Many parents co-sleep with their babies until the time that they feel the baby can sleep in their own. This sleeping arrangement means that the baby and parent sleep in an environment where they see, touch or smell each other. It takes place in two forms:
- Bed-sharing/co-sleeping, where the parent and child sleep on the same bed.
- Room-sharing, which involves the baby sleeping in the same room with the parents but on their own bed. This arrangement is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as being safer, with lower risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Benefits of bed-sharing
- It makes night-time feeding easier
- Helps the mother sync her sleep cycle with the baby’s
- Helps baby sleep more easily, mostly during their first month after birth, and helps them get more sleep in the night
- It encourages closeness between mother and baby especially after long separation on a workday.
Risks of bed-sharing
Despite the benefits there are also risks in bed-sharing. Studies indicate that bed-sharing is a leading cause of infant death especially for those aged below 3 months. Some of the safety concerns raised include:
- Suffocation due to lying face down on the adult beddings which include waterbeds, soft bedding and regular mattresses. The infant risks being covered the head by these items leading to suffocation. Babies are supposed to sleep on firm mattresses without items such as pillows, blankets and stuffed toys which can suffocate them.
- The infant can get trapped between the mattress and wall, headboard or other objects that can result in suffocation.
- If the bed frame has room for the baby’s body to pass through but not the head, strangulation can occur when the baby’s head gets trapped.
The risk of death during sleep in a bed-sharing arrangement is increased when the baby is placed to sleep between 2 parents especially if they are extremely tired or have taken alcohol or drugs.
When bed-sharing observe the following to improve the baby’s safety:
- Always put baby to sleep on his back and don’t leave him alone on the adult bed
- Use a firm mattress that fits properly in the bed frame. The headboard and foot board shouldn’t have openings.
- Don’t use pillows, quilts, or other soft items and don’t cover the baby’s head. Dress her in a sleeper in place of a blanket.
- Don’t overdress the baby
- Don’t take anything that will prevent you from waking up such as alcohol or drugs and don’t smoke in the room.
- Place baby away from draperies and blinds
- Don’t sleep with baby on a couch, rocker or recliner and don’t fall asleep with her on your chest.
- Don’t allow toddlers onto the bed you share with an infant can also cause injury or death when they aren’t aware of the baby’s presence.
Because of the risks experts recommend room-sharing instead of bed-sharing. This way, parents can have their baby close without the risks attached to bed-sharing. Place the baby’s crib, bassinet or play yard next to your bed. There are devices that attach on one side to the parents’ bed so that mother and child sleep next to each other while keeping the mother from rolling over onto the child.
Information on this website is not medical or dental advice, its for general information only. For more accurate medical and dental information please contact your pediatrician and dentist.