Co-Sleeping refers to the practice of sleeping on the same surface with your baby. More often than not, it’s associated with bed sharing. However, co-sleeping also means sharing the same room with different sleeping surfaces.
If you have a baby under 6 months old, then it’s critical to understand when co-sleeping or bed-sharing with your little one is safe and when it’s not. It’ll allow you to set up your bedroom accordingly for a safe co-sleeping environment.
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Cosleeping vs Bed Sharing
Cosleeping (which is defined as sharing a room with your baby) is known to be beneficial for you and your child. It makes it easy for the mother to breastfeed her baby conveniently, and parents can also get more sleep. Additionally, it also decreased the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) because parents are always there to deal with any breathing issues.
Bed sharing on the other hand may increase the risk of SIDS if the parents do not follow the safe sleep 7. However, it is now being shown that bedsharing with a healthy full term baby and a non smoking, healthy, breastfeeding mother may actually be protective.
If you want to bedshare with your baby, it is worthwhile to read and understand the safe sleep seven promoted by La Leche League, as bedsharing will improve your chances of extended breastfeeding.
Bed Sharing and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
SIDS as the name implies is the sudden death of a baby without any explanation. It’s one of the leading causes of baby deaths in the whole world. While doctors are unable to explain what causes SIDS, they do know that the risk of a baby dying from this syndrome increases by bedsharing.
That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics AAP warns against the practice. Unfortunately, most of the studies done include mortalities caused by sleeping on recliners, intoxicated parents and unsafe bedsharing practices.
Best Practices for Safe Co-Sleeping
Now that you understand that sharing a room with your baby is safe, it’s time to discuss the best practices for safe cosleeping.
Firm Sleep Surface
It’s important to provide your baby with a firm sleeping surface. You can arrange a play yard, crib, or bassinet and place it right next to your bed. Not only will it eliminate the risks associated with bedsharing but it’ll also make it easy for the mom to nurse and soothe her baby back to sleep.
You can find tons of bedside sleepers that securely attach to the adult bed and provide the baby with a firm sleeping surface. In fact, using a bedside sleeper offers the best of both worlds as it has a firm and separate sleeping surface.
Tip: Make sure that the mattress or sleeping surface isn’t tilted or elevated.
Never Sleep With Your Baby on a Chair
The practice of sleeping with your baby on a chair or couch is more dangerous than sharing the bed. Sleeping on the chair not only shows that you’re too tired but it also means that you won’t be able to keep your baby from suffocating or falling.
According to a National Library of Medicine research, kids who sleep on their backs for all naps and also at night are less likely to fall victim to SIDS. Sleeping on the sides or on the stomach increases the risk factor of the aforementioned syndrome.
Sleep is a developmental issue, not a training issue. No babies need to be trained to know how to sleep. Luckily, bedsharing and cosleeping lead to more sleep for both parents and babies. In fact, waking through the night is protective against SIDS.
If you need more sleep, we recommend visiting the Possums Sleep Clinic online, or try The Discontented Baby Book.
Another research by the National Library of Medicine shows that using a pacifier reduces the risk of SIDS in infants even if it slips out once they’re asleep.
There are certain safety measures that you should also take after soothing your baby to sleep. It’s important to make sure that the head and face of the baby remain uncovered. So, you’ll need to keep adult blankets and pillows away.
If you’re using a crib or bassinet, then make sure their guardrails are fully secure to make sure your baby can’t fall off. Your baby should never share the bed with other children or pets.
When to Avoid Co Sleeping?
There are few reasons to avoid cosleeping, as it is always generally safe to sleep in the same room as your baby. However, if you smoke in the bedroom it would definitely be wise to keep your baby away from passive smoke.
If you choose to bedshare, you should avoid doing so if
- You have recently consumed any amount of alcohol.
- You smoke even if you don’t do it in your house.
- You smoked during pregnancy, or were exposed to second hand smoke.
- You use drugs and/or are feeling less aware or sleepy.
- Your baby was born underweight or premature.
In these situations, sleeping with your baby significantly increases the risk of SIDS.
Benefits of Safe CoSleeping & Bedsharing
If you follow the best practices mentioned above for safe co-sleeping, then it can bring many advantages to the table. Here’s a list of the most common ones.
- It allows you and your baby to get more sleep.
- It allows the mothers to wake up instantly and soothe the baby back to sleep when s/he needs nursing.
- It makes breastfeeding easy for the mom, especially during the night.
- It reduces the risk of SIDS
- According to the Safe Infant Sleep book by James J. McKenna, it brings multiple psychological effects and can reduce anxiety and stress.
- Fewer bedtime hassles.
When to Stop Sharing the Same Room?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can move your baby to a separate room when s/he is at least 6 months old
You should do what suits your family the best. There is no reason to suddenly kick your baby out of your bedroom at any particular age.
Consider using a co-sleeping cot or a bedside sleeper if you want to co-sleep with your baby but avoid sharing the same bed to minimize the risk of SIDS. When it comes to co-sleeping arrangements, there is no one-size-fits-all model because every family is unique.
You can use the arrangement that suits you the best but make sure that you follow the safety protocols to keep your baby safe. The key is to figure out the healthiest solution and you can also consult with your pediatrician to find one.