Opinions on co-sleeping
Our Co-Sleeping Advice
Babies should be slept in a clear sleep space, which is easy to create in a cot or Moses basket. We know however that families also bed share, and so recommend making your bed a safer place for baby whether you doze off accidentally, or choose to bed share.
Our advice on co-sleeping with your baby will tell you how. For safer co-sleeping:
- Keep pillows, sheets, blankets away from your baby or any other items that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat.
- A high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding.
- Follow all of our other safer sleep advice to reduce the risk of SIDS such as sleeping baby on their back.
- Avoid letting pets or other children in the bed.
- Make sure baby won’t fall out of bed or get trapped between the mattress and the wall.
When not to co-sleep
It is important for you to know that there are some circumstances in which co-sleeping with your baby can be very dangerous:
- Either you or your partner smokes (even if you do not smoke in the bedroom)
- Either you or your partner has drunk alcohol or taken drugs (including medications that may make you drowsy)
- Your baby was born premature (before 37 weeks)
- Your baby was born at a low weight (2.5kg or 5½ lbs or less)
- Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby, this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times
- You should never sleep together with your baby if any of the above points apply to you or your partner.
Co-sleeping with your baby: FAQs – Should I co-sleep with my baby?
It is very much a personal choice so we would just advise you to read all the information on safer co-sleeping so you can make an informed decision. That way even if you decide not to co-sleep you can make your bed a safer place for your baby if you doze off accidentally.
There are some circumstances where we would strongly recommend against co-sleeping such as on a sofa or armchair, if anyone in the bed smokes or has drunk alcohol or the baby was premature or a low birth weight.
Co-Sleeping, Bed-Sharing and Room-Sharing: What’s Safe and What Isn’t?
What is co-sleeping, and what is the difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing?
The terms co-sleeping and bed-sharing are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing — and it’s crucial to know the difference. Bed-sharing means sleeping in the same bed as your baby, or sharing the same sleeping surface. Co-sleeping means sleeping in close proximity to your baby, sometimes in the same bed and sometimes nearby in the same room (room-sharing).
In other words, bed-sharing is one way of co-sleeping. But it’s not a healthy practice: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns against bed-sharing because it increases a baby’s risk for SIDS. Ultimately, there’s no such thing as safe bed-sharing, and you should never sleep in bed with your baby. The safe way to co-sleep with your baby is to room share — where your baby sleeps in your bedroom, in her own crib, bassinet or playard. In fact, the AAP recommends room-sharing with your baby until she’s at least 6 months old, and possibly until her first birthday.
What do supporters of co-sleeping say the benefits are?
Advocates say that bed-sharing makes it easier to breastfeed at night and helps babies and parents get more sleep overall. Some say the added snuggle time can help you feel closer to your baby, too. But those things don’t make bed-sharing safe or a good idea. And in fact, families can reap the same benefits — and more — with room-sharing.
Having your baby in her own crib or bassinet right next to your bed makes nighttime feedings just as quick and easy, so everyone can get back to sleep faster. And of course, you’ll have near endless opportunities to snuggle with your sweetie during the day (as well as during nighttime feedings) when the two of you are awake. Those aren’t the only pros of room-sharing. The most important benefit is that it can help lower the risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent. Having your baby next to you in her own sleeping space means you can easily be alerted to any potential breathing issues she might experience during the night.
What are the cons of co-sleeping?
Every parent understands why bringing your baby into bed is tempting. Your little one is having trouble getting back to sleep and you’re so tired that bringing baby into bed with you seems like the only way you’ll all get the rest you need. Not to mention those cuddles! But bed-sharing can be dangerous, so avoid the temptation. Every year about 3,500 babies die in the United States of sleep-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And bed-sharing is one of the most common causes of death in babies, especially those younger than 3 months.
When your little one sleeps on anything other than a mattress with a tight sheet and nothing else nearby, it increases her risk of SIDS, especially in the first six months of life. Soft or loose bedding, pillows and adult bed mattresses all pose potential suffocation hazards for babies. It’s also possible for an infant to get trapped or wedged between a mattress and a wall or headboard. And for really tired, deep-sleeping parents, the risk of rolling over onto baby (which can lead to suffocation) is real, as is the chance that she could fall off the bed. The risk of SIDS goes up if you smoke or drink alcohol. Ultimately, sleeping with your baby on the same surface is not safe at any time. To promote safe sleep, you should room-share but never bed-share with your baby. The only time you should bring your little one into bed is to feed or comfort her while you’re awake. When you’re ready to go to sleep, you should put your baby back in her crib or bassinet.
Co-sleeping and Bed-sharing
Advantages of co-sleeping
Co-sleeping is not the best fit for every family, but it can have many advantages:
- Parents often get more sleep.
- Babies often get more sleep. Baby stirs and almost wakes up when she needs to nurse, but since she is right beside mom, mom can breastfeed or soothe her back to sleep before she fully wakes up.
- Breastfeeding during the night is easier when baby is nearby.
- Breastfeeding at night helps to maintain your milk supply.
