To Sleep or Not to Sleep: Finding the Best Choice for Your Infant

blogsleepThe number one topic for parents of infants is sleep. Most of the questions you are asked revolve around it. “Is he letting you get any sleep?” “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” There’s endless discussion of different kinds of sleep, sleeping positions, ways of putting infants to sleep, and so on. To make matters worse, everything is written in the same alarmist tones, so it is hard to judge what the best solution is for your child and your situation.

Co-Sleeping: Yes or No?
The first big question is whether to co-sleep with your child. Technically, co-sleeping refers to any kind of sleeping arrangement where the infant shares a bedroom with parents, but it is most often used to refer to sleeping with the child in the adult bed. Whether or not to co-sleep is a difficult decision and will depend on the temperament of both parents and the child. While sleep training techniques exist for infants and toddlers, working with your newborn’s preferences in particular makes a difficult time easier.

The main advantage of co-sleeping is that when the infant wants to feed in the middle of the night, a breastfeeding mom doesn’t have to get out of bed to get her fed and back to sleep. For a child who has difficulty falling asleep and a mother who is exhausted, this advantage could easily trump all else. Experts like Dr. Sears note that babies who co-sleep are more peaceful sleepers and are less likely to fall victim to SIDS.

For parents who aren’t comfortable simply laying the baby down next to them and drifting off to dreamland, there are a variety of co-sleeper options on the market. Some are designed to sit on the bed, allowing parents to be virtually next to the child without having to worry about rolling over on them. If there isn’t space to spare in the bed, there are also co-sleepers on the market that are designed to attach to the side of the bed, similarly allowing parents access to the child without having to get up at night.

Standalone Furniture
Baby cribs as independent pieces of furniture are still extremely popular, however. Many co-sleeping parents will put their children down to nap during the day in a crib. Even if you want to co-sleep with your newborn infant, once the child gets older, it makes sense to consider switching to a crib. There are also many parents who put their children down to sleep in cribs from the very first days and will tell you that the chance to put the sleeping infant down and rest is invaluable to them. There is no wrong or right choice here, only what is right for you and your child.

If you’re shopping for a crib, you will want to think about your budget and the space you have available. Many new parents put the crib in their own bedroom, so that nighttime feedings require minimal interruption and allow them to respond to their child faster. If you’re going this route, it’s important that you look for baby cribs that will fit with sufficient room around your bed – you don’t want to be stubbing your toe on the crib in the middle of the night.

Some parents end up using pack-and-play type furniture in their bedroom. These are lightweight and easy to move, so they can be good choices for small living spaces. They won’t work in the long term, however, and many parents would like something sturdier.

When it comes to long-term usefulness, the best choices are solid-wood baby cribs such as the ones you can find at that can turn into a toddler bed, twin bed or daybed later, as the child ages. Whether used in the parents’ bedroom or in a dedicated nursery, these pieces of furniture can age with the child and be useful for years, much longer than a co-sleeper or pack-and-play is relevant. A well-built wooden crib also has the benefit of retaining value over time, so five years from now when your child has outgrown it, it can be resold.

Modern cribs can be bought in a variety of styles, so it is not difficult to find one that will match either your bedroom set or a nursery design for your child. In particular if you are choosing a crib that will turn into a twin or daybed, it’s important to choose one that is not too childish or specific to a design scheme. Children develop preferences much younger than you would expect, and you want to make sure that you get as much use as possible out of your investment.

What’s Best for Your Baby
Whether you find that co-sleeping or crib sleeping is the best choice for your infant, the important question is whether you and your child are getting a full night of sleep. If the answer is no, then you have nothing to lose by investigating other options. If the answer is yes, however, no amount of criticism should deter you from what works for you and your child.