Babies Should Sleep In Mum's Bed Till Three Years Old, Says New Research

29 October 2011

I was sent a link to an article in the Daily Mail this morning, on new research claiming that babies should sleep in the mother’s bed until they are at least three years old.  I must warn you about two things: I co-sleep and advocate for it, and secondly, I love this kind of ‘research’ because the debate around it is usually heated, and full of ‘study of one’ anecdotes, with everyone using their own child as their empirical research sample.

This study, conducted by Dr Nils Bergman of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, says that ‘for optimal development, healthy newborns should sleep on their mother’s chest for the first few weeks’, and …”they should stay in the mother’s bed until they are three or even four years old.”

The reasoning behind it is that the sixteen babies monitored in the study showed three times the stress on their hearts when they slept alone as compared to sleeping next to their mothers. Being in a cot also apparently disrupted the babies’ sleep, and their brains were less likely to transition between active and quiet sleep.  In the cots, only six of the 16 babies had ‘quiet’ sleep and the quality of the sleep was worse than when they were in their mother’s beds.

Dr Bergman claims that the stress hormones make it more difficult to form relationships later on, leading to problems such as promiscuity. He also said that the damage sleeping separately does to the brain leads to bad behaviour as the child grows.

Despite, the images in the article seemingly contradicting the findings – a baby lying next to its mother in what most co-sleepers would consider a dangerous position for such a small baby, and an almost-smiling baby alone in a cot, I find the research interesting, and personally stand in agreement for myself and my family, it’s the comments on the article that really amuse me and make for quite entertaining reading.

The problem is that every parent and every family do what they feel is best, generally based on the last bit of research that’s come out, and more often than not, based on what their own parents did.

Conflicting bits of research don’t really help either, with SIDS research in the UK showing that two-thirds of unexplained deaths occurred in the bed, (but we also know that there is safe and unsafe co-sleeping).  No matter how many times your health visitor might tell you it’s not safe, most mothers at one point or another find themselves sleeping in their bed with their baby – something the NCT is in favour of, “as long as the parents have not been smoking, drinking or using drugs and are not obese, ill or excessively tired.”

Whatever each person’s decision behind the closed door of their homes, it’s both frustrating to know that you can find research to support your point of view on almost any aspect of parenting, and liberating to know that following your parenting instinct is probably the safest route to a happy home.

 

TOPICS:   News and Recalls

7 comments

  • magicbeans
    3 years old?! are u mad??? haha..... do what's best definitely, but i found it a lot less stressful having the baby with me in bed...i just worried all night i'd squish them!!
  • LynleyOram
    I get annoyed with any study that tells you what you *should* do. What these studies should really be telling you is what you need to know about the way YOU mother your child. Like magicbeans, I never considered not sleeping in the same bed. It was far less stressful. I looked up information on this and as far as I could see, as long as you're not a smoker or taking any kind of drugs (legal or illegal, including stuff for colds for example) that might affect your body's own ability to monitor itself. The same if you are ill yourself. But otherwise sleeping together seems fairly normal and quite natural. We have a super king size bed and I can honestly say that son was still sleeping in our bed when he was 3. He's in his own bed now but he gets into ours if he wakes up. We have no problems with this. I love that we wake up together in the morning, and I love hearing about his dreams while they are fresh and immediate in his head. It is only for a few short years and then they're too big and don't want to anymore. But the thing is, this isn't for everyone. I have friends who found it far more stressful to co-sleep. During the early stages it was much better and easier for them to have the cot drop side down or the moses basket pulled right next to the bed for night feeds, and cuddles if needed. You really do have to go with what works for you. Especially in those first few months when everything is so stressful anyway. Plus there's baby too. It is amazing how assertive a tiny, new human being can actually be when it comes to communicating their needs to mummy.
  • SlayerKat
    I always think it's hilarious when "they" present common sense as news lol Latest research suggests feeding your child is good for them.. cough hahahahahahhahaha cough (can you tell I'm in a naughty mood)
  • LuschkaPP
    I always think it's hilarious when "they" present common sense as news lol Latest research suggests feeding your child is good for them.. cough hahahahahahhahaha cough (can you tell I'm in a naughty mood)
    ;) I often grin away to myself when reading and writing this stuff. In fact I've said in the past, someone actually PAYS people to come up with some of this stuff?? What a cushy job.
  • LuschkaPP
    I get annoyed with any study that tells you what you *should* do. What these studies should really be telling you is what you need to know about the way YOU mother your child. Like magicbeans, I never considered not sleeping in the same bed. It was far less stressful. I looked up information on this and as far as I could see, as long as you're not a smoker or taking any kind of drugs (legal or illegal, including stuff for colds for example) that might affect your body's own ability to monitor itself. The same if you are ill yourself. But otherwise sleeping together seems fairly normal and quite natural. We have a super king size bed and I can honestly say that son was still sleeping in our bed when he was 3. He's in his own bed now but he gets into ours if he wakes up. We have no problems with this. I love that we wake up together in the morning, and I love hearing about his dreams while they are fresh and immediate in his head. It is only for a few short years and then they're too big and don't want to anymore. But the thing is, this isn't for everyone. I have friends who found it far more stressful to co-sleep. During the early stages it was much better and easier for them to have the cot drop side down or the moses basket pulled right next to the bed for night feeds, and cuddles if needed. You really do have to go with what works for you. Especially in those first few months when everything is so stressful anyway. Plus there's baby too. It is amazing how assertive a tiny, new human being can actually be when it comes to communicating their needs to mummy.
    I think the problem is this, I've sat in a room full of press when a 'leading' expert in child care from the NHS said she couldn't condone co-sleeping, couldn't recommend it, they know that everyone does it, but she can't talk about it. That really, REALLY annoyed me, because pretend something like that doesn't exist to me is more dangerous than talking about doing it safely. I agree whole heartedly that different things work for different people though, and I know in our case when our daughter sleeps in our room I get much better sleep than when she's in her own room and wakes during the night!
  • LuschkaPP
    It might have been worth mentioning that the definition of co-sleeping is actually a child in your room, even if not in your bed.
  • colleenvanonselen
    Good stuff.I allow my new moms to go to sleep with babi then sneak into the room in a while and remove the babe to the cot...with prior consent from mom as it is a definite NO_NO in Australian hospitals but I KNOW they will be doing this at home... they tell me so. BUT it does add extra stress on my shift as I have to do this along with all the other tasks I have to carry out and I bear the consequences of anything going wrong.........

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