In today's Pinterest & Instagram world, we see these amazing nursery pictures and dream of setting up a similar space for our little ones. But how realistic is this? Is it safe? We ask ourselves...how old should they be when they're in their own space? How will it affect the parents' sleep? What type of crib? What about co-sleeping?
These are just some of the questions that pass through a parent's mind the months and weeks before baby is born. As mothers, we also all do that nesting phase of our pregnancy where we dream of the perfect setting with a nice rocking chair & picture ourselves nursing there with our sleepy baby. Then easily putting them back in their cribs before going back to our rooms to sleep. The concept of a nursery while in itself is a beautiful idea, how realistic is it? Not only is putting baby in their own space to sleep alone putting them at a higher risk for SIDS but it could also increase the mother's (& father's) worry, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. Having baby in another room also tends to not be sustainable for breastfeeding. Here are seven things to consider when deciding where to have baby sleep:
1 - How old should baby be before they are in their own room?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization and UNICEF, an infant should sleep in the parents room for at least the first 6 months, preferably for the first year of life. Why is this? Parents are able to respond quickly, and even hear baby faster, should there be an emergency. In other words, having baby in your room helps prevent SIDS.
2 - Night wake hustle - especially in the first months!
Let's imagine that your baby is 1 month old and you have him or her sleeping in their own room down the hall or upstairs from you. Your little one is waking every 2-3 hours for feeding, each feeding at that age can vary from 10 minutes to 30 minutes to even longer if your little one likes to suckle, then you go back to your room, fall asleep for maybe an hour (if that!) before you have return to feed baby. How sustainable could this be every night? Not only do you have to get up and out of bed but after a feeding, you have to get baby comfortable again which could take some time, and then lower your heart rate, etc after walking the stairs or the hall to be able to fall back asleep. Wouldn't be easier on you to have baby next to you in your room, so you didn't have to get out of bed (unless you have a diaper emergency!)? You would simply pick up baby, feed while you are still lying down (resting!), a quick burp if need be (often not the case as they are so relaxed at night!) then roll baby back into their crib.
3 - Co-sleeping: yes or no?
People feel the feels with this argument. There are some that say it is so dangerous, you could smother your child. Others say it causes dependency and will be hard for your child to ever sleep alone. Then some say it is extremely healthy and the way of many countries around the world, that it helps promote a healthy breastfeeding relationship...also that dependency creates independent children. Meaning they need to be dependent in order to feel safe enough to be independent. I will never say yes or no to this argument. I believe that families will do what they need to do in order to get the sleep they need or feel that they need to do for their family in general and it is a personal choice
Our ancestors slept in group beds - most likely for warmth and protection - even during caveman times. So it is completely normal and biologically appropriate that we do or want to sleep together. Really, who wouldn't want to sleep next to the warm bodies of mom and dad instead of alone in a cold bed!
That all being said, should you choose to co-sleep, there are safe ways to do so. Take a look at the Lullaby Trust which provides safe guidelines for co-sleeping and the picture above is almost perfect! Mom is in a great co-sleeping position, we just want to be mindful of the covers.
4 - Not on the couch!
Sometimes parents that are completely against co-sleeping or room sharing find themselves feeding their little ones on the couch or in a lounger to avoid falling asleep in bed. Falling asleep on the couch/lounger while holding your little one to feed is extremely dangerous. Not only could they fall from your arms but they also could get wedged easily between couch/chair cushions. Should you not want to feed your little one while you are in your bed, I highly suggest feeding baby in a safe spot on the floor with maybe a yoga mat or thin mattress in case you do fall asleep. Just be mindful of how you feel and how tired you are.
5 - How will you be feeding your little one?
Breastfeeding, pumping, or formula feeding are your options in the first months of life. One has virtually no work to it at all and latter two require a bit more work. With night feedings, our goal is to maximize family sleep while getting baby the nutrition and responsiveness they need. If you are breastfeeding create a stash of the things you need bedside and just roll baby into bed with you, feed and either co-sleep or place them back in their crib. If you are pumping or using formula, create a little set up right next to you for all of your needs so you will not have to get up (unless for a diaper explosion!). Some things to have next to you could be disinfecting wipes, spit up cloths, diapers, changing pad, creams, nipple butter, a formula maker/warmer (like Tommee Tippee or Baby Brezza), clean bottles, water jug for you, your pump, etc . Setting this up all right next to you and at hand instead of having to get up to do everything will definitely make for easy-er nights.
6 - How often do you want to redo baby's room?
A lot of parents do not think about this in those early baby days. We spend so much financially on creating that perfect baby space and then what? A year and a half later when they are toddlers, we have to redo the room again to suit a little man or lady!
Now you could be thinking..."Ok you've convinced me..baby will sleep in our room. But we don't want to co-sleep, so what should baby sleep in?" Or even if you choose to keep baby in their own room, this definitely applies too!
7 - What should baby sleep in?
There are so many choices when it comes to cribs and bassinets. As a mother of three little boys, my main goal with each purchase we made was how much time and use we would get out of each object before I would justify it. With that said, we used a bassinet that attached to our bed and had one side that folded down (pictured below) so I could easily pick up the boys, breastfeed, and then roll them in. I felt safe knowing they were in their own space while at the same time being so easy on me that I could get the
sleep and rest I needed. The beautiful thing about that bassinet was it was extremely small and then it also had a second layer so I could lower it when they were old enough to sit or stand. Each of my boys spent over a year in it before I moved them to a bigger crib in their own room. The picture (left) is the model I used - Arms Reach Co-Sleeper. I have been told this is a great set up for moms with c-sections too.
There are so many cute basket type bassinets as well that are lovely and can sit right next to mom on the floor or rug, but you will only get a couple months out of those! Or just pushing a regular crib right up against your bed works well too. Some parents do tend to remove the bars to make it easier to get baby out, but please check with the manufactures before doing this and be sure the crib is secured to your bed in a way that there is no space left between your bed and baby's crib.