By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Major pediatric organizations advise newborns to be as close physically to the new mother as possible.
Benefits of sleeping close to baby
Several benefits of this practice, known as “rooming in”, have been cited in scientific studies.
The rationale behind this practice includes several major factors. Some of these include:-
If the mother and newborn share the same room and the same bed it allows both to know each other better.
For first time mothers this may be a lesson in getting to recognize the baby’s hunger cues.
This practice promotes baby-led breastfeeding. This type of feeding is also called “on demand” feeding. This is a good beginning for breastfeeding practice and helps both the baby and mother learn breastfeeding and practice it as often as needed.
Sharing a room enables the new first time mother understand and adjust to the caring commitments and needs of the baby. This may help create more realistic expectations especially among new first time mothers.
Studies have shown that if mothers and newborns are kept in the same room, the risk of infection and cot death for the baby are low. In addition the mother is assured that her baby is safe and within her reach.
Major health organizations advise 24 hours rooming in of the newborn with his or her mother. There should be no room designated as nursery for the baby at the hospital.
At home mothers are encouraged to continue to keep their baby near them day and night. New mothers need to be explained the concept of rooming in. They need to be explained the benefits of this practice.
Sharing the same bed with the baby
Bed sharing with the baby indicates sharing of the mother’s hospital bed during hospital stay and sharing a bed with a guardian (usually a parent) when at home.
Bed sharing with the mother helps foster breastfeeding that may be on-demand and frequent. In addition it helps both the mother and baby bond as they share the same space.
Risks of sleeping close to baby
Bed sharing is also associated with risks and these should be kept in mind while opting for this practice. The mother may fall asleep while breastfeeding. This may carry a risk of the baby being smothered by bed clothes or the mother’s breasts.
Bed sharing and co-sleeping with a parent especially in a sofa carries the risk of sudden infant death that may occur due to smothering or suffocation of the baby in bed clothes etc.
Bed sharing should be practiced only in a safe environment. The baby should be frequently checked while sharing bed with the mother.
The Baby Friendly Initiative has a protocol that guides bed sharing policies. All pregnant mothers and their spouses need to be explained the benefits of rooming in and the risks associated with co-sleeping and the precautions that may be taken to ensure the baby’s well being.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)