Although you probably hear the term "co-sleeping" and assume it refers to sharing a bed with your baby, that's just one form of co-sleeping. Alternatively, you can co-sleep by attaching a crib to Mom's bedside with the nearest bars removed, using a co-sleeper crib, placing a crib or bassinet next to your bed, or welcoming a child that sleeps in a different room into your bed if they wake. Co-sleeping offers various advantages, which include a better night's sleep for everyone, supporting breastfeeding, and lowering your baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) when they sleep in your room. This may surprise you, as you may have heard that co-sleeping can increase the risk of SIDS. However, following infant sleep guidelines can aid safe co-sleeping, including sharing a bed with your child.
Reducing SIDS risk
Babies placed down to sleep on their back are less likely to suffer SIDS, but wherever your baby sleeps must be safe for them to avoid suffocation or entrapment. You can ensure a safe sleep surface by using a firm mattress that is well fitted and has tight-fitting sheets, as well as avoiding loose items such as pillows and blankets. Meanwhile, never let your baby sleep on a couch, armchair, beanbag, waterbed, or cushion, even if you are present. You should also take steps to prevent your baby from overheating by keeping their bedroom at a comfortable temperature and dressing them appropriately. Breastfeeding, immunizing your baby, and using a pacifier when you put your baby down to sleep can further reduce their likelihood of SIDS.
According to the Infant Sleep Information Source, most infant deaths related to bed-sharing occur when another risk factor for SIDS is present. You can significantly reduce your baby's risk of SIDS by choosing an alternative form of co-sleeping. You might try bed sharing if any of the following circumstances apply:
- Your baby was premature or had a low birth weight
- You smoke or did so while you were pregnant
- You are exhausted or you have been drinking heavily or taking sedatives or illegal drugs
- Older children share your bed
If you co-sleep by bed sharing, you should avoid swaddling your baby, as this can cause overheating, and you should tie up long hair to prevent strangulation.
Sleeping arrangements for your infant are a personal choice, but whatever you decide, make sure you follow current recommendations for safe infant sleeping. By doing so, you can sleep easy, knowing you have taken steps to protect your baby from SIDS.