Man Nurse had a good cosleeping post today that I had to share, as I agree with so much of what he says. I'd like to add that cosleeping means sharing the same room: cobedding means sharing the same bed, though cosleeping is often used to describe only cobedding. Both can be protective. You can read his post, its comments, and his blog here.
Co-Sleeping: Does It Really Need To Be Explained?
It is recommended that your baby shares a room with you for at least the first 6 months, as this helps with breastfeeding and protects babies against cot death.
(From the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative and the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths)
It amazes me that people have concerns about co-sleeping. People seem to really think that they'll roll over in their sleep and crush or smother their baby. Do you roll off the bed onto the floor at night? Do you roll onto your spouse (I mean, in your sleep, not in an effort to start something)? You have proprioception, or spatial awareness, even in your sleep. That's why you don't fall off the bed every night. I mean, if you fall off the bed every night, don't co-sleep. So it doesn't take long to become accustomed to a baby in your bed. My wife and I have co-slept with four kids (including two babies at once) and have never had the slightest problem.*
I've read a few articles about 'co-sleeping deaths', but they all seem to revolve around a few themes: alcohol; parents who don't normally co-sleep falling asleep on the couch with a baby; infants being left alone in adult beds; and obesity. None of these apply to the average co-sleeper. The fact is that if a non-co-sleeping parent gets drunk and falls asleep on the couch with their baby and the baby dies, this is reported as a co-sleeping death. That's not co-sleeping! There are hundreds of not-newsworthy SIDS cases where a baby died the "safety" of an unwatched crib. I can't help feeling that some of those deaths could have been avoided by safer sleeping practices; practices which exist in most of the world outside the United States.
The sad thing to see is the stress some parents go through when they insist on crib-sleeping their infant. I've seen parents intensely frustrated (at their baby!!) because their infant won't sleep unless, say, they have a hand on its back, and they have to sit up half the night next to the crib. If the baby obviously wants is proximity to the parent, and the parent wants sleep, these can both be accomplished IN A NORMAL BED! Co-sleeping is so easy compared to crib-sleeping. I don't understand the rationale of locating your child away from you, so that they're fully conscious and screaming before you get to them. A fussy co-sleeping child can be nursed or held or rocked back to sleep while they're still half-asleep.
What I really don't understand about co-sleeping is the fact that we talk about it at all. Why is there even a term for it? Doesn't it just...happen? You lay down to nurse your infant and they go to sleep. Going through the ordeal of buying a crib and organizing an entire separate room of the house around it and then trying to wean your child into sleeping alone after they've been living inside you for nine months...that's an epic process that deserves a term.
* Except being nudged, pushed, or kicked by a little six month old who somehow manages to own half of a queen sized bed to itself...