Co-sleeping leaves mums stressed out but dads do fine - study.

Co-sleeping is one of those parenting topics that gets emotions high.

Admit you do it and you become criticised for endangering your baby, say you are against it and get accused of being cruel or cold.

It’s a difficult subject.

While experts caution parents not to co-sleep, studies show more than 50% of parents do. While most studies have examined the effect of the babies and the dangers associated with co-sleeping a new study has looked, for once, at the impact it has on the parents and their stress levels.

The study, published this month in the journal Developmental Psychology tracked 139 couples who co-sleep.

Co-sleeping is one of those parenting topics that gets emotions high. Image via IStock.

The families actually allowed cameras into their bedrooms at various stages throughout the infant’s development.

In the study nearly 75 per cent of the parents co-slept with their babies early on, about half were still co-sleeping three months after the birth, and one in four babies continued to share a bed or a room with their parents when they were above the age of six months.

Dr Doug Teti told The New York Times he did not expect to see co-sleeping associated with family stress. But he found the parents of babies who co-slept beyond six-months of age, a group he called “persistent co-sleepers,” did show signs of stress, particularly the mothers.

The dads, well, not so much. They were fine.

The study found that mothers who co-slept past six months experienced “more fragmented sleep” and “less satisfaction in their marriages”.


They also said they had less satisfaction “in how well they and their partners were working together as parents.”

Researchers noted they were sensitive and more irritable with their babies at bedtime. (Maybe because they are tired from that fragmented sleep).

For the dads though everything was hunky dory.  Co-sleeping did not seem to disrupt the fathers’ sleep or decrease fathers’ ratings of marital and co-parenting satisfaction.

But mothers reported they were struggling.

The dads were too busy sleeping peacefully to report anything. (Well, that’s my assumption anyway).

Co-sleeping past six months leaves mothers sensitive and irritable. Via IStock.

Dr Teti said that it is important to note the paper found persistent co-sleeping may have been a marker of elevated family stress, not necessarily a cause.

“The picture is complicated, ” he said.

The study found that mothers who were less happy in their marriages and felt unsupported by their spouses with a a one-month-old baby were more likely to engage in persistent co-sleeping past six months.

It’s something other professionals agree with.

Psychotherapist Harry Pomerantz said that he is convinced from his clinical experience that if there is not total consensus between the couple, "co-sleeping is a recipe for disaster in the couple".

“I can confirm that in my clinical practice of couples' therapy, sexological therapy and Family Mediation that co-sleeping is a major cause of couples' problems.”

A mother commenting on the study alludes to why she feels co-sleeping affected her marriage.

She says that her daughter co-slept with her and her husband for seven months.

“Was our marriage affected during this time? Absolutely. But it wasn't because there was a little person in our bed 'killing the mood'. Our marriage was affected because I was, every day, exhausted, while he was not. Because teaching my daughter to sleep (and failing at it) was completely my job - reading the books, trying the methods, following through ... none of this was stuff my husband was interested in...

“It is very telling that the men in the co-sleeping families sampled here aren't suffering from interrupted sleep. Some of us are in it because we have a philosophy about where babies should sleep. The rest of us are just trying to get by.”

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