored sleeping with her, and it made nursing much easier because she could simply latch on and we both drifted back to sleep. I actually kept our co-sleeping a secret, though, because I thought I would be judged as a "bad mom" for starting a supposedly bad habit. But then I picked up William Sears, M.D.'s The Baby Book. He teaches that co-sleeping is the norm in many countries and can be beneficial for both mother and child if you do it safely (see guidelines below). That's why I tell new moms to read all you can, but keep in mind that you won't know what truly works for you until you try it.
SARA: I worked harder than I ever have those first few months after my daughter was born. At the end of the day, I needed a break. I think having my baby in the bed with me at night would have sent me right over the edge. Yet I totally realized why it worked for Stephanie, who was pining to be with her daughter while she was at work. And she understood how I needed time away from the rigors of being an at-home mom. This was one of our first "aha moments" as friends. What worked for me wouldn't have worked for her, and vice versa. And that was okay. We didn't realize at the time that motherhood would lead us down completely different paths, but we'd established a precedent of mutual respect, which I think has enabled us both to trust our own instincts as mothers through the years.
What you need to know, no matter what you choose:
Bed sharing has been linked with a higher incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (sids). The American Academy of Pediatrics says the safest place for a baby to sleep, to reduce the SIDS risk, is in a separate sleep space (co-sleeper, crib, or bassinet) next to the parent's bed. But if you decide to bed share, follow these precautions:
Don't sleep with your baby on a couch, inflatable mattress, or water bed.
Push your bed tightly against a wall and remove or lock leg wheels if your bed has them. Place your baby to sleep between you and the wall, rather than between two people.
Remove pillows, sheets, and blankets that could cover your baby's head.
Do not sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol; if you are under the influence of a drug that might make you overly tired; if you are obese; if you smoke.
Never leave her alone in an adult bed.