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Assessment of Co-Sleeping: Positives and Negatives

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 3861 words Published: 18th Oct 2021

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Imagine that amazing but the painful moment after a mother has waited for nine long months. The baby she pictured in her head is now in her exhausted arms. Suddenly, this beautiful moment is broken up by many decisions about the newborn's future. As one enters parenthood, he/she abruptly face mandatory decisions, and one of them is co-sleeping practice. Co-sleeping with a child is a debatable issue. It is defined as the practice where children sleep together with their parents or caregivers. This is also defined as bed-sharing in many cultures. However, co-sleeping and bed-sharing are different practices (Cunningham et al. 560). This paper attempts to show that co-sleeping is a helpful method to support an infant's development when it practiced adequately.

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There is also not an easy answer about deciding co-sleeping, because whatever the decision is, it affects the child for the rest of his/her life. As a personal instance, I struggled with one main question: Should children be allowed to co-sleep with their parents or caregiver regularly? Some parents support co-sleep, because not only is it great for a child's psychology, but it also benefits mother and child during breastfeeding (Harrison 90). However, parents face the prejudice of society about co-sleep. Families are not aware of the proper practices on safe co-sleep.

Although babies wake up to eat regardless of the sleeping arrangement, breastfeeding and co-sleeping mutually support each other (Rudzik 11). The co-sleeping mother will be more likely to breastfeed, and the breastfeeding mother will likely co-sleep. Since the feeding is proper, being breastfed helps babies to grow healthy and active. Mother’s milk is designed perfectly for a baby to fight illnesses and infections. Rudzik breaks down co-sleeping by discussing humans as mammals in the article "Infant Sleep and Feeding in Evolutionary Perspective." We are different from any other kingdom because we produce milk to feed the young. He connects co-sleeping with breastfeeding because humans are biologically expected to sleep together. Babies become more susceptible to predators when left alone (Rudzik 10). Babies who co-sleep are known for sleeping lighter and waking up more than a solitary-sleeping baby. An infant’s sleep cycle starts by going through a phase of light and transitional sleep. For younger babies, long periods of deep sleep are not recommended. Light sleep develops their brain better than any deep sleep could. Mom and infant are highly responsive to each other’s movements causing these frequent awakenings during nighttime. Even though the baby wakes up more often, this typically does not last very long. Especially for a breastfed baby, nursing comforts him/her and helps him/her to fall back to sleep. 

Because the child is next to the mother's breast, they can smell the milk triggering them to nurse more frequently than if they were alone. Julia Ewaschuk's essay argues that the most potent way of communicating with a baby is the smell of her/his mother’s breast. The breast crawl is the instinct of a baby to reach out to the nipple for breastfeeding by his/her own. The baby senses the smell that areola glands release (Ewaschuk 54). This smell enables them to achieve, perhaps the most essential part of surviving (Ewaschuk 55). Ewaschuk studied on forty-eight infants to show the response towards the scent. Three bottles were offered to each one of the babies: Mother's milk, formula milk, and stranger woman's milk. In contrast with other options, the infants cried less when their own mother's milk offered them. Their saliva cortisol was measured to determine stress level, formula, and stranger caused an increment of stress levels, whereas the levels stay stable owing to the mother’s milk. Ewaschuk’s main point was to prove that breast milk increases the number of feedings regarding the child’s attraction to smell at night (Ewaschuk 56). Consequently, an infant's demand for the mother's milk is significant.

Co-sleeping may be beneficial to a breastfeeding mom, as well. A mother understands that breastfeeding and working on a full-time job are very much alike. It is much work to raise and feed an infant properly. Co-sleeping right from the start reduces the chances of facing any possible problems. Nursing helps to maintain a mother's milk supply, especially for those who work every day (McKenna, Infant-Mother Co-sleeping 53). McKenna calls this as reverse cycling, where the baby gets the nursing, which is missed out during the work hours of the mother. Baby gets the nutrients while mom begins to restore her milk (McKenna, Sleeping with Your Baby 376). These mothers tend to breastfeed newborns longer. Co-sleeping arrangement also offers minimized disruption at midnight, preventing the baby from entirely waking up. Both mom and baby are likely to sleep better due to the elimination of a crying baby in another room, which causes mom to get out of bed several times at night (Kennedy 58). Breastfeeding has also offered a safe sleeping position for mom and baby; this position called the cuddle curl (McKenna, Sleeping with Your Baby 371). Baby is safe under mom's armpit. Mom naturally curls her legs around the infant, and thus, she protects her baby from rolling over. This caution prevents potential suffocation by keeping the baby’s head aside from the pillows.

