Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Researcher Says Co-Sleeping Prevents Stress on Baby's Heart

A recent study of the effects of co-sleeping is reigniting an age-old debate across the web. Dr. Nils Bergman suggests that an infant should sleep next to the mother for the first three years of life to reduce stress and promote a healthy heart. He argues that instances where babies are killed while co-sleeping had other factors involved and reveals the physiological benefits a child can receive through sleeping next to the mother.

Dr. Bergman is the creator of Kangaroo Mother Care, a program in the UK that fosters better health in infants through skin-to-skin contact with a caregiver. It is slightly different than Kangaroo Care in the US, which follows the same principle of skin-to-skin contact for better health outcomes but is usually only encouraged for preterm infants.

Dr. Bergman defends the practice of co-sleeping after studying the physiological effects of it in 16 infants. He discovered that babies hearts were stressed three times as much when slumbering in a cot as opposed to on the mother's chest. He also found a disruption in the brain's sleep cycles when babies were left to sleep in a cot. He repeats an argument heard from many advocates of co-sleeping: "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."

Many studies have shown benefits from co-sleeping for the baby and mother, but infant deaths (an average of 64 per year) from co-sleeping have made the practice highly debatable. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against bed-sharing, although quite a few physicians, most notably Dr. William Sears, believe it to be a healthy practice if done safely. You can read about safe co-sleeping habits here.

What are your thoughts on co-sleeping?

Babies 'should sleep in mother's bed until age three' [TelegraphUK]
Can Co-sleeping Work For Your Family? [MedicineNet]
Cosleeping and Your Baby [KidsHealth]