This is the last in a three part series exploring "Indulging your baby’s dependency needs". Through the first two parts we covered baby-wearing and demand breast-feeding. In this last part we are going to look at how co-sleeping can assist in meeting your baby’s dependency needs as well as why it is important to do so.

The most efficient way to respond to your baby’s night time needs is to bring them to bed with you. Every scientific study of infant sleep has confirmed the benefits of shared sleep for babies. They enjoy greater immunological benefits from breast-feeding due to nursing twice as frequently. Babies who share sleep with their parents have a reduced risk of SIDS because they spend less time in Level 3 sleep and they also learn healthy breathing patterns from their parents. Co-sleeping babies are also more independent, are more emotionally healthy, score higher in the ability to respond to visual and auditory stimuli as well as score higher in their ability to ignore negative stimuli when sleeping.1

Your baby’s needs do not disappear at night. On the contrary, most babies require night-time parenting. Lack of sleep is probably one of the most difficult adjustments for parents to make. Our culture places a lot of value on independence and how quickly a baby sleeps through the night. In reality, most adults do not sleep through the night. Natural sleep rhythms have us waking several times through the night although we may not be aware of it. Co-sleeping with baby means that you minimize the amount of time you are required to be awake, therefore ending up with a more restful night’s sleep. So co-sleeping is not only beneficial for baby by guaranteeing their dependency needs are met, it is also beneficial for the adults in the home to maximize the opportunity for sleep! There are a variety of ways to share sleep with your baby and each family should be creative in how they accomplish it. Sometimes a "sidecar" arrangement works better for families with a "fidgety" sleeper or for a parent who is not completely comfortable drifting off with a baby right next to them.

There are safe guidelines for sleeping with your baby. Just as with cribs or car seats, safety issues should always be addressed. Here is a list of things to be aware of before you co-sleep:

1. When using a standard, off-the-floor- bed, be absolutely sure your baby cannot roll off the sides.

2. Young infants should sleep between their mother and the bed rail, not between both parents or an older sibling.

3. Make sure your mattress or futon is firm. Never allow an infant to sleep on a waterbed, featherbed, beanbag, deep pillow-top mattress or other inappropriately soft surface.

4. Never sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication that makes you unusually groggy or sleepy.

5. Exceptionally obese parents should use a side-car arrangement (crib attached to the side of the bed) rather than having a young infant in bed with them.

6. Do not overload your bed with excessive pillows, blankets or stuffed animals.

7. Never fall asleep on a couch, sofa or overstuffed chair with your baby.

8. Make sure your baby isn’t overdressed. Remember, the body heat in a family bed makes most bedtime bundling unnecessary.

9. Dress your baby in safe sleepwear. Flame retardant with no strings or ties, just as you would if she were sleeping alone.

Sources: McKenna, J., Mosko, S. Richard, C., Drummond, S, Hunt, L., Cetel, M.B. & Arapai, J.Experimental studies of infant-parent co-sleeping; Kawasaki,C., Nugent, J.K., Miyashita, H., Miyahara, H., & Brazelton, T.B. The Cultural organization if infant’s sleep; Katie Allison Granju, Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child

Laurie Chalmers is a mother to three. As well as being a Certified Shantala Massage Instructor, she is a La Leche League Leader and owner of The Natural MotherStore.