Co-sleeping has both its pros and cons according to experts. Picture: Metro

Durban - Deciding where your newborn will sleep has resulted in many a restless night for parents.

Do you share a bed with your baby or let him or her nod off in a cot? 

If the lack of sleep does not ruin you, the hard-pressed decision will.

Some parents and experts say the family bed works perfectly - as it strengthens bonds, simplifies nursing and increases cuddle time.

Others say mollycoddling children will prevent them from sleeping on their own - it discourages independence and may affect their development.

Child birth educator and midwife Lynne Bluff said co-sleeping helped babies practise rousing themselves and assisted mothers get a better rest.

“Co-sleeping babies learn to use their self- preservation instinct to rouse; when there is danger such as being overheated, being too cold or if there is something blocking their airways.

“Mothers are also able to meet their babies’ needs without getting up. Most babies need to be fed, soothed and changed at night.

“If baby is close by, mom can do all these things while in bed. Getting out of bed to change nappies, feed and soothe a baby back to sleep requires being fully awake and alert,” she said.

With co-sleeping there is less night time crying as babies sleep better knowing their moms were close by.

“Mothers who co-sleep with their babies are able to notice earlier signs of hunger and the need to be changed before the children cry.

“Co-sleeping benefits include bonding and maintaining an adequate milk supply.

“A secure attachment between baby and mom is an emotional bond that leaves baby feeling secure and cared for. Also moms who feed on demand, maintain an adequate milk supply,” said Bluff.

However, educational psychologist and career counsellor Dr Anand Ramphal said co-sleeping might seem right in one family but it might not work in another.

The motive and the circumstances underlying bed hopping varied from case to case, he said.

“In many cultures throughout the world, children sleep with their parents until they are 9 or 10.

“As a general guide, children want their own rooms at about 8 years old. Children today have higher levels of anxiety than previous generation, which has affected their sleeping arrangements.”

Reasons included the higher divorce rates, over scheduling, living life at a faster pace, poverty and greater academic pressure.

“Many families and parents suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. In addition to the stress on the marital relationship, the physiological and psychological well-being of parents are compromised.

“Many exhausted parents try to stop co-sleeping without much success although co-sleeping may have seemed like a good idea at one point, they now realise that once entrenched, co-sleeping can create a host of sub-problems.”

Ramphal said parents need to break the co-sleeping cycle.

“As parents you need to accept the drawbacks of the problem and commit to changing it. 

"Discuss the importance of changing things with your children and try to win their support.

“Discuss why it is important for children to sleep independently. 

"Tell them that their inability to sleep alone at night lowers their self-confidence when it comes to tackling other important tasks in life, such as doing well at school and winning over more friends.”

Ramphal said parents should expect resistance but be prepared to stick to the aim of getting everyone to sleep in their own bed every night.

“Parents should seek professional help if the co-sleeping cycle is stubbornly resistant. In such cases, it is possible that the fire of co-sleeping is being stoked by unconscious forces either at personal or familial levels.”

Counselling psychologist and author, Dr Akashni Maharaj, said co-sleeping could affect marriages if the child was placed in the bed as a means of subconsciously creating distance between the partners.

“It must be said that both partners need to be on the same page when it comes to attachment parenting. 

"Both must understand that the child’s needs are as important as their needs.

“If there are any grey areas when it comes to this, then the child is used as a buffer against the relationship and all attention is now divided between child and partner.”

Maharaj added that parents need to become mindful of why it was happening and make the change immediately.

“It is important to create a healthy balance between parenting and being a couple. 

"The couple relationship must come first if the couple is in a healthy space, the child is in a healthy space. If the parents are disconnected from one another, the child will sense this and will display signs of insecurity.”