|Erica Neser is a UNICEF-trained Breastfeeding
Consultant and Infant Massage Instructor with the International
Association of Infant Massage. She has a BA degree in Psychology,
and is trained as an Aromatherapist, Postnatal Depression
Group Leader and Infant CPR Instructor. She has been featured
in radio talks, contributes to baby and women’s magazines
and often speaks at parenting workshops and to groups of
health professionals. She has been working as a breastfeeding
consultant and teaching baby massage at two busy baby clinics
for ten years. She is the co-author of the IAIM (South Africa)
Baby Massage Parents’ Manual. She lives in Stellenbosch
with her three young children, who have all learnt to sleep
And The Little One Said,
By Erica Neser-Nieuwenhuis, author of Baby
and mother of three (including a co-sleeping toddler)
“There were ten in the bed
and the little one said,
‘Roll over, roll over!’
So they all rolled over
and the one fell off
there were nine in the bed
and the little one said…”
19h30: Jason (3 months), has fallen asleep
and been put into his cot with a quick prayer to the Sleep
Fairy. His sister Alexa (2 ½), is in her bed and
ready to sleep, after Mum has read her the allotted three
stories. Mum lies down next to her on her bed, as she always
does, and Alexa drifts easily into sleep. After a while,
Mum untangles herself very carefully from Alexa’s
embrace and gets up. She is tired and half asleep, but there
are dishes to be washed and e-mail to be checked.
22h30: Mum and Dad go to bed. They are
both exhausted and the only conversation they feel up to
is, “Did you remember to set the alarm clock?”
12h00: Jason wakes for his night feed.
Mum brings him into bed with her, this being the easiest
for her. He feeds for a short while, but she battles for
almost an hour to get him back to sleep. Dad decides to
go and sleep in the spare room.
2h00: Alexa has a nightmare and comes
padding into the main bedroom. Mum, dragged out of her first
deep sleep, tells Alexa to go find Dad in the spare room.
Off she goes to sleep with Dad. But Alexa likes to stretch
out and soon Dad is on the edge of the bed. He goes to sleep
in her bed. Meanwhile, Mum can’t seem to get back
to sleep again even though Jason is soundly asleep, so she
decides to go and sleep on the living room couch.
5h00: Jason wakes again, howling for Mummy
and milk. Mum gives him a feed. He is wide awake. She takes
him to Dad, and goes back to bed. Dad somehow gets Jason
back to sleep again, still in Alexa’s bed.
6h00: The alarm starts ringing in the
main bedroom, but Mum, in her sleep, presses the OFF-button
instead of the snooze-button, so it never rings again.
7h30: Alexa wakes in the spare room and
gets up to find the rest of her family, who have all overslept
(again). Dad leaps out of Alexa’s bed and races off
to get ready for work. Jason wakes, wanting another feed.
Alexa wants her cereal. Another night has passed and another
This is a perfectly NORMAL night. It is acceptable for
a three-month-old baby to need feeding at 12h00 and again
at 5h00. And it is quite normal for toddlers to wake once
a night. In fact, this is quite a good night!
Advantages Of Co-Sleeping
- Baby feels warm,
safe and loved.
- Parents feel secure knowing
baby is right there with them.
- For many children, this is the
ONLY place they get any significant stretches of sleep.
- Can deepen the bonding between
parents and baby.
- Promotes breastfeeding, increases milk production
and inhibits ovulation.
- Co-sleeping decreases the amount of crying at night.
- Less need to get up at night.
If baby cries or has kicked off her blanket, she can
simply be comforted or tucked in again.
Disadvantages Of Co-Sleeping:
may not sleep very well with baby sleeping between
them – some babies thrash their arms and legs,
and make a lot of noise while asleep.
movements may disturb baby during sleep.
may feel a loss of privacy and intimacy.
babies help themselves to a feed more regularly than
mother would prefer. Research has shown that co-sleeping
doubles the number of night time feeds, and triples
the total duration of nightly breastfeeds.
has also shown that the interval between feeds is
approximately 90 minutes, compared to 180 minutes
of babies sleeping in a separate room. (Mothering
Magazine, No. 114)
- If co-sleeping
is practiced as a reaction to a sleep
problem, it is generally not such a positive experience
for the parents, and baby is more likely to have sleep
problems later on (but which came first – the
chicken or the egg…?)
staunch family bed supporters admit it works best
with only one child at a time. Not so easy with two
Independent sleeping is relatively new
in human history, and the family bed was the norm until
about 100 years ago, and still is in most parts of the world.
Certainly, no prehistoric cave-dwelling parents would have
had separate caves for their babies!
It is quite natural for babies to want closeness, day and
night. Most of us still prefer to share our bed with a loved
one, and the need for physical closeness is never truly
outgrown. Having said that, your children will not be in
your bed forever. Most children want to have their own beds
sooner or later! Studies have shown that bedsharing is not
only safe when practiced correctly, but also helps children
grow into secure and well-adjusted adults. When co-sleeping
is practiced as a parenting choice, it
is generally a positive and satisfying experience for both
You should not sleep with your baby on a couch,
on a waterbed, if you and/or your partner smoke, if
your toddler already shares your bed, if you have
been using alcohol or medication that makes you very
“musical beds” is more common than you
think, and is considered quite normal.
- Accept that it’s a phase
that will eventually pass.
- Don’t worry about what others
will think about your sleeping arrangements.
and children go through phases when co-sleeping works
very well, and other phases when it doesn’t
seem to work at all. Try to adapt to these phases.
- Get a
bigger bed if you can.
on the floor are always a good option.
- You may get more sleep if you all have separate single
duvets rather than having three (or more) people trying
to sleep under one double duvet.
- Babies and toddlers often sleep at 90o angles to their
parents. Most parents just learn to sleep with little
feet in their faces.
- Cots that attach snugly to your bed are available
and work well for babies who tend to crawl around in
- Special baby nests also work well for small babies
sleeping in their parents’ bed.
- Try to get your children used to sleeping in their
own beds some of the time, and preferably for the first
part of the night. This gives you at least some alone-time
(or husband-and-wife time).
- If you
want to cuddle with hubby (alone!) and your bed is
filled with sleeping kids, use one of the other rooms!
It’s not always easy sharing a bed with your children,
especially if you are a fulltime mum and need a little bit
of space for yourself in the evenings. But there are few
things as sublime as waking next to a sleeping child, their
little arm curled around yours and their face an expression
of contentment. Life is short, and childhood is even shorter!
Erica Neser-Nieuwenhuis is a Breastfeeding Counsellor and
Infant Massage Instructor. She has a BA degree in Psychology
and is trained as an Aromatherapist and Postnatal Depression
Group Leader. She works at a busy baby clinic and teaches
weekly baby massage classes to parents. She has three young
children (who have all learnt to sleep well).
would like to order please contact me
Visit us at www.babysleep.co.za
Sleep - Altered sleep routine
Sleep - Appropriate
sleep routines (Jacqui Flint advises)
Sleep - Background
Sleep - Dealing
with Catnapping (Author Erica Neser advises)
Sleep - Darkened
Sleep - Night
Sleep - Reasons for waking
Sleep - Sighing
Sleep - Sleep routines for Baby (Author Erica Neser advises)
Sleep - Toddler Sleep Problems (Author Erica Neser advises)