Everything you need to know about safe co-sleeping
If you are thinking of co-sleeping with your baby, there are some important safety points to be aware of
You might love snuggling up with your baby in bed – it’s cosy and bonding, and can help you get some much-needed sleep. But can you and your baby really co-sleep safely? Here we look at the latest advice...
What is co-sleeping?
Co-sleeping simply means sleeping in the same bed as your baby, and it’s thought roughly half of parents do it. Some families make a conscious decision to snuggle up with their babies. Others bring baby into bed in a sleep-deprived haze, because it seems the only way they’ll ever settle. And some exhausted parents co-sleep by accident when they doze off after a feed. If you end up co-sleeping, it’s important to understand the risks and make sure you’re doing it safely. A survey of over 8,500 parents carried out by The Lullaby Trust has shown that 76% have co-slept with their baby at some point.
There are many deeply appealing benefits. It’s often easier to feed in bed and you can both drop off again quickly afterwards. Babies who sleep in bed with their parents tend to wake less often and cry less. And sleeping next to your baby means you can settle them quickly if they start coughing or crying in the night.
What are the official guidelines on co-sleeping?
Experts, however, say the safest place for your baby to sleep in the first six months is in a cot or Moses basket, in your room.
So what are the risks of co-sleeping?
Experts believe that co-sleeping, when combined with other factors, may be linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death. It’s generally agreed there are certain situations where the chance of SIDS really is higher, making it too dangerous to sleep in bed with your baby:
• if you or your partner smokes - even if you don’t smoke in the bedroom
• if you or your partner have drunk alcohol or taken drugs, including any medication that makes you drowsy
• if your baby was premature (born before 37 weeks) or had a low birth-weight (less than 2.5 kg or 5 ½ lbs)
• if you’re massively tired – it can increase the risk of SIDS and possibly accidents too
Experts also agree you must never risk falling asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair, because the risk of SIDS is 50 times higher.
How to co-sleep safely
If you co-sleep with your baby, just make sure you follow these guidelines:
• keep your baby well away from adult bedding and use a baby sleeping bag rather than any loose bedding
• make sure bedding doesn’t cover your baby’s face or head - it' important your baby's sleeping bag fits well around the shoulders so your baby's head doesn't slip down into the bag
• never give them a pillow and keep them away from your pillows too
• always put your baby to sleep on their back, rather than their front or side
• avoid any items in the bed with that could obstruct their breathing or cause them to overheat
• be aware of possible accidents – like falling out of bed or getting trapped between the wall and your bed or mattress
Any other downsides?
It also comes down to how you feel about sharing your bed with a wriggle-meister, and some parents are put off by a whole range of downsides:
• less sleep - sharing your bed with a wriggling, kicking, squirming baby might mean you actually get less sleep!
• don’t leave me! Your baby may have trouble sleeping when you try and leave them with a relative or babysitter.
• I’m not budging! Moving your baby into their own bed can turn into a long, drawn-out process.
• Love-life woes – let’s face it, having a baby in the bed is never going to be good for your sex life.
Find what works for you
Looking after a baby when you’re wiped out by lack of sleep is never easy, and you have to find what works best for your family. If you opt for co-sleeping, just make sure you’re doing it in the safest way possible.
Want to know more?
For the latest research on SIDS and co-sleeping, check out The Lullaby Trust.