Informed Co-sleeping: Bedsharing vs. Co-sleeping and Making the Right Decision for Your Family - Happy as a Mother

Informed Co-sleeping: Bedsharing vs. Co-sleeping and Making the Right Decision for Your Family


with Paediatric Nurse Lyndsey Hookway



WHAT YOU’LL LEARN


  • Why Holistic Sleep Doesn’t Always Mean Co-sleeping
  • The Difference Between Bedsharing and Co-sleeping
  • Risk Factors for Bedsharing
  • How Other Countries Handle Bedsharing
  • The Importance of Having Open Conversations About Co-Sleeping

Is co-sleeping right for your family? Is bedsharing the same as co-sleeping? What are the risk factors? Can you bedshare safely? Many families have questions about co-sleeping but aren’t sure where to find answers. In our previous blog post with holistic sleep expert Lyndsey Hookway, we learned that infant sleep is nuanced. Today, Lyndsey is back for part 2, to talk about co-sleeping, bedsharing, and making an informed decision for your family.

Making Informed Decisions

There are few more divided topics among parents than sleep. Sometimes it can feel like you either are a “cry-it-out mom” or a “bedsharing” mom. But the truth is that sleep is a spectrum, and there are many gradients in between the extremes. 

I’ve seen clients who turn to co-sleeping out of desperation, and who don’t want to continue. But I’ve also had plenty of clients who love bedsharing or co-sleeping, who feel that is the best choice for their families. 

Parents deserve information and open conversations on all sides of sleep in order to make informed decisions without judgment. That’s why I was so happy to sit down with Lyndsey again to talk more about co-sleeping. 

Why Holistic Sleep Doesn’t Always Mean Co-sleeping

We might think of holistic sleep and co-sleeping as synonymous, but Lyndsey was quick to point out that this isn’t always the case. There are many nuances to holistic sleep, and there are cases where parents who practice it can’t safely co-sleep. 

Lyndsey said that attachment is a process, not an event. That means that each family must find the sleep methods that work for them—and you don’t have to co-sleep to be “responsive.” 

She also pointed out that bedsharing and co-sleeping don’t have to be set decisions. Plenty of families move in and out of bedsharing, co-sleep in creative ways, and choose solutions that don’t fit in with parental stereotypes. 

The Difference Between Bedsharing and Co-sleeping

People often lump co-sleeping and bedsharing together, but there are key differences. Co-sleeping means having your baby in the same room as you. This can be in a separate bed, a bassinet, a crib, or even a bedside co-sleeper. Bedsharing, on the other hand, means bringing your baby into the same bed as you. 

There are many ways to co-sleep, and even many ways to bedshare. One partner might leave the bed or the room for a time, leaving the other parent to sleep in bed with the baby. Both partners might sleep in bed together with the children. Some families even move to a floor bed, either as a co-sleeping solution or a transition out of bedsharing. 

It’s important to define these terms and understand the differences when we have important conversations about options for sleep. 

Risk Factors for Bedsharing

Bedsharing has a stigma that it is inherently dangerous, but large-scale, global evidence is difficult to gather. That’s because research has lumped together all forms of co-sleeping and bedsharing, failing to separate out different sleep situations or risk factors. 

There are risk factors that make bedsharing more dangerous. Bedsharing is more likely to be dangerous if the mom is not exclusively breastfeeding, if any parent bedsharing is a smoker or has had alcohol, or if the baby is placed on their stomach to sleep. 

Lyndsey points out that these are all variables—those factors don’t mean that a baby will be harmed inherently, just as removing all risk factors doesn’t mean that tragedies won’t happen. 

When we are aware of the data, however, we can take more steps to mitigate risk and protect our littles. 

How Other Countries Handle Bedsharing

In the Western world, moms are often discouraged from co-sleeping due to safety concerns. But Lyndsey brought up that conversations about co-sleeping often take on a Western-centric view. 

The data shows that most of the world bedshares. In some Eastern countries, like Japan, bedsharing is very prevalent, and yet the rate of SIDS is low. This indicates that bedsharing can be done safely. 

Even some Western countries, like those in the UK, hold more flexible conversations around bedsharing. There, it is not recommended. However, doctors are more open to having conversations around how to lower the risk factors and bedshare more safely. 

When we look at bedsharing globally, we can have more cohesive discussions around the topic, leading to more informed decisions. 

The Importance of Having Open Conversations About Co-Sleeping

Bedsharing and co-sleeping are hot topics with plenty of debate. Some parents are shamed for making these decisions. 

But Lyndsey pointed out that when we shame moms for doing something that helps them survive difficult sleep situations, people feel like they have to go underground and hide the way they sleep.

When we can’t talk about sleep with open, nuanced conversations, discussing risk on a spectrum, some parents will turn to behaviours that are riskier and more dangerous, such as falling asleep on the couch with the baby.

But if we can change the narrative and have more open conversations, we could help families make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and find solutions that work best for their families. 

For more from Lyndsey about holistic sleep, make sure to read our previous blog post about Understanding the holistic approach to sleep!

If you’re struggling with sleep deprivation, or worried about your mental health, it might be time to seek help. Our Wellness Center can connect you with a mom therapist who’s ready to help! Book your consultation today!

Lyndsey is an experienced paediatric nurse, children’s public health nurse, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Holistic Sleep Coach, researcher and responsive parenting advocate. She has worked in hospitals, clinics, the community and within clients’ homes for 20 years, serving within the UK NHS, in private practice and voluntarily. The co-founder and clinical director of the Holistic Sleep Coaching program, Lyndsey regularly teaches internationally, as well as providing mentorship for newer sleep coaches. She is passionate about responsive feeding, gentle parenting and promoting parental confidence and well-being.      


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