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Co-sleeping & Bed-sharing With Your Baby: The Facts

Learn how to co-sleep safely and still bond with baby

 

One of the “hot topics” on the parenting front has always been co-sleeping. There are those parents that swear by it, those that fear it, and those that cringe at the thought. The co-sleeping debate tends to be full of very strong opinions on both sides, which makes it difficult to find the truth of the matter - is it safe or not?  

What Is Co-sleeping and Bed-sharing? And What Is the Difference?

First, it’s important to define what co-sleeping really is. When someone says “co-sleeping,” many conjure up an image of an infant right next to you in the bed. This is a form of co-sleeping, called bed-sharing, but it’s not the only way you can co-sleep. Co-sleeping is defined by sleeping close enough to your baby that you can see, hear, and touch them.  

Is Bed-sharing Safe?

Bed-sharing has some great benefits. Moms who bed-share might be more successful at breastfeeding, spend more time bonding with their baby, and get more sleep. Your baby might fall asleep easier and get more nighttime sleep too. But bed-sharing has some big concerns as well. Many studies show that bed-sharing puts your baby at a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and is the most common cause of death in babies younger than three months old. In addition to SIDS concerns, bed-sharing raises other worries such as suffocation from the soft surfaces (like bedding and mattress), the possibility of your baby getting trapped or edged in-between the mattress and wall or other objects, and strangulation from dangling cords or fabrics. For these reasons, bed-sharing is not recommended.

Room-sharing

The American Academy of Pediatrics does strongly recommends a type of “co-sleeping” called “room-sharing.” To room-share, you and your baby each have your own space to sleep in, but you are located in the same room. Typically you will have a crib or bassinet for your baby, but there are some devices that you can attach to your bed as well. Your baby will be close enough that you can easily address any needs they have in the night, but they can rest safely in their own space. Most doctors recommend that you keep this arrangement until your child is about a year old, but it’s safe to move them to their own room as young as six months old.  

The Risk of SIDS with Co-sleeping

No matter what sleeping arrangement you choose, it’s important to reduce the risk of SIDS, suffocation, and strangulation by following these guidelines:

  • Always put baby to sleep on their back. When your baby is old enough to roll over, you don’t need to be concerned about them sleeping on their bellies, but until then, keep them on their backs for bedtime.
  • Make sure that your baby won’t get overheated by dressing them in minimal clothing. 
  • Never let your baby sleep alone on an adult bed, couch, or other soft surface. 
  • Keep pillow, comforters, and other soft items away from your baby.
  • Do not use alcohol, medicines, or drugs that may make you too drowsy, keep you from waking up, or may cause you to roll over on your baby.
  • Keep the sleeping area free of dangling cords, drapes, blinds, and other fabrics so your child can’t get caught in them. 
  • Make sure your baby is sleeping on a firm surface. 

If you are still not sure what sleeping arrangement will work best for you and your family, talk to your doctor to get more facts and make the best decision possible.  

 
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