 William Sears is famously known for being the founder of attachment parenting, which serves to support co-sleeping by helping children psychologically. A secure attachment parenting style revolves around the safety net between parent and child (Patrice M. Miller, and Michael L. Commons 2). The definition of this method is the minimum departure between parents and infants. Sears divides the attachment into four steps: Breastfeeding, no crying, co-sleeping, and babywearing. Breastfeeding has substantial advantages for the baby, including forming the bond between mother and child (Patrice M. Miller, and Michael L. Commons 3). This relation meets the needs of an infant, consequently, crying of the infant reduces. In case that a parent ignores his/her baby, the trust can be lost. Co-sleeping is established regarding the numerous advantages for a mother due to being right next to her child during sleep (Patrice M. Miller, and Michael L. Commons 8). Babywearing also forms the bond within the mom and child through activities. While children are away from their parents, it creates stress, which results in the impairment in brain development.  

Attachment parenting assists in eliminating the separation anxiety of kids. Children who suffer from separation anxiety are usually part of an insecure attachment parenting. Tiffany Field and Martin Reite performed a study that focuses on how children react to the absence of their mothers during the night. The article focuses on phycological and behavioral responses (Tiffany Field and Martin Reite 1308). Responses collected by monitoring sixteen children before, during, and after the absence of their mothers. Heart rate, activity level, and sleep were all observed throughout the daily routine of the children (Tiffany Field and Martin Reite 1311). Every child experienced disturbance and distress during the period of separation from their mothers. When the mother returned, all levels decrease back to standards. Field and Reite's motivation for beginning the study were to show noteworthy psychological effects of the separation from a caregiver on a child. The physical and mental connection between a parent and an infant is significant.

Additionally, the goal of the attachment was to prove that the bonds which are created by parenting have meaningful effects on the baby (Tiffany Field and Martin Reite 1313). Although the feelings about the safety of a child who sleeps next to his/her mother are sure, the arrangement provides much more than natural feelings (Tiffany Field and Martin Reite 1314). Before birth, babies hear their mothers' heartbeat for nine long months. They begin to recognize the pulse of their mother, which leaves an imprint in their mind. Sleeping as a pair is a highly responsive practice for both infants and parents. This intimate connection includes the synchronization of their heartbeats within seconds. Babies also organize their breath pattern as simultaneous with the mother; Coordination of breathing helps to eliminate the risk of SIDS. This spectacular synchronization happens numerous times during sleep. It was tested by a face-to-face interaction, which provided the sight of the mother. The outcome was interesting. The view of the mother triggers the baby’s brain to alter his/her heartbeats.

Another psychological reason which supports co-sleeping is the relation between the co-sleep and amount of the sleep that a child gets (Meret A.Keller and Wendy A. Goldberg 381). Babies' sleep time varies depending on the sleep practice. In that case, co-sleeping provides more efficient and long sleep time than solitary sleep does (Meret A.Keller and Wendy A. Goldberg 384). In line with the efficiency of sleeping, sleeping issues are frequent problems in infants. As a universal fact, the more sleep the human body gets, the more positive effects it will be experienced on overall happiness (Rowley 34). Although the impacts of sleep on a child's mood are specific, it also ensures proper brain development. Sheyne Rowley wrote a book called Dream Baby Guide, helping parents to determine their child’s sleep patterns. She points out that the disruption in sleep is a mirror image of imbalance during the non-sleep period. Identifying each child's sleeping needs supports to ensure the happiness and calmness of a baby (Rowley 43). Under-sleeping may lead to various health risks for not only a child but an adult (F. H. Rath Junior and M. E. Okum 414). A few issues can be described as attention problems, irritability, and increased illness rates (Rowley 228). A child who sleeps with their primary caregiver feels protected and comforted (McKenna, Sleeping with Baby 362). Exploring comfort during night time provides a better sleeping experience.

Co-sleeping started several arguments on SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS is the primary cause of death in infants. Although there are various theories about the originator of SIDS cases, still, not a particular purpose exists. Concerning one of these theories, Baby's brain may not be developed enough for normal respiration, which is combined with an environment. Accordingly, there are a few different physical factors that lead to this health risk: Premature/ low birth weight, brain defects, genetics, physical traits, and respiratory infections (Sears 49). William Sears is a pediatrician who's dedicated his life to studying and writing about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. His book includes searches and theories to reduce this issue worldwide. By looking at the number of deaths in infants, one may see a decrease over the years. Co-sleeping has a bad reputation due to the lack of knowledge about its pluses (Sears 37). Parents are generally inexperienced in the proper practice of co-sleeping. Sears focuses on giving parents the proper instructions on how to co-sleep safely and deciding the availability of this practice for them.

