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The thought of bringing a baby into the family brings up images of paint colors, cribs, and nursery décor. Sometimes you just don’t have the space for a nursery, or perhaps you just want to keep your baby close by when they need something during the night. Co-sleeping can solve both of these problems while fitting your family’s needs and your lifestyle.
Types of Co-Sleeping
Co-sleeping is the practice of sleeping with your baby rather than having them sleep in a separate room or nursery. This can be done either with the baby sleeping directly in the same bed as the parents or simply in the same room.
There are two main ways you can co-sleep with your baby: bassinet or in-bed co-sleeper. Bassinets are like a small cradle or small-framed crib that either stands alone or attaches to the side of the parents’ bed. In-bed co-sleepers are like a small bed that either attaches to the side of the parents’ bed or is placed directly into the bed with the parents. Both typically only last for the first 6-12 months of your baby’s life. With your baby’s rapid growth, they will quickly outgrow the small size of a bassinet or co-sleeper.
Co-Sleeping vs. Crib
There are several reasons why co-sleeping may be a more suitable practice than a separate nursery or crib, especially if your baby sleeps in the same bed as you do. Breastfeeding mothers find it especially convenient since babies need to eat every couple of hours. If your baby is in the same bed, you can respond quickly to hunger cues and get back to sleep much faster since you don’t have to get out of bed.
Women recovering from C-sections may also find co-sleeping with a baby in the bed or in an attached bassinet or co-sleeper very helpful. C-section recovery is long and painful. Every time you have to change position or get up from sitting or lying down is very uncomfortable. Co-sleeping eliminates the need to get up during the night.
For parents living in a small space, such as a one-bedroom apartment, co-sleeping can be a lifesaver. You don’t need to find an extra space or take up living space with a crib, risking your baby waking up with every movement throughout your home.
Another great thing about a co-sleeper or bassinet is the fact that they are relatively portable, especially an in-bed co-sleeper. If you are visiting family or going on vacation, you can be sure that your baby has a safe place to sleep and is comfortable in their own bed since you can easily take it with you.
The Right Co-Sleeping Style for You
Choosing between a bassinet and in-bed co-sleeper is going to depend on your lifestyle and personal habits. What works for one person may not work for you.
The first thing you need to take into account is the space available in your home or bed. Some in-bed co-sleepers can be very bulky, making it difficult to fit into a full or queen size bed between two fully grown adults. However, if you have a king size bed, you should be able to manage just fine with an in-bed co-sleeper.
Next, you need to consider your sleeping habits, both yours and your partner’s. A light sleeper may prefer a bassinet since you will still be able to hear their movements and respond to hunger cues even if they’re not in the same bed. Otherwise, you may be in for some fitful nights of little sleep since your baby’s every movement in your bed will likely rouse you from your sleep.
On the other hand, heavy sleepers need to consider which option is better for your baby’s safety and needs. In-bed co-sleeping can be dangerous with a heavy sleeper as they may roll over on the baby without realizing. However, having the baby sleep in a bassinet may not work since you won’t be able to hear your baby waking until it is too late.
If dad is a heavy sleeper but mom is not, I recommend sharing a bed with your baby. It makes it much easier to respond quickly to hunger cues during the night. Simply keep your baby on mom’s side to prevent dad from rolling on them.
There are a lot of mixed opinions on co-sleeping. For many reasons, professionals and many “experienced” parents may advise against co-sleeping due to the risk of accidental infant death. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to not put baby directly into bed with the parents. A proper in-bed co-sleeper should have a somewhat solid frame to prevent rolling and suffocation.
The other reason why you shouldn’t put a baby directly into a bed with their parents is due to the multiple suffocation risks associated with an adult bed. Most mattresses are too soft, and if a baby rolls over onto their face, they don’t have the neck strength to lift their head and avoid suffocation. The pillows and blankets also pose suffocation risks. A good bassinet or co-sleeper should have a firm mattress and not have any pillows or blankets inside.
The most important thing is that both parents are in agreement about co-sleeping, whether it’s in the same bed or in a separate bassinet in the same room. They should both be aware of where the baby is; you should never put a baby in your bed without the other person knowing.
Co-sleeping with your baby can be accomplished both safely and successfully, regardless of whether you choose a separate bassinet or in-bed co-sleeper. Just keep your baby’s needs and your family’s lifestyle and habits in mind when choosing the method.