Co-sleeping explained

Deciding how the baby will sleep or co-sleep

Sleep is one of the most talked about and argued about topics for new parents. Where a baby sleeps, how long a baby sleeps, and to sleep train or not to sleep train are all hot topics. One of the biggest decisions new parents will make is where their baby will sleep. The juvenile furniture industry is immense and always looking to innovate sleep so there are many options. There are bassinets, and classic cribs, moving cribs with built in sound machines, co-sleepers to attach to an adult bed, the list goes on.

The truth is there is not one way that fits every family or even every baby. For most of history babies have slept within reach of their parents. Many parents instinctively want to sleep with their babies but the voices around them scare them into going against these instincts. Parents are told how dangerous it is to sleep with their babies. Unfortunately, the information is incomplete. Babies sleep differently depending on many factors including how they are fed, who is with them, and where they are sleeping.

Deciding to co-sleep

When parents are breastfeeding and co-sleeping they typically get more sleep – it may be broken up a bit but the total hours of sleep is more. This does not work for every family but for many it is a lifestyle choice that works well for them.

Some couples fear co-sleeping will interrupt their intimate life or that the baby will never leave their bed.

Some families do a full-on family bed while others will do part time co-sleeping. If the family bed is your method, it does not mean that intimacy is out. It can actually be a time for creativity, trying out the guest room, stealthily sneaking in intimate moments while the baby snoozes a couple of feet away.

Know how to safely co-sleep

We have to talk about risks. I hear parents talk about SIDS. Many people confuse SIDS and overlaying. They are different. The truth is that breastfeeding and sleeping within arms reach of parents are both protective against SIDS. There are certain conditions to make sure that co-sleeping is safe.

These are the conditions that are deemed safe:

  • No smokers in the bed
  • Parents are sober
  • Baby is healthy and full term
  • Baby sleeps on her back
  • No heavy blankets or pillows near baby
  • Baby is lightly dressed
  • Firm surface
  • Baby is breastfed

As someone who coaches new families, I hear their fears about co-sleeping and I show them how to safely co-sleep. They can add this information into their toolbox – even if they think they will never have their baby in bed; at least in that moment of extreme exhaustion they have a safe way to grab some much-needed rest.

Be prepared and make the best decision for you

The truth is that you can mix it up, the baby can sleep with you at night only or during the day only, maybe you take naps with the baby. Eventually the baby will sleep on their own. That may be in a few weeks, a few months or even a few years. Some babies sleep better on their own anyway. As with most things parenting, it is good to be prepared, have an open mind and know that this too shall pass.

Resources for you

A few good websites are:


About Leigh Anne

Leigh Anne O’Connor is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with two decades of experience working with breastfeeding families. She is the past President of New York Lactation Consultant Association (NYLCA), a member of International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) and a past member of the Bank Street Head Start Health Advisory Board.

In addition, Leigh Anne has been an accredited La Leche League Leader since 1997. Leigh Anne lives in New York City with her husband, Rob, and their three children.