Healthy Holistic Living

Babies Should Sleep With Their Mothers Until Age Three, New Research Claims


Everyone has an opinion about how children should and should not be patented. While it’s entirely fair for everyone to have their own opinion, sometimes controversial topics come up and we don’t entirely know what to do. Is there a right–and therefore wrong–way to raise your children? Are there certain things you should absolutely be doing and others that you should avoid entirely? Obviously, some parental actions are more of a necessity than others for a child’s safety and health, but there is often new research and advice that comes to the table and makes one wonder. New advice has recently been offered, for instance, suggesting that children sleep with their mothers until the age of three in order to gain certain health benefits. 

Should Three Year Olds Sleep with Their Mothers?

According to Dr. Nils Bergman from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, healthy newborns should sleep on their mother’s chest for the first few weeks of their life in order to achieve optimal development. But Bergman’s research doesn’t stop there! According to this doctor, children should sleep in bed with their mother and father until they are at least three or four years old! 


This idea might sound somewhat prosperous, especially in a world where the risk of cot death is an especially common propaganda. This fear that a parent might roll over and suffocate a child in the night leads to an overall unfavorable view of co-sleeping. That being said, according to Dr. Bergman and his research, “When babies are smothered and suffer cot deaths, it is not because the mother is present. It is because of other things: toxic fumes, cigarettes, alcohol, big pillows, and dangerous toys.” 

There was a study conducted recently in which 16 different infants were monitored. When the babies slept alongside their mother in bed, the researchers discovered that a baby’s heart endured three times less stress than when he or she slept alone. While babies slept in a cot, they were found to have a far more disrupted sleeping pattern and their brains were far less likely to properly transition from two types of sleep, called active and quiet. While left in the cots, only 6 out of the 16 babies endured any quiet sleep whatsoever, meaning that their sleep quality was far worse than those sleeping with their mothers. (1, 2)


What are other benefits of co-sleeping?

According to Dr. Bergman, children sleeping with their parents have far more benefits than simply to improve sleep. Bergman explains that when a baby sleeps alone in a cot, it changes the part of the brain affected by stress hormones, making it more difficult for the brain to form relationships or close bonds in future life. Not only that, but additional studies researching a baby’s skin-to-skin contact with the mother have revealed an “increased autonomic functioning (respiratory sinus arrhythmia, RSA) and maternal attachment behavior in the postpartum period, reduced maternal anxiety, and enhanced child cognitive development and executive functions from 6 months to 10 years.” (1, 3)

The research when on to explain that, “Children receiving [skin-to-skin contact] showed attenuated stress response, improved RSA, organized sleep, and better cognitive control. RSA and maternal behavior were dynamically interrelated over time, leading to improved physiology, executive functions, and mother-child reciprocity at 10 years.” 


Every parent must do the best that they can personally do for their child. You will always run into both wanted and unwanted parental advice, but it is up to the parent to determine the best option for their own child. What are your thoughts on co-sleeping? Do you co-sleep with your child, or do you prefer they sleep in their crib? What are the benefits you’ve found from either?

Abbey Ryan

Abbey Ryan

Abigail is an avid writer, determined traveler, incessant artist, and curious adventurer. She’ll try practically anything once, including eating shark, visiting foreign countries, jumping out of airplanes, hiking after midnight, and starting new businesses. Many of these she’ll do more than once, some she wouldn’t recommend doing at all, but that’s the fun of it, see? She completed her double major BA degree in two years, with a focus in Project Management and Human Resource Management with a Psychology minor. She graduated with honors from Liberty University in 2017. Currently, she lives somewhere in America with her new husband and works as a professional copywriter and researcher.
Abbey Ryan

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