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Children are individuals and correspondingly have different personalities. In addition to this fact, families’ behavior and raising methods on their children also varies. In the past, doctors and parents did not recommend the co-sleep practice as a result of the prejudices. Fortunately, advocates who inform the public about the methods and tips of safe co-sleeping have started to break prejudices. Sears and American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP, explain the guidelines on what to avoid when co-sleeping. Professionals are dedicated to ensuring the physical, mental, social health, and well-being of all children.

In 1990, AAP started the Back to Sleep Campaign, also known as the Safe to Sleep campaign, which suggests parents be sure that children sleep on their backs. The campaign drastically decreased the number of SIDS cases by fifty percent (Paula Schaeffer and Andrea G. Asnes 52). The article "What Do Pediatricians Tell Parents About Bed-sharing?" was written in line with this contribution. Schaeffer and Asnes researched the guidelines of AAP. They studied the doctors’ current arguments. As a consequence of several interviews with pediatricians, Schaeffer and Asnes realized that the parents were misguided. Nearly all pediatricians reported bed-sharing as an acceptable practice in proper circumstances ( Paula Schaeffer and Andrea G. Asnes 54). Contrarily, few pediatricians reported that they do not advise parents to bed-share with their infants ( Paula Schaeffer and Andrea G. Asnes 55). The professionals are divided on this topic. One subject they agree is that babies need to be on their backs to seep safe, as supported in the Back to Sleep Campaign.

Heavy blankets are considered as insecure; Blanket can suffocate a young infant. Babies should wear a pajama or sleep sacks to stay warm. Babies who are overdressed remain more likely to die of SIDS from overheating. Appropriately dressing them is essential. Pillows are not necessary either. Overdress, pillows, and blanket should be avoided to prevent SIDS. Babies roll over towards the wall, and this position may cause SIDS. The bed should be placed in the middle of the room to prevent this possibility (Russell et al. 13). Parents should ignore co-sleeping on a sofa or chair (Russell et al. 14). These are not firm surfaces. The presence of any other child on a bed during sleep time is also a risk. Occasionally, parents may be a threat. Several cases reveal that some children faced with SIDS due to alcohol or drug abuse of their parents. The proper co-sleeping does not cause an infant’s death.

Proper co-sleep reduces the chance of SIDS by fifty percent. Thousands of babies die each year because of SIDS. The presence of parents in the same room with their young helps to react suddenly in any risky conditions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP, recommends this practice up to six months, preferably up to a year after born. The most typical cases of SIDS occur within one to four months. However, the risks of SIDS remain until the end of the first year.  The existence of a caregiver in the environment eliminates sudden infant deaths. SIDS still happens frequently regarding the ignorance of parents. It is easier to care and comfort the baby by remaining close to her/him. 

Some scholars disagree with the practice of co-sleeping by pointing out parent's risk to roll over an infant. Laura Harrison is one of those scholars that support this argument. She reveals that an adult’s weight is usually twenty times more than the infant in her article "What's Best for Baby?" By comparing the weights of adult and infant, the effect of rolling over the infant can be described as driving an SUV over someone (Harrison 70). Harrison runs a Safe Sleep campaign in Milwaukee that aims to prove co-sleeping is a dangerous parental decision, and parents who practice this method should face a legal proceeding (Harrison 75). The campaign shows various data that supports her claim. The environment is still not a concern in many of them. Her focus ranged from 2006 to 2009, when many parents had not much information about practicing co-sleeping in safety (Harrison 81). Conversely, statistics show that the causes of deaths usually depend on circumstances and inappropriate practices of parents.

 The effects of alcohol and drug abuse seem avoided in Sears's book. He believes scientific results reveal that subconscious awareness prevents parents from moving during co-sleep (Sears 112). This thought ignores almost all the risk of harming the child in a safe environment. This subconscious is similar to the feeling, which keeps a person away from falling off the bed (Sears 114). Regarding a breastfeeding mother, an accident unlikely to happen concerning the mother's breasts (McKenna, Breast Feeding 30). Breasts recover during the night and make her feel uncomfortable for rolling (McKenna, Breast Feeding 31). As mentioned in the previous concerns, breastfeeding mothers instinctively practices the cuddle curl. Cuddle curl decreases the chance of going over the infant (Sears 163). As a result of avoiding the environmental factors during co-sleeping, the risk of rolling over supports the counter-arguments.

Eventually, children are unique in person, which results in the demand for varying methods in sleep practices. Determining the actual sleeping practice depends on several factors which are previously mentioned. Co-sleeping may not be the answer to provide a proper sleep routine for every infant. Sleeping in separate rooms and co-sleeping practice both may allow raising a healthy infant. The point is to determine the appropriate method by considering the infant's personality. Outcomes of co-sleeping are significant when it is practiced by following guidelines correctly and avoiding possible factors that may cause harm to the child.

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