Like any other decision a parent will inevitably make, there are numerous reasons behind the sleep arrangements parents choose for themselves and their babies. Some parents decide on bed-sharing because of their living arrangements or financial situation, while others believe it will create a strong bond between themselves and their babies. In fact, many parents might not even realize the bonuses to bed-sharing. So what does bed-sharing do to your brain? I'd venture to guess most would be surprised to find it has some insanely beneficial side-effects.
According to KellyMom, bed-sharing is defined as a sleeping arrangement in which parents sleep in the same bed as their child. Organizations like the American Association for Pediatrics recommend against it, however, and due to increased Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates in babies that co-sleep. As a result, bed-sharing has become a highly debated and controversial sleeping arrangement. However, proponents of bed-sharing argue that the practice can keep babies from dying of SIDS, because parents can be more in tune to what the baby needs at every moment, therefore preventing non-breathing situations that might possibly cause death by SIDS.
But if you land on the bed-sharing side of the controversial debate, there can be benefits to you, the mom, that often go unpublicized. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact — like bonding, a smooth transition from inside the womb to outside in the world, and a higher success rate of breastfeeding — that can an actually lead to a heck of a lot more sleep for the parents. According to KellyMom, moms who co-sleep with their babies often sleep more than moms who sleep in another room from their little one. The increase in sleep for mom means lower level of reported depression and anxiety. According to Scientific American, skin-to-skin contact can help a mom produce oxytocin, thereby relaxing a mother and giving her those feel-good endorphins that combat depression and anxiety.
In addition to increasing oxytocin, there's also a certain calming effect moms who co-sleep experience in knowing they are right there to respond to their baby's needs at a moment's notice. Some moms find the feeling of meeting their baby's needs so quickly to be more than enough of a reason to ignore those frequent kicks to the ribs.
Not only does bed-sharing affect your brain, it can also affect your baby's brain, too. The simple act of having constant physical contact with your baby can help create a stronger bond between you and your child, according to The Mayo Clinic. This constant physical contact, often referred to as kangaroo care, can, according to The Mayo Clinic, "complement medical care by promoting early family bonding." While Kangaroo Care is usually used in NICU units for premature babies, it can be beneficial for all newborns and regardless of how they were brought into the world. The position a baby is held when doing kangaroo care, for example, promotes a relaxation that can help "stabilize breathing, heart rate, and oxygenation levels." The Mayo Clinic goes on to say a parent's "calming, familiar presence during kangaroo care encourage deep, regular sleep in your baby."
But bed-sharing isn't for everyone. If you're a particularly light sleeper, you might not be able to get any sleep with your baby lying by your side. Or you might be particularly concerned about the AAP's recommendations against co-sleeping on the same surface with your baby. Luckily, there are products on the market that can help you sleep in the same room and in close proximity to your baby without having to be all in the same bed, like co-sleeping bassinets and other attachments. Perhaps this might provide a happy medium for your family and, as a result, allow you to reap the benefits of bed-sharing without giving you any extra fears (or kicks to the face).