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Losing Sleep Over New Co-Sleeping Study

A new study has found that women who co-sleep with their babies are possibly more prone to stress than those who don't.

I co-slept with both of my kids, and I could not disagree more.

According to a Fox News article, "Breastfeeding and co-sleeping with baby affects mom's welfare," the study followed 195 women in a Chicago suburb for six months after they gave birth. The study showed that mothers who slept with their babies had "less-than-optimal daily rhythms" of the stress hormone cortisol. Those who had the best rhythms were moms who breastfed and then did not share a bed with their baby.

Apparently, an "optimal rhythm" of cortisol is one in which the levels are high in the morning and then decline in the evening. The study showed that women who co-slept with their babies had less of a decline of cortisol throughout the day.

This study is bogus on many levels:

  1. Researchers only tested 195 women. That's hardly an adequate sampling of the overall population.
  2. They only tested women from a single Chicago suburb. Who's to say new moms in other areas of the country would have similar results?
  3. There is no evidence of a correlation between the cortisol levels and the co-sleeping. Maybe these women were stressed to begin with. Maybe they were poor, single moms. Maybe their pregnancies were unexpected and/or unwanted. Maybe they had other children to deal with or stressful jobs. Who knows?

Photo courtesy Marta Dehnel, stock.xchng

All I know is that co-sleeping was the best thing that could have happened to me as a new mom. My daughter would NOT sleep unless she was physically touching me. I tried the whole "cry it out" thing, and after hours of nonstop crying (both my daughter and me), I decided that there had to be a better way. You want to talk about stress, try standing outside the bedroom door while your infant daughter is alone in her crib screaming herself hoarse.

She ended up sleeping with me almost every night until she was about 6 years old. I still occasionally sleep in her bed if she's feeling particularly needy.

My son, on the other hand, slept with me for less than a year. He didn't need as much physical contact, so he was in a "big boy bed" in no time.

As for the relationship between SIDS and co-sleeping, this article by Dr. Sears says that worldwide research has shown that the SIDS rate is lowest in countries where babies typically sleep with their parents. The vast majority of deaths from co-sleeping result from parents who smoke, who are obese, or who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The bottom line is that co-sleeping works for many families, and a single study should not discourage a mom from listening to the needs of her infant. You know your child best. Follow your instincts, and do what comes naturally. It's the best way for everyone to get a good night's sleep.

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