All across the world, most mothers will sleep with their infants at some point in time. Co-sleeping simply means to sleep close to your baby. It can take many forms, including bed-sharing, bassinets, co-sleepers or sidecars, or even a mattress right next to yours. Most questions about co-sleeping pertain to sharing a bed with baby. Can you engage in co-sleeping safely?
The American Academy of Pediatrics officially advises against it, but many reputable organizations and extensive research studies come out in favor of the practice. Keep in mind that nearly all co-sleeping tragedies occur not because this practice is dangerous, but because parents simply don’t take common sense precautions.
Tips for Safe Co-Sleeping
Here are the current research-based recommendations for sleeping close to your baby safely:
1. Although your sleeping baby will likely gravitate towards you, add an extra layer of protection with a guardrail. Or keep the mattress exactly flush against the wall with absolutely no spaces.
2. Do not co-sleep under the influence of any drug or medication that will decrease your ability to easily arouse from sleep. Smoking and bed-sharing don’t mix, either.
3. While many fathers do develop an awareness of their baby’s presence, it is generally recommend that a child be kept adjacent to the mother, rather than between both parents.
4. Start your baby off on his or her back.
5. Do not allow siblings to share the bed with an infant. An adolescent or toddler is not going to have the same level of arousal that a parent will.
6. Use common sense. Nights when you are so exhausted that you’ll be “dead to the world,” are probably not good nights to co-sleep.
7. Dress your baby for comfort and account for the fact that he or she will be warmer than usual from your body heat.
8. Don’t wear anything that could trap or strangle your baby, such as a nightgown with long ties or a pendant on a long cord.
9. Sleep together in a firm bed, with no spaces or gaps between the mattress and headboard. Avoid couches, futons, hammocks, plush recliners, etc. There should be no loose pillows or stuffed animals near your sleeping baby, and his or her face and neck should be uncovered.
10. Low birth weight or very premature babies may be at higher risk when it comes to bed-sharing; a bedside sleeper is generally recommended in these cases.
Do you have any experience with co-sleeping, or tips to share for other parents?
Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines – University of Notre Dame Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory
Clinical Protocol #6: Guideline on Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding – Academy of Breastfeeding and Medicine
Bed-Sharing and Infant Sleep – UNICEF
Evidence for the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding – World Health Organization
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