Co-sleeping defines a range of sleeping styles – from sleeping with your baby all night, to taking your little one into your bed for an early morning breastfeed and snuggling together for a few extra zzzs.
For some families, co-sleeping can mean embracing not only the baby, but a whole new concept in bedroom decor with baby’s cot butted against the parents bed and the nearest side down for easy access to comfort baby.
This option may be preferable if one partner is extremely tired or anxious about bed-sharing. However, if you do this, make sure that neither the cot, nor your bed can roll and there are no gaps between the cot and your bed.
The bottom line is that many parents share sleep with their babies – according to a recent study at Durham University, 63 percent of parents often take their babies into bed with them. So, rather than ask, “Is it safe to sleep with my baby?” we should be asking, “How can I sleep with my baby safely?”
Whatever your sleeping arrangements, it is important to provide a safe sleeping environment for your baby. If you choose to sleep with your baby, both parents should feel comfortable with the decision and accept equal responsibility for baby’s safety
- Do not sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of any substance such as alcohol or medication/drugs (prescription or otherwise i.e. antihistamines) that could induce a deeper sleep and reduce awareness of your baby (either partner).
- Do not co-sleep if you are a smoker (either partner). The risk of SIDS is increased if the mother smokes during pregnancy or after the birth. There is also some evidence to suggest that a father smoking during his partner’s pregnancy increases the risk, and if both parents smoke the risk is doubled. In fact, it’s preferable not to let anyone smoke near your baby.
- Sleep on a firm, flat surface (not a waterbed) and ensure the mattress tightly intersects the bed frame.
- Don’t co-sleep on a couch or sofa, as babies can easily slip down into the crevice or face-first between cushions, or they may become wedged between the adult and the back of the couch.
- Avoid overheating by keeping baby’s head uncovered and do not use electric blankets whilst co-sleeping. Baby will be kept warm by your own body heat, so avoid over dressing or over bundling baby – enjoy the delicious skin contact.
- If you have long hair, tie it back, and consider that very large breasts or extreme obesity may reduce awareness of your baby’s position.
- Avoid pungent hair sprays, deodorants, and perfumes. Not only will these camouflage the natural maternal smells that baby is used to and attracted to, but foreign odors may irritate and clog baby’s tiny nasal passages.
- Cut off ties from your own nightwear that may pose a strangulation hazard to baby.
- At first it is wise to position baby next to mother, rather than between mother and father, as fathers tend to sleep more deeply and may be less aware of the baby.
- Take precautions to prevent baby from rolling out of bed, even though it is unlikely when baby is sleeping next to mother. Perhaps place the bed firmly against the wall, and fill cracks or empty spaces with a rolled up blanket, or use a guard-rail – mesh guard rails are safer than slatted ones.
- To prevent baby becoming ‘stuck’ between the night table and bed if in the unlikely event that he does accidentally fall out of bed, make sure any furniture is pushed far away from the bed.
- Don’t allow older siblings to sleep with a baby under nine months. Sleeping children do not have the same awareness of tiny babies as do parents, and too small or too crowded a bed space is an unsafe sleeping arrangement for a tiny baby.
- Never leave a baby on an adult bed unattended