Co-Sleeping is a broad term that can encompass anything from bed-sharing, a side sleeper attached to your bed, nearby Moses basket, or separate crib/cot in the corner of your bedroom. Many use the term interchangeably with bed sharing but, in actual fact, it is broader than just bed sharing.
Research shows that even when moms and babies do not purposely plan to bed share, 70-80% of breastfeeding dyads will bed share at some point during the first three months. 1 Therefore, care should be taken to ensure a safe sleeping environment even if a breastfeeding mom does not plan to fall asleep with her baby.
There are many factors that help to make bed sharing safer and, armed with information, some families will choose to co-sleep but not bed share. This still allows for many advantages to breastfeeding and will help a new mom maximize the amount of sleep she can get. Whether baby is in a side sleeper attached to your bed or crib on the other side of the room, many mothers will scoop their baby up when he awakes, nurse him lying down in bed, and then return him to his separate bed once nursing is done. Though there is more up and down throughout the night than if baby stayed in bed with mother, it still doesn’t take too much arousal to quickly get baby and lay back down to nurse. Sometimes baby’s father may agree to bring baby back and forth during the night allowing mom to remain in bed. Regardless, co-sleeping means baby is nearby and you can hear her awake before she is upset and crying, as what happens many times when baby is in a separate room. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s Clinical Protocol #6: Guideline on Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding says, “Because breastfeeding is the best form of nutrient for infants, any recommendations for infant care that impede its initiation or duration need to be carefully weighed against the many known benefits to infants, their mothers, and society….There is currently not enough evidence to support routine recommendations against co-sleeping.” 2 Co-sleeping allows you to respond to your baby’s needs quickly and helps both mother and baby maximize their sleep.