I still remember how astonished I was when I saw my friend’s baby girl sleeping peacefully in her cot, just a few hours after she was born. My son loved being cuddled, hugged and wrapped tightly all the time.
Two newborns, born just a day apart, and they were so very different.
Many newborns sleep just fine on their own from the very beginning. Others need more time to adapt to the transition from womb to outside life. The point is, wherever parents and babies get the best night’s sleep is the right place for them.
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. After that, they should stay in the mother’s bed until they are three or even four years old.
Would it angry daddies?
Researchers fear sleeping alone makes it harder for mother and child to bond, and damages the development of the brain, leading to bad behaviour as the child grows up.
Sixteen infants were studied while they slept on their mother’s chest and in a cot by her bed. Monitoring revealed that the baby’s heart was under three times more stress when he or she slept alone.
Animal studies have linked the combination of stress and lack of sleep to behavioural problems in teenage years.
Dr Bergman said that changes to the brain brought on by stress hormones, may make it more difficult to form relationships later on, leading to problems such as promiscuity.
For those who fear cot death and smothering the baby, Dr Bergman says: “When babies are smothered and suffer cot deaths, it is not because their mother is present. It is because of other things: toxic fumes, cigarettes, alcohol, big pillows and dangerous toys.”
The National Childbirth Trust is in favour of bed-sharing, as long as the parents have not been smoking, drinking or using drugs and are not obese, ill or excessively tired.
What about you? Did you share your bed?