Are you looking for hints about co-sleeping safely with your baby? Want to avoid dangers when sleeping with an infant? I am one of many mothers with experience sleeping safely with my new baby in my bed.
Here’s my thoughts and advice for any new mother who wants their baby to co-sleep safely and securely in the same room or even the same bed with them. Plus ways for you to assess the dangers before you and your baby (and your partner) decide to co-sleep.
The key to co-sleeping safely is to understand the benefits, as well as any dangers and hazards. If you co-sleep safely and take care, you can avoid the dangers and issues you fear.
Co-Sleeping Safely With Baby
There’s lots of options when co-sleeping with your baby. We’ll discuss the issues and decisions to be made in a moment. But first, let’s look at the two key ways of co-sleeping with a baby.
- Parent and baby sharing a bed.
- Parent and baby in shared bedroom.
Parent and Baby Sharing a Bed
It seems beautifully romantic. The thought of mother and newborn snuggled up safely in the same bed. Mom’s breath warming the infant. Babe safe and secure in the same bed as its mom. In an ideal world, dad would share the space and bask in the joy of being part of a protective bubble.
Many families achieve this ideal. However there are definite dangers associated with parent/s and baby sleeping in the same bed. (I will share tips on how to safely co-sleep with parents and baby in the same bed in a moment.)
Parent and Baby in Shared Bedroom
Co-sleeping safely is easy to achieve if parents and baby sleep in a shared bedroom.
Parents in bed and infant in crib or cot, in the same room, is co-sleeping. Even if your baby is not sharing your bed, you can still access many of the benefits of co-sleeping.
Throughout the majority of the world babies co-sleep. Babies and mothers sleep in the same room, often the same bed. So why does our culture encourage new mothers to quickly get their baby sleeping alone in their own room? US society in particular seems to disregard the benefits of co-sleeping.
Take a look at some of the many advantages and benefits of co-sleeping safely with the newest member of your family.
1. Baby is Safer Co-Sleeping
Major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, agree that babies are safest when they sleep in the same room as their mothers until they are six months old.
- An infant close to a parent is more likely to be heard if distressed or needing assistance.
- Parents can respond to the infant much faster if baby sleeps in your room.
2. Mothers Sleep Better When Co-Sleeping Safely
Most mothers sleep better when their child co-sleeps. New moms often fear not waking when baby cries, so they delay sleeping. (Nobody wants to be the mother who didn’t wake when their infant cried for them.)
Sleep deprivation is a natural part of new parenting. Babies require attention at all hours of the night and day. New parents have always longed for more sleep, but feared the implications if they sleep too long or too deeply to hear a crying baby.
It is natural to be exhausted and fall into a deep sleep when new to the demands of a precious newborn. Co-sleeping safely can relieve your fears of being too distant to wake when your newborn cries.
3. Breastfeeding is Easier and More Convenient
Co-sleeping makes breastfeeding easier, which provides many health benefits for mother and baby.
- Mothers who breastfeed during co-sleeping report getting better night’s sleep.
- Children who are breastfed have a lower risk of SIDS.
4. Babies Co-Sleeping Wake Less Often, Cry Less
According to research, mothers who co-sleep experience babies who wake less often and cry less during the night.
Babies close to mom can hear and smell all the things they are use to, increasing their ability to relax and just sleep.
5. Health Benefits for Babies Co-Sleeping Safely
The temperature and heart rhythm in infants has been shown to be more stable in children who co-sleep than in infants who sleep alone in a crib.
Sadly, some mothers practice unsafe sleeping habits with baby. But responsible parents can avoid obvious dangers by co-sleeping safely.
Who Should NOT Co-Sleep With a Baby?
While I highly encourage parents to co-sleep safely, there are many reasons why a person shouldn’t be putting a baby in their bed. If you are one of the people who should not co-sleep with a baby, don’t risk it.
The key to co-sleeping safely with a baby is learning what you should or shouldn’t do. Recognize the dangers of sharing a bed with your baby, and avoid them.
Remember, you always have the option of sharing a room with your baby while they sleep in their own crib.
