Toxic co-sleeping: the hidden dangers

Co-sleeping is currently controversial. There was a time when probably no one in the western world co-slept, and there have been MANY times throughout history when there was not one mother that DIDN’T co-sleep with her newborn. At the moment we’ve got a mix of both. Research will report all sorts of things, and there are definitely safe and unsafe co-sleeping practices, but ultimately it comes down to what you are comfortable with as a mom.

co-sleeping toxicI had no plan for newborn sleep. We didn’t even have a crib because I didn’t know if we would need it. We were given a hand-me-down bassinet and that was my backup. It turns out (much to the chagrin of my midwives) that I actually slept sitting up for the first couple of nights with my little munchkin secured to my chest in a Moby wrap. This is officially NOT a safe co-sleeping practice. However, it’s what worked for me. We had a home birth and no family around, so it was just the three of us to negotiate those first bleary-eyed days and nights. There was no one to pass the crying baby to, and she was only content in my arms (which seems fair considering her entire existence up to then was in my belly). So rather than risk falling asleep with her in my arms, I propped myself up safely, wrapped her securely to me (with airway open of course) and let myself lightly doze. I didn’t get any medication in labour so I do feel like I was as alert as a new mom needs to be, just as nature programmed us.

After those first couple of days, I was able to separate her from me by a few inches, swaddled and lying beside me on the floor mattress. As time went on we progressed further and further apart, with her migrating into her crib (yes we bought one!) full-time by the end of the fourth trimester.  I migrated back to my bedroom mostly because I felt all of my tossing and turning was waking her at night. With other healthy sleep hygiene practices we dedicated the effort into, she has very good sleep habits and I’m glad we put in the work so that she gently developed an independent sleep routine that she’ll carry with her throughout life. If she is sick or with travel we co-sleep still, but for the most part she is an independent woman, and is very happy to have her own sleep space in her own room.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t protect her from the harmful chemicals most definitely leaching out of my standard big box store mattress. Mattresses are laden with fire retardants, sometimes antibacterials, and just generally off-gas VOCs from the materials used to fabricate them. My little kiddo was spending between 12-18 hours with her nose centimetres from the source. At least when I’m sleeping on that mattress there is a pillow barrier (assuming the pillow is of good origin). I’m sure she’ll have no long-term health impact from this toxic load, but I’m working so hard on all other fronts to minimize her exposure, that it seems crazy to have missed this intense dose.

Since then I’ve done my research, and here are the two best (and reasonable affordable options available in Canada).

Essentia

Naturepedic