When it comes to where a newborn should sleep there is quite the heated discussion on co-sleeping and bed-sharing. Deciding what is best for your family, may not always come easily. Sharing a bed may seem appealing to new parents for a variety of reasons, but there are risks associated with this idea.
What is the Difference in Co-Sleeping and Bed-Sharing?
Co-sleeping and bed-sharing are not the same thing. However, these terms are usually used interchangeably. Co-sleeping means sleeping within close proximity of your baby. You are close enough for your baby to see, hear, smell, or touch you. This can be on the same surface and sometimes not, sharing a room with your baby is also co-sleeping. Bed-sharing is sharing the same sleep surface, such as your bed with your baby.
Co-sleeping and room-sharing are commonly confused. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that until your baby is at least six months old that they sleep in the same room as you. The ideal timeline is up to their first year of life.
Creating a Safe Sleep Environment for Baby
Regardless of where the baby sleeps, all infants should always sleep on their backs, on firm and clean surfaces, away from secondhand smoke, under light blanketing, and their heads should never be covered. The bed should not have any stuffed animals or pillows near the infant. A baby should never be placed on a pillow or soft bedding to sleep as they could suffocate.
Waterbeds are especially dangerous for babies. It is also vital to keep babies away from the couch or sofa when sleeping as they could slip into a crevice, get wedged against something and suffocate, or even fall onto the floor.
When dressing your baby for bed, take care to stop swaddling once they are able to roll over. It is also important to dress them in light layers, so that they will not overheat. A sleep sack is a great option once your baby has grown out of swaddling.
Is Bed-sharing Safe?
Every parent can see why bed-sharing can be tempting, but it is not the safest option for your baby. Many chose to bed-share to help both baby and mom sleep more. But this could be harmful for your baby. According to the CDC within the United States, 3,500 babies die due to sleep-related causes each year.
When a baby sleeps on anything other than a crib or bassinet mattress with a tight sheet and nothing else around, their risk for SIDS increases. This is especially the case within the first six months of their life. During the newborn stages many parents find themselves exhausted and sleep deprived, which can increase the risk of rolling over onto your baby, or the baby falling off of the bed.
Concerns on Sharing a Bed
Bed-sharing can mean less sleep for parents as they may be too worried about the safety of their baby while sharing a bed. It can also result in less sleep for the baby as you may be tempted to wake up to each whimper or movement having them right next to you. Babies may cry without actually being awake when transitioning through sleep cycles.
Babies may also have a harder time transitioning from bed-sharing to their own crib once they are older. They may also struggle with falling asleep on their own and self soothing.
Bed-sharing can also mean less intimacy for the parents. Having your baby right next to you, might make you think twice about getting intimate!
Why Some Bed-Share
Many parents do not actually set out with the idea of bed-sharing. Rather, they find that it is much more convenient with nighttime nursing. It can also help baby get back to sleep faster after feedings and sleep for longer. Parents who are gone all day might also enjoy the extra time they get to spend with their little ones at night. It is a strong component of attachment parenting that helps promote physical closeness as a way of forming strong emotional bonds.
Bed-sharing can seem particularly appealing to a breastfeeding mom. Breastfed babies tend to wake up more often throughout the night to feed. Bed-sharing eliminates the need to get out of bed, get the baby out of their crib, and sit upright to feed before trying to get baby to fall back asleep. When they are right next to you, you can pull them close to you to nurse and then fall right back asleep.
Safety Considerations for Co-Sleeping in a Shared Bed
If you do decide to share a bed, knowing the risks that are involved, it is important to follow these recommendations to help make bed-sharing as safe as possible:
- Talk to your pediatrician about your sleeping arrangements at home.
- Make sure there are no gaps between the mattress and the frame.
- Remove all big blankets from the bed. Avoid feather beds and plush pillows.
- Do not drink alcohol, smoke, or take any medication that could impact your sleep while bed-sharing.
- Make sure both parents are in agreement with a bed-sharing decision. It is ideal for both parents to feel comfortable with bed-sharing. Do not place an infant in a bed with a sleeping adult that is unaware of their presence.
- Do not leave your baby in a position where they could fall off of the bed.
- Infants that are a year or less should not sleep with other/older siblings.
- If you have longer hair it should be tied up to prevent getting tangled around the infant.
Sharing a Room with Baby
Room-sharing, however, is a much safer option. The AAP recommends that you share a room with your baby to help decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent. This means that Mom and Dad will sleep in their own bed, but baby will sleep within the same room in a crib or bassinet. There are even cribs designed to attach to the side of the bed to make nighttime feedings and diaper changes even easier.
In the End
While cuddling with your baby throughout the night may seem appealing, the risk far outweighs the benefits. If you are struggling with getting your little one to sleep, you can always talk to your pediatrician for recommendations and suggestions.
However, if you do decide to bed-share make sure to follow safety considerations to provide the safest environment possible for your baby.