Can I sleep with my baby?
Sleep safety is a topic that comes up a lot for new parents. It is a common concern, especially with small infants. Today, we provide answers to the all-important question about whether or not it is ever safe to let your baby sleep in your bed.
How close is too close?
While infants do benefit greatly from skin-to-skin cuddling, bed-sharing for naps and all other sleep times is something that the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) does not recommend. They say that letting your baby sleep in your bed poses too many potential risks. Co-sleeping, on the other hand, is endorsed by the AAP for babies that are four months or less in age. Although the terms bed-sharing and co-sleeping frequently get used interchangeably, they are not the same thing.
What is bed-sharing, anyway?
Bed-sharing is letting your baby sleep in your bed or on a sofa next to you. It is important to remember that infants and children do not necessarily stay in place while they sleep, much like adults. For that and other reasons, it is never safe to let a small child or baby sleep in your bed with you. Additionally, letting your baby sleep in your bed significantly increases their risk of injury or death from:
- SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
- Falling off of the bed while you are sleeping
- Rolling into the space between the wall and mattress
- Getting stuck under your body and being smothered while you are sleeping
- Suffocating under a fluffy pillow, comforter or heavy blanket
The potential risks from letting your baby sleep in your bed are even more significant if you or your partner smoke, have consumed alcohol or are taking any medications that cause drowsiness. Additionally, statistics show that at least half of all deaths caused by SIDS occur while a young child or infant is sleeping with another person in bed or on a couch. Co-sleeping with your infant of four months or less, however, is not only safe but highly recommended by the AAP.
How is co-sleeping different than bed-sharing?
Co-sleeping is not letting the baby sleep in your bed with you, but rather placing them a safe distance away. One obvious example is to place them in a bassinet next to your bed. When they are that close to you, you can still hear them if they stir and pick them up to comfort or check on them without having to get out of bed. It doesn’t hurt to mention that co-sleeping also makes late-night bathroom breaks a breeze, allowing you to get back to sleep quickly and without disturbing the sweet dreams of your little one.
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Best co-sleeping methods:
While bed-sharing is technically a form of co-sleeping because your child is next to you, it is not safe. For your child’s well-being, room-sharing or co-sleeping are better sleep methods than having your baby sleep in your bed. AAP-approved methods of co-sleeping include:
- Bedside bassinets: there are multiple co-sleeper products available on the market today that allow you to keep your little one safe and next to your bed at night. Some co-sleepers attach to the bed, but as the standards for these products have only been in place since 2014, the AAP does not endorse them as safe. Do your research to determine which products are considered safe.
- Portable co-sleepers: these are primarily small crib-like beds that can be placed almost anywhere and allow your new baby to sleep safely under the watchful gaze of mom or dad.
- Room-sharing: Even if you choose not to have a bassinet next to your bed, the AAP recommends placing your infant’s crib in your bedroom until they are at least six months old as a safe and effective form of co-sleeping.
recommended infant sleep practices:
From birth to one year, always place your infant on their back to sleep. This rule applies both for naps and all other sleep times. Instances of SIDS happen much less often when an infant sleeps on their back as opposed to sleeping on their stomach or their side.
Rather than letting your baby sleep in your bed, place them in a crib. Additionally, make sure your infant’s mattress is firm, clean and free of stuffed animals, toys, blankets and even bumper pads. Babies are more likely to get stuck under a bumper pad than between the cracks of today’s carefully-regulated crib slats.
Keep them close
It is a good idea to let your baby sleep next to your bed or at least in your bedroom until they are between six months and one year. The AAP endorses this type of co-sleeping because they have discovered that it reduces occurrences of SIDS by nearly 50%. It is also better for you because you can feed, comfort or check on your child without venturing too far from the pillowed comfort of your mattress.
If you do opt to cuddle or feed your baby in bed, remember to remove all comforters, heavy blankets and pillows from your sleeping area. New parenthood is tough work, and it is quite common for parents to drift off to sleep while they cuddle their little one. Do not comfort or feed your baby in bed if you are a smoker, have consumed any alcohol, are taking any medications that may cause drowsiness or have a cold or other illness that makes you feel tired.
In short, it is great to cuddle your child, and often, but never let your baby sleep in your bed or on the couch with you or any other person.