From the smells and tastes of secret recipes to the free babysitting, there are a thousand and one reasons you love visiting Grandma for the holidays. But bunking with extended family often means trading your usual sleeping arrangements for tighter spaces, possibly without room for a crib. Many Circle of Moms families that don't normally co-sleep (sleeping in the same room or bed as your child) may be confronting the possibility for the first time as the holidays approach.
Whether or not to co-sleep with an infant is a frequently discussed issue on Circle of Moms, and safety is typically mentioned as a big concern. Advocates such as Heather, who has lived overseas in places where co-sleeping is more common, argue that as long as appropriate precautions are taken, "co-sleeping is dangerous only if one or both of the adults in the bed are extremely deep sleepers or use any kind of drug or alcohol to help them sleep."
If you're facing a holiday sleeping squeeze, here's a list of members' most recommended products for safe co-sleeping, plus a round-up (also from our moms) of the practice's pluses and minuses.
Mom-recommended Products for Safe Co-sleeping
Whether or not you choose to bed-share with your infant, there are a variety of products that contribute to a safe co-sleeping environment.
Bed-Side Bassinet or Co-sleeper
A bed-side bassinet or "co-sleeper" is ideal for those who are uncomfortable sharing a bed with their infant. One brand frequently recommended by co-sleeping advocates on Circle of Moms is the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper: "It is basically a pack-and-play with a drop side that attaches to your bed" says Kenya R., a mother of three, and it provides "all the benefits of co-sleeping with a little space so you don't worry about baby getting too used to mom and dad's bed." Sherry B. also found the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper convenient: "The Arms Reach Co-Sleeper worked great for us; it was right next to me so I didn't have to go far to feed baby."
Jackie M., who co-slept with her 2-month-old daughter, recommends a bed rail to prevent an infant from falling out of the bed: "I bought a bed rail and it works GREAT...It sits quite snuggly against my mattress so I don't worry about leaving her by it alone; I know she won't get stuck at all. They make extra-long rails so the one I have goes almost to the end of my queen-sized bed."
Another way to handle the possibility of a fall is by placing the mattress on the floor. As Geralyn C., who co-slept with her son, shared, "Even if he were to roll off the bed, there is such a small distance to fall and land. I definitely recommend the mattress on the floor pulled away from the wall." Other moms simply surround a raised bed with pillows.
Co-sleeping at Home
If you enjoy co-sleeping over the holidays and consider continuing in your own home, here are a few common co-sleeping pros and cons to consider.
Getting a Good Night's Sleep
Pro: Many moms who co-sleep find that sleeping safely near their child brings them greater peace of mind, and that everyone sleeps better as a result.
Con: Others find co-sleeping disruptive. "I love co-sleeping with our son but waking up at every little sound and wiggle does take its toll." Essentially, it's different for every family.
A Boon for Breastfeeders
Pro: "If you breastfeed it will be so much easier to co-sleep!" says Brooke W. "Once your baby gets the hang of it you won't really have to get up to nurse. Just roll over. Half the time when my son wakes up to eat I don't even remember."
Pro: Working moms and dads who are away from their baby during the day may find that sleeping together at night helps them feel more bonded. Working mother Jen V. loved that co-sleeping gave her extra time to cuddle with her son: "Up until he was 2, he would sleep in my bed I would say 97% of the time. I loved it! I work full time...I feel like it is much needed bonding time, since I sometimes only see him for 2 hours a day!"
An End to Pillow Talk
Con: It's natural to worry that co-sleeping will impact intimacy with your partner. "While we loved co-sleeping, once our little guy was in his own room, it was really nice to have our pillow talk, snuggling, and "Mommy-Daddy" time back. We didn't realize how much we had been needing it," shared Rachel, who co-slept with her son until he was almost 4 month old.
Pro: On the other hand, some moms feel the benefits of co-sleeping are worth giving up old bedtime habits for a while, and find they can maintain intimacy in other ways and places. Says Sylvia S., "You just have to get a bit creative. It can be fun."
Old Habits Die Hard
Con: Although some moms say transitioning from co-sleeping is simple, other moms like Michelle F. have found co-sleeping a difficult habit to break: "The down side of co-sleeping is when…you are ready to put him in his own bed, the transition is hard."
Interested in Discussing Co-sleeping With Other Moms?
Whether you'd like to connect with advocates of attachment parenting or debate about co-sleeping, Circle of Moms is a safe place to discuss the toughest of parenting questions. Check out Circle of Moms communities and conversations to share advice and tips with other real moms.