particularly relevant for parents who may already have a toddler in with them and who are expecting a new addition! Rather than all trying to cram into the raised-off-the-floor bed, try some experiments with mattresses or futons on the floor.
If you decide to co-sleep you must make a commitment for the long haul. Once your baby becomes used to sleeping fully with you he will be loath to relocate until about the age of 3 - 4 years, when he may have a burst of independ-ence. Some women like to co-sleep for just the first few weeks or months of their baby's life and then move the baby to a cot in much the same way as I did. If you think this would suit you remember to wean the baby from your bed around 3 months of age, before full awareness and habit is ingrained.
A Hybrid System
In my opinion and experience, the best option for the fully breastfeeding mother is a situation where the baby sleeps next to, but in a separate space from, the mother, so that she can be the sole attendant to his needs without having to get up and go anywhere. I have always preferred to have my babies sleep in their own basket that was right up close to the side of my bed. I sleep on a mattress on the floor and the newborn's bed was the same portable basket with Tea Tree mattress and carry handles that I used to move them around in during the day. Those with beds on raised bases can simply elevate the baby's basket to the same level as their own.
With this set up, firstly I could hear any signs of distress early on, and secondly I could whisper, talk, sing, chant Om, touch them, or easily lift them into bed with me for a sit-up feed. I kept a candle, a torch or a small lamp at arm's reach; a supply of nappies and the nappy bucket near the end of the bed; all so that I could change and feed the baby in dim light without having to go anywhere for anything. Most nights I would doze comfortably while the baby fed and then quickly snuggle them back into their own bed after they had finished. I rarely had any problems during the nights at this stage. This is definitely the system I recommend to use in the first 3 to 6 months.
Some women may comment that they can't relax with the noise of a snuffling baby nearby, or that their partner might be unhappy about the night time activity in their bedroom. The solution to the former is that a mother needs to know that lots of little noises mean nothing, and by sleeping near to them, you will soon learn to discriminate between those that
do and those that don't. She should also use techniques of relaxation to ensure that she doesn't lie awake, anxiously listening to her baby. In the latter case, if activity is kept to a minimum, and if your responses are quick and appropriate to avoid prolonged crying, there is no reason why your partner should be unduly disturbed. And, in the end, … well … if he can't stand the need for intimacy and night attention between his partner and his baby, perhaps he should have the spare room all to himself!
One other clash of adult lifestyle which may discourage this system, is that a couple may resent their bedroom space being taken over by a baby which needs a dark or subdued space whenever it is sleeping. In other words, what happens if you like to sit up in your bed watching television or reading till all hours, in the same room as the baby is sleeping. Given that one should not subject a sleeping baby to such disturbances as bright lights and loud noises, the choices here would be to leave the baby sleeping in a portable basket outside but near your bedroom until you retire, or else moving your previous bedroom recreations out to another space where it won't disturb the baby.
At about 10 weeks old, when the baby started sleeping longer at night and also became too big for the basket, I would move them into a low-sided, no-legged cot which was at the foot of my bed. At first this felt a long way away - but I handled it - and so did they! For both of us it was a partial weaning from the closeness of being able to hear each other's breath and of needing touch to confirm my presence. It also meant that they were still close enough for me to access at night without too much effort or travel. From here the cot was eventually moved to the other side of the room as the night feeds reduced to one (about 6 months for my children).
I always found that by about 8 months or so, once the night feeds were truly finished, I needed my own personal sleeping space back. I then moved them into an adjoining room (most usually with siblings), yet still close enough for "one ear to be on them" whilst sleeping.
This process, of starting very close and then creating a gradual separation at times which best suit their development, makes the most sense to me. Rather than deciding to sleep a baby in a lonely and distant bedroom from birth, or a sudden separation to their own room after a few months of co-sleeping, it also means you gain a better understanding - and also better control - of your baby's sleeping patterns.