Never share a bed with your baby if any of the following points apply.
Don’t Co-sleep if you:
- Have been drinking alcohol. Even one glass of alcohol can change the way you sleep.
- Are on sleeping medication or any medication that may make you drowsy such as allergy medication or night time cold medicine. You are likely to sleep more deeply.
- Are taking a new prescription medications. Many prescription medication cause drowsiness as a side effect. Narcotics like pain relievers, nerve pain medications, diabetic medications, just to name a few may cause deeper sleep. So until you know how a new medication may change your sleep do not co-sleep in a shared bed.
- Naturally sleep heavily. If you are prone to sleeping deeply or are that person everyone jokes ‘could sleep through a hurricane’ you should not co-sleep in the same bed as an infant.
- If either person is uncomfortable with it. Respect a spouse doesn’t feel comfortable with a child in the bed. Each person knows their own limits. If your spouse isn’t comfortable having baby in the bed, then don’t risk it.
- If the other person doesn’t know baby is in the bed. If your partner has fallen asleep before the baby has joined the bed make sure to wake them fully so they are aware. Otherwise do not put the baby in the bed. Both adults should be well aware of when the infant is sharing your bed.
Tips for Co-Sleeping Safely
Co-sleeping safely in the same bed requires simple steps to make the process not only safer for your infant, but easier for mom too.
1. Remove all excess pillows and blankets from your bed. Only leave what is absolutely needed for you to sleep.
2. Install a guard rail or push the bed against a wall. Babies should never sleep between two parents. Instead baby should sleep between the mother and either the wall or a rail. Co-sleeping is never considered safe when baby is in the middle.
3. Make sure your sheets stay on your bed and are not loose fitting. If the fitted sheet has a habit of coming off during the night, invest in clips to keep the sheet in place.
If you worry your little one will get cold, consider getting a sleep sack for them to stay nice and cozy in!
4. Check for gaps between the bed and wall or rail. If there is a gap you can fill it with a rolled blanket or towel. Making sure the towel is pushed far enough into the crack that it does not pose as another hazard for the baby helps ensure co-sleeping safely.
If you would prefer baby to be protected by being self contained this is a great option!
5. Place baby to sleep on their back. The current recommendation is that children who sleep on their back are less likely to suffer SIDS. (Contrary to advice given to previous generations.)
6. Breastfeed! Breastfed infants will align themselves with their mother’s breast, which tends to keep their face away from mother’s pillow.
However you still need to make sure your infant is co-sleeping safely without the danger of suffocating beneath heavy bedding.
7. Do NOT smoke! Not only are there the common sense issues with smoking with a baby in the home, studies also show the risk of SIDS while co-sleeping is highest in infants who co-sleep with smokers.
Parents who smoke should never smoke indoors. Step outside before you light up. Keep your children’s indoor environment smoke-free. Plus be aware of the lingering smell (and residue) of cigarette smoke on your hands and clothing.
8. Do NOT drink alcohol, take sleeping medication, do drugs, or take any medication that may impact sleep while co-sleeping. Studies show that co-sleeping does not increase the risks of SIDS unless the mother is doing one of these things that impact sleep.
Co-Sleeping In Same Room
A baby is born into this world knowing exactly who mommy is. The infant knows the sound of his mother’s voice, her heartbeat, her smell. Sending an infant off to their own room is sending them off to a whole new world where nothing sounds or smells like their mother.
If co-sleeping in the same bed as your baby is not for you, that’s fine. Putting a crib in your room is a wonderful compromise. It allows you to:
- feel baby is safer
- have some free time without worry
- prepare baby to be in their own space (transition to their own room)
- be intimate with your partner without baby getting in the way.
This gives you many of the wonderful benefits of co-sleeping while still giving you a bit of space.
Make your little one feel comfortable. Get a bit more sleep. And enjoy those precious middle of the night loving moments from the comfort of your bed. This time doesn’t last for long. Enjoy it while you can.
Being a new mother is a tiring, but amazing adventure. Consider the benefits of co-sleeping safely, then choose what is right for both you and your baby.