There are so many decisions to make about how you’ll raise your newborn, and a safe sleeping arrangement will be one of the most important. The hospital teaches you about the danger of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) before you leave with your newborn, and safe co-sleeping is the best way to prevent this mysterious condition.
Before deciding on your new sleeping arrangement, learn about the ins and outs of safe co-sleeping and why it’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Explore your sleep options learn some tips on safe bed-sharing. Once you have the knowledge, it will be easier to choose the sleeping arrangement that best fits your family.
The AAP recommends safe co-sleeping, or sharing a room with your newborn, as the best way to avoid the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Co-sleeping means more than just bed-sharing, contrary to popular understanding. It’s a broad term that includes any sleeping arrangement in which a baby shares the room with its parents.
This could mean a baby sleeps in a crib in the corner of his parents’ room or right in bed with them instead. The general idea is that parents are near the baby throughout the night, which offers benefits to both baby and parents. As more professionals recognize the importance of co-sleeping, more parents are choosing this sleeping arrangement. But there are lots of ways to do it.
The most basic form of co-sleeping, room-sharing, involves the baby sleeping anywhere in the same room as its parents. The AAP recommends that parents practice room-sharing with their infant for at least the first six months of her life, until around one year old. Baby may sleep in a crib or bassinet in the corner of the parents’ room or right next to the bed for easy feeding and changing access.
When parents sleep with a baby in their own bed, the arrangement is called bed-sharing. Parents might begin bed-sharing to soothe crying infants who won’t go to sleep without snuggles, nursing mothers may fall asleep during feedings or parents could just feel that a baby is safer in bed with them. However, bed-sharing increases the risk of SIDS and is discouraged by the AAP. Breastfeeding mothers seem to have better outcomes with bed-sharing, especially when they follow safe bed-sharing guidelines.
To protect bed-sharing babies from SIDS risks, some parents use small protective “mini-bassinets” next to them in bed. These usually provide side barriers to keep the baby from rolling away or parents from rolling onto the baby. They also have a firm surface for a baby to sleep on, avoiding the risk of suffocation. The AAP doesn’t take a stance on the safety of in-bed sleepers because not enough evidence has yet been gathered.
Also termed “bedside sleeper”, this style of co-sleeping means that a baby’s crib or bassinet is attached to the side of the parents’ bed. Essentially, the mattress of the bassinet lays flush with the mattress of the adult bed, so a newborn baby is still close to his parents while sleeping in his own safe space. It’s important that the bedside sleeper is safety-approved and attached firmly to the mattress.
The National Sleep Foundation states that SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants from one month of age to one year old. Safe co-sleeping is one way to prevent this mysterious condition, according to the AAP. In fact, room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by 50 percent, the organization claims.
A debatable form of co-sleeping, however, is bed-sharing. This practice isn’t considered safe by the AAP because it’s thought to increase the risk of SIDS. Multiple risk factors come into play with bed-sharing — fluffy blankets and soft pillows that can suffocate, sleeping parents that can injure baby and dangers of gaps by the bed that could trap the baby.
Co-sleeping can begin at birth and continue until your family feels ready for a change. Younger infants (three months or younger) are at a higher risk of SIDS, says the National Sleep Foundation. For those little ones, bed-sharing is more dangerous than it is for older infants (who still shouldn’t bed-share according to the AAP).
Even though it’s discouraged, many people still choose to bed-share. According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), “there is currently not enough evidence to support routine recommendations against co-sleeping. Parents should be educated about risks and benefits of co-sleeping and unsafe co-sleeping practices and should be allowed to make their own informed decision.”
With that said, mothers who choose to bed-share should follow these safety tips:
Every family’s sleeping arrangement choice will be unique depending on their needs. Do what’s comfortable for your family and safe for your baby. Perhaps you’ll use a variety of sleeping arrangements as baby grows through different stages. One day, your baby will be an adult, so whatever you do, enjoy the sleepy snuggles while you can.