Why co-sleeping is catching on in France and in the US
Co-sleeping is a hot topic for parents today, but it is extremely controversial.
If you’re as confused as I was about the world of co-sleeping, I want to demystify a few things for you in this article and show you how we used co-sleeping successfully.
Make yourself a cup of hot, strong coffee, and let’s examine this controversial topic.
The phenomenon of co-sleeping
Imagine spending 9 months in your mama’s womb, physically connected to her. Then imagine the immense work of leaving that space. You how have to adjust to a loud, bright world, many times without the external physical connection of your mama.
Now imagine being taken from the only external world you know, the hospital, and being brought to a new place: your new home. You are further removed from your mama by having to sleep in a room of your own, by yourself.
Does this sound crazy to you? It did to me. Yet, in both the United States and France, the practice of having a newborn sleep in her own bedroom, away from her parents, is still the norm. Did you know that less than half of American babies sleep in their parents’ room? But, this trend is changing!
Personally, I just couldn’t fathom coming home from the hospital and depositing my newborn in her own room to spend nights alone while I slept in a separate room across the hall.
I realize this is not everyone’s point of view, but if you’re here reading this article, you might be interested in learning more about co-sleeping and maybe implementing it for your baby.
I believe that the ever-increasing value of individuality at the expense of community is at the heart of this practice in the United States. And I suspect that the sanctity of the parents’ room coupled with a sense of women’s liberation is the root of this practice in France.
But what we call cododo in France (co-dodo, literally co-sleeping) is becoming more and more popular today.
What do I mean by co-sleeping?
There are 3 terms to know about:
- Bed sharing
- Room sharing
A catch-all term for both bed sharing and room sharing. It simply refers to the practice of sleeping near your baby, whether she is on the mattress with you, or in her own bed in the same room.
When you sleep with your baby on your mattress. Bed sharing is actually the more controversial subject! It is generally not recommended because it can increase your baby’s risk of SIDS. I would suggest, as always, that if you are thinking of implementing bed sharing, you do your own research first.
When you sleep with your baby in the same room, but not on the same mattress. Parents sleep in their own bed, and baby sleeps in hers. It is generally recommended and safe.
Can you see now how both bed sharing and room sharing are two different forms of co-sleeping?
The problem is that some people confuse the terms and say co-sleeping when they really mean bed sharing, while others say co-sleeping when they really mean room sharing. That’s why you have so many people arguing about the topic of co-sleeping: they are sometimes comparing apples to oranges!
Some experts argue that bed-sharing is dangerous, while some parents practice it safely. In the absence of doubt, we chose room sharing.
The specific reasons we chose not to share our bed with C were that:
1) We were actually afraid to roll over on her in the event that we were sleeping deeply, and
2) We already share our bed with our dog! We didn’t know how our dog would react to a baby in his immediate sleeping space, and we did not do any research on that topic. Plus, he takes up most of the space in the bed and there’s really not much left!
STOP! Do not read the rest of this article before you read the next sentence:
I am going to continue to use the term co-sleeping in this article because it’s the one everyone uses, BUT please note that when I use it, I am referring to the form of ROOM SHARING ONLY.
When to start co-sleeping and when to stop
You can start co-sleeping immediately. In fact, you’ll likely start in the hospital, unless your baby needs intensive care that would require her to be away from you for health reasons.
When I gave birth to C, she slept in her own bassinet in our hospital room, right next to my bed.
When we brought her home, she slept in her own bed at night. I could have used a bassinet, but we had previously set up a regular wooden baby bed with bars and a mattress.
Pediatricians recommend co-sleeping (remember: room sharing!) until your baby is 6 months old at least, and ideally until she is 1 year old.
We moved C into her own room when she was 10 months old, because at that time it was becoming clearer to us that we were disrupting her sleep. The time just felt right. There was of course a transition period where it was harder for C to fall asleep in her new room, but since she did ultimately sleep better through the night, we felt we had made the right choice.
How to use co-sleeping with your newborn
We decided—and this was completely our choice—to take off the bars on one side of C’s bed. Our respective mattresses touched together tightly so that our baby didn’t risk falling or otherwise getting caught in between them.
Additionally, I couldn’t roll over onto C’s mattress, due to the bars on the ends of her bed. This is called a sidecar arrangement, and I learned that just now, researching for this article. I had no clue there was an actual name for it!
As always, to ensure safe sleeping conditions for your newborn, please remember:
- Do not use any blankets or pillows in her bed. Opt instead for an infant sleeping bag.
- Stay away from decorative items in her bed, including crib bumpers.
- Place your newborn on her back to sleep—never on her side or tummy.
Benefits and drawbacks of co-sleeping
Although I recommend co-sleeping (remember, room sharing!) because it worked out great for us, I think it’s important to examine the pros and cons, and to think about them in the context of your own situation.
- Boost breast milk. If you’re breastfeeding, enjoy a boost in your milk supply when sleeping near your baby.
- Proximity. When your baby wakes in the night, she’s not down the corner. She’s right next to you, or very near you. You won’t have to groggily get yourself up and stumble into the hall, down the stairs, and into her room 82 times per night. The way we had our setup, the most I had to move was to sit up in bed!
- Reduce the risk of SIDS. Though sharing the same bed with your baby may increase the risk of SIDS, sharing the same room whilst sleeping in different beds actually reduces the risk.
- Shared sleeping patterns. Parents and baby can get on the same schedule with sleeping when they all sleep together.
- Less intimacy. You as a couple might experience less intimacy with the presence of your baby. Although you could get creative and work around this!
- Lesser quality of sleep. Although you eventually adapt to sharing a room with your baby, it is always possible that you as the parents might accidentally wake her, and vice versa.
- Harder to transition baby into her own room. Some parents find it harder to “graduate” their babies into the nursery after practicing co-sleeping. You’ll need to time this right, as well as to be prepared for it to take lots of time for your baby to adjust.
Ready to try co-sleeping?
Now that you know what the deal is with co-sleeping, you can start to determine whether it’s right for you. Always speak to your family doctor or pediatrician about your baby’s sleeping environment before taking my advice or that of the internet.
If you still prefer to have your newborn sleep in her own room by herself, it’s entirely up to you, and at least you are making a more informed choice after reading this article.
If, however, the benefits of co-sleeping outweigh drawbacks for you, then I encourage you to give it a shot. Think about setting up your space before baby arrives so that you can get started sharing your room right away.
If you struggle, you can always stop. At least you’ll know you tried.
If co-sleeping does work for your family, great! Pay attention to your baby’s development in order to ascertain when she is ready to move into her own room, if this is something you aim for eventually.
For further reading, I would recommend you check out this post:
Help your baby to sleep through the night with these habits—In this article I provide easy tips to help your baby to sleep longer naturally, without resorting to sleep training.
Have you tried co-sleeping, or are you planning on trying it? For those of you who are against it, what are your thoughts? For those of you who tried it, what worked and what didn’t? I can’t wait to read what you think in the comments!-Jessica
About the Author
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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