Co-sleeping, or when parents sleep in the same bed with their baby or young child, has been proven by several studies to have a number of benefits for children, including supporting brain development. Body Language and Nonverbal Communication Expert Patti Wood says that, based on behavioral science research at UCLA School of Medicine, “touch is critical to a baby’s brain development.” The young and fresh brain is extremely impressionable and develops based on its environment, so the first months of a baby’s life are incredibly important, because the experiences and encounters that they have during that time are engrained in their brain as a base for further nervous system development. Wood explains that the first part of the baby’s brain to develop is known as the limbic system. This is a set of structures in the brain that is responsible for a significant amount of emotional functions and memory formation. It is also linked to behavior and motivational processes. This multi-functional portion of our brain is also what enables bonding between mothers and babies.
Some argue that co-sleeping is dangerous and presents too many risks. However, if parents are informed on how to do so safely, the practice of sleeping in close quarters can be extremely useful for the baby or child. Lactation Consultant and Parenting Expert Leigh Anne O’Connor teaches her clients how to engage in safe co-sleeping. “I show them what they do and I let them make informed decisions with what works for them,” she explains. She recognizes that many mothers are often surprised or hesitant when she presents the idea of co-sleeping but says it is important to know how to do it safely even if they never use it. When a baby is breastfeeding and sleeping next to his or her mother, his or her body temperature, breathing, and heart rate are regulated as a result of being within arms reach. “When a baby is next to his mother, and he can touch her, he gets to use his hands,” she says, “and using his hands helps with physical development and it helps with the tactile senses.” Babies and children do not have the same developmental opportunity when they are in an isolated space.
While the practice of co-sleeping significantly benefits the baby or child, it also positively impacts the mother. Surprisingly, families who do this actually get more rest. The mother’s body releases the hormone oxytocin during co-sleeping and breastfeeding, which increases feelings of love and relaxation so she actually gets a better night of sleep. While it may be difficult for couples to be consistent with co-sleeping, and it can be trying when it comes to marriage and sex-life, there are a number of proven long-term benefits that make those nights squeezing into bed well worth it.
Let reBloom help you ease into a good night’s sleep while you lie next to your most cherished loved one.