Safe Co-Sleeping with Your Baby
Is There Such a Thing?
Do you consider co-sleeping with your baby?
These days it is not an evident choice to make. Some research indicates a higher risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) for co-sleeping babies, while other studies show exactly the opposite.
And in the midst of these discussions, polls indicate that up to 70% of all parents do bring their babies and older children in their family bed.
Why? Well, many babies and older children too do sleep a lot better if sleeping together with their parents. Many parents, and especially new moms that feed at night also get substantially more sleep by keeping the baby in her own bed.
But the risks are real and if you do decide to co-sleep with your baby, only do it after learning how to do if in a safe way.
Below you'll find a co-sleeping safety checklist. If you follow it, you'll reduce the risks for your baby significantly. Also remember to always consult your baby's doctor if you are the least uncertain of the safety for your child.
Safe Co-Sleeping Checklist
Make sure your baby can't fall out
It may seem to you as if there is absolutely no risk that your newborn baby moves close enough to the edge to fall out of the bed. Don't count on it. One day (or night) will be the first time your baby rolls over or makes some other type of movement.
Place your baby either between you and your spouse or between you and the wall (or a piece of furniture). If there is space between the bed and the wall/furniture, fill it up with blankets or towels to eliminate any risk of the baby falling down. Also consider tying the bed and furniture legs together to stop them from sliding apart during the night.
No smoking, drugs or alcohol
Smoking is well documented to increase the risk of SIDS. Babies that are already at higher risk of SIDS hence should not co-sleep. Alcohol, drugs and some medication make you sleep heavier and therefore put yourself at risk of harming you baby or not waking up fast enough.
Make sure your baby does not get too warmSleeping close to you is warm and cozy for your baby. A warm blanket in addition to your body heat can actually be too much. Overheating is proven to increase the risk for SIDS. Therefore when co-sleeping the best you can do is to dress yourself warm enough to sleep without a blanket. This way you or baby will not become overheated and also will not be at risk of suffocation (by falling beneath a heavy blanket).
If you breastfeed, invest in a good nursing top or two for sleeping, or use then one you had during the day instead of throwing it in the laundry. Also wear trousers and socks if necessary. The one thing you shouldn't wear is clothes with long loose strings, since your baby can get tangled in them.
Beware of pillows and blanketsAll types of pillows and blankets are a potential risk for your baby, as they may land of top of the little infant and make it difficult for him to get enough oxygen.
If it is hopeless for you to sleep without a pillow, at least use only one and make sure you keep your head on it.
Also make sure that the sheets are stretched and can't be pulled loose.
Beware of very soft bedsIf your bed is very soft, including any type of water bed, don't co-sleep with your baby. The risk is that your infant will roll over towards you, onto his belly.
Belly-sleeping has shown to be a major factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, especially among babies that are too young to be able to roll from stomach to back on their own. A relatively flat and firm mattress is needed.
Consider your weightConsider your own (and your spouse's) weight. If any of you are quite heavy, the risk increases that your baby will roll towards you and hence risk rolling over to belly sleeping without having the ability to roll back.
Consider your sleep pattern
Consider your own and your spouse's sleep pattern. If any of you is a very sound sleeper, maybe your baby should not share bed with that person. Moms usually tend to wake up very easily and at any noise or movement by their baby, but there is no guarantee that this will happen to you. If you don't wake up easily at night due to your baby's sounds, it may not be safe for the two of you to sleep together.
Often, unfortunately, dads don't wake up as easily. Especially if it is mom who is the only one attending to the baby at night. When I've co-slept with my infants, I have always wakened my husband up in the middle of the night, telling him that our baby is now in our bed. (I've always started out with having my babies in their own beds and then lift them over to mine during the night if needed.)
If your husband sleeps very heavily, it might be better to keep your baby between yourself and some piece of furniture or the wall rather than between the two of you (if possible).
Older siblings should also not sleep in the family bed close to the infant. Keep the children at different sides of the adults. Older children (>2 years or so) can sleep together without any large risks.
A large enough bedOnly co-sleep with your baby if your bed is large enough to provide room for both of you. Ideally, you move away from your baby a bit during the night, both for safety reasons, to improve your sleep and to not make your baby completely dependent on your body contact for sleeping.
Alternatives to the true family bed
If you think true co-sleeping may be too unsafe for your baby, you can always consider some kind of sidecar arrangement. Use a crib where you can pull down one side or even tale it off and place the crib right next to your bed. Tie it to the main bed with some sort of cords.
Another option is to use a snuggle nest or something similar. I tried that in hospital when my baby was newborn and it was quite good. The baby was placed in the nest beside me in my bed. Since the baby was slightly elevated and protected by the nest's soft rails, there was really no risk that I would hurt him.
I suspect, though that these type of products only work well until the baby starts rolling over and moving around. On the other hand, by then they are at less risk of SIDS. So for safe co-sleeping during the first few months, a snuggle nest (or something similar) might be a really good idea.
Remember though that breastfeeding will be slightly less convenient with a snuggle nest or sidecar arrangement, since you'll have to lift your baby. With true co-sleeping, you just pop out the nipple and get started. :-)
CommentsShare your thoughts, experiences and comments about what you just read.
Would other parents find this valuable? Share it!
What baby info are you looking for?
Sharing Is Caring...
More Baby Sleep Articles
Baby Sleep Facts
Sleep Problem Solvers
Baby Sleep Polls
By Paula Dennholt, Copyright © 2006-2013 EasyBabyLife.Com. Please review our disclaimer before using this site.
Web design and SEO by Open Hands Media