- Sleeping in the same room as your baby reduces the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% [AAP].
- Night nursing also tends to prolong the child-spacing effects of breastfeeding.
- No nighttime separation anxiety.
- Fewer bedtime hassles.
- It’s lovely to wake up next to a smiling baby!
Bed-sharing is just one of the ways that a family might co-sleep, but it is frequently practiced by breastfeeding mothers. One of the biggest issues when it comes to bed-sharing is safety. Some sources publicize bed-sharing as an unsafe practice, no matter how it’s done, but there are ways to sleep safely while bed-sharing if you follow guidelines for safe sleep surfaces and safe sleep sharing.
According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, in their Clinical Protocol #6: Guideline on Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding: “There is currently not enough evidence to support routine recommendations against co-sleeping. Parents should be educated about risks and benefits of co-sleeping and unsafe co-sleeping practices and should be allowed to make their own informed decision.”
The ISIS Infant Sleep Information Source website notes: “The most recent studies have shown that most bed-sharing deaths happen when an adult sleeping with a baby has been smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs (illegal or over-the-counter medicines) that make them sleep deeply.
Sometimes people fall asleep with their babies accidentally or without meaning to. This can be very dangerous, especially if it happens on a couch/sofa where a baby can get wedged or trapped between the adult and the cushions.”
James J. McKenna, Ph.D., a world-recognized infant sleep authority, notes:
“In sum, overwhelmingly, bedsharing deaths are associated with at least one independent risk factor associated with an infant dying. These include an infant being placed prone (on its stomach) and placed in an adult bed without supervision, or no breastfeeding, or other children in the bed, or infants being placed in an adult bed on top of a pillow, or who bedshare even though their mothers smoked during the pregnancy therein compromising potentially the infants ability to arouse (to terminate too little oxygen, or to terminate an apnea). Drug use and alcohol have historically been associated with poor outcomes for bedsharing babies so if drugs and/or alcohol are present, please don’t bedshare.”
Is Bed-Sharing Safe?
In some cultures, bed-sharing is common and the number of infant deaths related to it is low. Differences in mattresses, bedding, and other cultural practices may account for the lower risk in these countries. But health experts warn parents not to place their infants to sleep in adult beds due to serious safety risks. Bed-sharing increases the chance of suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS.
An adult bed has many safety risks for a baby, including:
- Suffocation from a soft mattress, memory foam, waterbed, or loose or soft bedding such as pillows, blankets, or quilts
- Entrapment and suffocation when an infant gets trapped or wedged between a mattress and headboard, wall, or other object
- Strangulation in a bed frame that allows part of an infant’s body to pass through an area while trapping the baby’s head, or from dangling cords
- Babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs on a firm mattress without any pillows, blankets, toys, stuffed animals, or other items.
Because of the risks involved, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warn against bed-sharing. The AAP does recommend the practice of room-sharing without bed-sharing. Sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate surface lowers a baby’s risk of SIDS.
Bed-Sharing & SIDS
Bed-sharing increases a baby’s risk of dying from SIDS, especially in preterm infants (preemies), babies whi had a low birth weight, and healthy full-term infants younger than 4 months old.
Other things that increase this risk of death while bed-sharing include:
- A baby sleeping on a couch alone or with a parent
- A baby sleeping between two parents
- A mother who smokes
- Parents who are very tired
- A parent who has recently used alcohol or drugs
- Bed-sharing with pillows or bedcovers
- Bed-sharing with other children
Co-Sleeping: The Pros and Cons of a Family Bed
Co-sleeping is a controversial issue: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says parents should never let their baby sleep in the bed with them—citing the risk of suffocation, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and other sleep-related deaths.
Indeed, according to data compiled by NPR, a low-risk baby has a 1 in 16,400 chance of dying from SIDS in a parent’s bed. The likelihood decreases to 1 in 46,000 while sleeping in a crib in the parent’s room. And the practice can also negatively affect older children, who may become dependent on bed sharing as a sleep crutch. Despite this evidence, some parents praise co-sleeping because it promotes bonding, helps children feel safe, and makes nursing easier.
The Logistics of Safe Baby Sleep
Some experts caution against putting too much emphasis on where you sleep rather than how. “Location is not as important as relationships—how parents build attachment and love,” says James McKenna, Ph.D., an anthropologist specializing in infancy and development and director of the mother/baby behavioral sleep laboratory at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He also makes the point that gaining independence, which is part of the rationale for advocating crib sleeping, is something that a child will learn over time from her parents in many different ways.
The worst place for a newborn to doze is on a couch, armchair, and other soft, lumpy surface, which can create air pockets that make it difficult for her to breathe. This is especially dangerous during late-night feedings when both mom and baby are drowsy. “If you think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep [during a feeding], feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair,” said Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., FAAP, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the AAP’s 2016 report on safe sleep guidelines for infants, in a statement. “If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed,” she added. The AAP recommends infants sleep on their backs in cribs outfitted with only a mattress covered with a tightly fitted sheet. There shouldn’t be any other items, such as toys or blankets, in the crib until Baby turns one.
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