The Advantages Of Having A Co-Sleeper For Your Baby

Purchasing a co-sleeper or using a convertible crib as a co-sleeper allows a mother and baby to enjoy the benefits of co-sleeping without the risks.

In many cultures, it is customary for babies and young children to sleep in the same bed as their parents; in fact, members of these cultures are sometimes appalled when they learn that in the United States, a baby often sleeps alone in a room. While most mainstream pediatricians believe that a baby should sleep alone in a crib, there are many vocal advocates of what is called co-sleeping, whereby babies sleep with their parents.

Nursing mothers are sometimes drawn to co-sleeping because it allows them to handle nighttime feedings without getting out of bed. Research exists to support other perceived benefits, as well. Mother and baby may both be able to get more sleep, and their sleep cycles may be more in sync. Co-sleeping promotes attachment between baby and parents, and may even reduce the risk of SIDS.

Opponents of co-sleeping, however, raise concerns that should be taken seriously. The cultures in which co-sleeping is the norm do not generally use western-style mattresses, pillows, and blankets, making co-sleeping potentially safer for them. While co-sleeping, a baby can be suffocated underneath a parent who has rolled over, or can suffocate against soft bedding, and dozens of babies die this way each year.

Still, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not explicitly advise against co-sleeping, except under certain conditions (for instance, if the parent drinks alcohol or uses drugs), and does recommend that a mother keep her baby close by to facilitate breastfeeding. Parents who feel that the benefits of co-sleeping outweigh the risks can take steps to make co-sleeping safer by, for instance, removing soft bedding. But there is a third option, using a special co-sleeper crib or bassinet, which allows parents and babies to enjoy the benefits of co-sleeping without the risks.

A co-sleeper is a crib or bassinet which can be open on one side. The baby's mattress adjusts so that it is at the same level as the parents' mattress, and the co-sleeper is placed up against the parents' bed. The baby has a separate sleeping area from the adult bed, but is still close, within reach. A new mother who is recovering from a Caesarean section may find this arrangement particularly convenient, as she can reach her baby without needing to get up. Besides the safety issue, another advantage of using a co-sleeper is that you will not eventually have to break your baby of the habit of sleeping in your bed.

There are many several different models of co-sleepers, each offering different advantages. Some are smaller, good for smaller bedrooms, and some will fit nonstandard bed heights. You might be interested in a model that converts to a changing table, or that converts to a portable play yard when your baby has outgrown the co-sleeper function. Some models are well suited to allow twins to sleep next to each other during their first months of life, allowing them to keep the closeness they were accustomed to in the womb. Many co-sleepers are convertible to bassinets, so that they can be used separately as well as with an adult bed. Some smaller models are portable and easy to move around the house, so that you can use it as a co-sleeper at night and during the day position it in another room as a bassinet.

If you use a special co-sleeper, your baby will eventually outgrow it and will need to be moved either to a crib or into the adult bed. Another option is to purchase a convertible crib, a crib which can be converted to a toddler bed. These cribs have sides that can be removed and a greater variety of height adjustments than other cribs. To use such a crib as a co-sleeper, remove one side of the crib as if to make a toddler bed, and adjust the mattress height to match your own. There are two options to make sure that your baby cannot become trapped between your bed and the crib mattress. The option that requires no special tools is to place the closed side of the crib against a wall, and then place the side of your bed against the open side of the crib, such that the pressure of the wall prevents a gap from developing. You can also use two C clamps to attach the crib to the adult bed frame.

Whatever model of co-sleeper you choose, make sure the follow the directions for set-up and use carefully, and consult your pediatrician for additional advice on making sure your baby is safe.

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