The debate: Should you co-sleep?

When it comes to co-sleeping, every parent has an opinion. Here, two parents face off on the much-debated question: To co-sleep, or not to co-sleep?

Illustration: Jessica Rae Gordon

“Yes, I co-sleep”
Alex Mlynek, mother of one

I never intended for this to happen — sometimes I refer to myself as an “accidental attachment parent” — but I sleep in the same bed as my two-year-old and have since he was six weeks old.

You may have heard about the controversial public service ad in Milwaukee, Wisc., last fall that compared co-sleeping to letting your baby sleep with a knife. If the idea wasn’t so wrong-headed, it would be hilarious.

If you follow proper guidelines — including no bed sharing if you’re a smoker, inebriated or heavily overweight, and making sure you’re on a firm mattress (never a waterbed or a couch!) and keeping pillows and heavy blankets away from baby — co-sleeping is totally safe. It also helps with breastfeeding; frequent night-nursing encourages a strong milk supply. Safe co-sleeping allows parents to get better rest, too.

That’s what the experts say. Now here’s what I know: that relaxing of the body, that contented sigh. This is what I saw when I first let my son sleep beside me. Up until then, he’d been in a bassinet in our room and I got up to breastfeed him, which roused us both. I was beyond exhausted and let him come into our bed one night out of desperation. But it fit. He nursed more easily, I barely had to wake up, and he was pretty insistent about staying there. I swear there was a slightly mischievous, self-satisfied smile on his face the first time he slept beside us. It was one of the first lessons he taught me: “Mom, this is where I’m supposed to be, silly.” And I wouldn’t trade the hours of sleep I’ve saved, the strong sense of security my son has, or the joy of those extra cuddles for anything.

Read more: Let co-sleeping families lie>

“No, I don’t co-sleep”
Jason Anderson, father of one

My wife sometimes calls me a Tasmanian devil in bed, but she doesn’t mean it to be sexy or even complimentary. What she’s saying is that I’m the kind of sleeper who rolls around, gets the sheets all tied up and, occasionally, wakes her with a stray knee. All of which made it easier to decide whether co-sleeping (as in bed-sharing) with our first daughter was the right decision for us.

Born at eight pounds and rapidly expanding, Violet isn’t a delicate sort, yet I felt reluctant to put her in close range of Daddy’s flailing limbs. Those tangled sheets were another worry; they’re the big reason why the Canadian Paediatric Society discourages bed-sharing, noting the increased risk of suffocation when infants and adults sleep under the same covers. Room-sharing, however, has plenty of benefits, including a lower risk of SIDS, so we followed the advice to keep Violet in our bedroom and we loved having her sleeping nearby in a Moses basket.

Read more: Safe sleep for babies>

But even this proved to be relatively short-lived. Due to an intense bout of colic, Violet did much of her sleeping in a swing in another room. When the colic finally abated after a few months, it felt more natural to move her into her nursery rather than try to cohabitate again. Luckily, she was also a quick learner when it came to self-soothing, another thing babies who always have a warm adult body at the ready might not become aces at. Now we’re still close enough to hear her squawks but also have the space and peace we need to be the parents we want to be. The Tasmanian devil can also be kept at a safe distance, though not as far as Violet’s mother might like.

What’s your opinion? Do you co-sleep?

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