Sharing a bed with bubba — yes or no?

Our experts Dr Kenny Pang, ENT and sleep specialist at Asia Sleep Centre, and Four Trimesters doula Constance Chiang share three cons and three pros of sleeping with baby (safely)!

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The “family bed” and “co-sleeping” are terms associated with sleeping with bubba. Doula and maternity-and-child sleep consultant at Four Trimesters Constance Chiang shares that bed-sharing, as the name suggests, is literally sharing the bed with your munchkin. Co-sleeping, on the other hand, is the process of sharing the room with your little one.

Pros:

1. More shut-eye for you and your little one

Sharing the bed with bubba offers greater convenience especially when it comes to feeding him at night — just remember to ALWAYS burp them before putting him back to sleep.

Note that it can prove to be helpful for getting your sleep cycle in sync with your baby’s. Chiang says that the circadian rhythms — a whole host of physiological processes like brain-wave activity, hormone production and cell regeneration — gets in sync when mother and baby sleep in close quarters with each other.

2. Less anxiety for you and baby

Sleeping in their own room can lead to increased anxiety when little bubba wakes to an empty room. It is a surefire way to cause the whimper to turn into full-blown wailing. Then you’d find yourself spending additional time soothing them or dealing with unhappy neighbours — precious time better spent on sleeping (for you and baby). Chiang explains, “Simply sharing the room with your baby can help your baby to sleep better as they can sense you are close thus making them feel safer and more secure.”

3. Loading up on the oxytocin

Chiang says sleeping with your baby can help your body produce more oxytocin — commonly known as the “love” hormone — which is also known for improving the production of milk in nursing mothers. Oxytocin can help mothers develop keener “motherly instincts” — you might even be able to skip the alarm clock for munchkin’s scheduled feeding at night!

So what about the cons of co-sleeping? Click next...

Cons:

1. The risk of suffocation

It is natural for your body to toss and turn in bed as the night progresses. Thus most parents’ apprehension to sharing the bed with kewpie come from the fear of rolling onto or over their baby — yikes!

Sleep expert Dr Kenny Pang cautions parents not to underestimate the risks of accidentally suffocating your mini-me: Beyond the possibility of you rolling onto bubba, your blankets, pillows or even bolsters could be rolled onto them, notes Dr Pang.

2. Less chance of getting frisky with hubs

Even if you feel up for “fun”, most parents don’t feel comfortable “doing stuff” in baby’s presence (not that baby will recall anything). Although this can be easily resolved — just put them into their crib in the nursery once they’re asleep. That way you’d have the bedroom to yourselves...

3. Harder to move baby into their own room later

The longer you choose to share the bed with munchkin, the more difficult it will become for you to get them to sleep on their own when they grow up. Try getting baby to sleep in their crib on certain nights, and sharing your bed on other days through a proper sleep routine.

What if you really think you should sleep with bubba or bubs won’t settle without you near? There are safer co-sleeping tactics…

Regardless of the sleeping arrangement safety should be your top priority. There are fairly common-sense occasions when it would be unsafe to bed-share: If you are feeling sick or unwell, it will be better to consider having a crib in the same room, rather than sharing the bed.

This is particularly if you have consumed medication that might make you feel drowsy or sedate you (cough medication especially). Anything that might cause decreased alertness is a no-go — that includes things like alcohol. Also, if your baby is born premature or have a low birthweight you should settle her in a crib instead of sharing the bed.

Sharing the bed can be still be safe — just ensure that you adopt the cuddle-curl position when sharing the bed with baby!

Dr Pang cautions you, both as a specialist and parent himself, to choose co-sleeping with bub in the room, instead of bed-sharing. “I would advise parents to have their baby sleep on either a low bed or on a mattress on the floor. I would not encourage parents to share the bed with their children because of the risk of suffocation through the accidental sleep movement or actions like throwing one’s blanket, pillow or bolster [onto them].”

Four Trimesters’ Chiang says there are safe ways to ensure that you can share with bubba. Called the cuddle-curl position, bring your knees up and tuck your arms under your head or pillow as you curl around your baby; this creates a protected space around baby.

Chiang also recommends that parents can look at books like Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J Smith and Teresa Pitman for guidance on bed-sharing.

If you choose to co-sleep, Chiang advises that you pick a firm mattress for baby and that baby is healthy, lightly dressed with nothing placed on munchkin’s head and ensure that baby is never left alone.

Constance Chiang is a doula with Four Trimesters.

Dr Kenny Peter Pang is an ear, nose and throat (ENT) and sleep specialist at Asia Sleep Centre.

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