Co-sleeping is when your baby sleeps in your bed with you rather than in a cot or Moses Basket.
Parents do this out of choice, to keep their baby close or because their baby will not settle away from them – for many parents it is about getting some sleep. And every family does this differently – many babies will be in their cot at the start of the night but they later move into their parent’s bed
Studies have found that around 50% of all UK babies have bed-shared by the time they are 3 months old. And 91% of those parents had not planned to co-sleep. Good preparation makes such a difference to your options and to understanding how to make sleep as safe as possible for your baby.
The evidence demonstrates that co-sleeping is safer when it is planned for and when the bed is prepared. It becomes riskier when bed sharing happens by accident, out of exhaustion and desperation for sleep.
How do you make co-sleeping safer?
- place your baby on his back and away from the edge of the bed
- keep pillows away from your baby – and don’t use a tower of pillows as that could mean you lean over your baby
- your baby shouldn’t be under a heavy adult duvet – you can use a light duvet or a sheet & blanket and you can arrange your bedding so your baby is in their own sleeping bag and not sharing bedding with you
- only use a firm and flat mattress so your baby doesn’t roll into you
- keep pets and other children out of the bed
- make sure your partner knows your baby is in the bed
- don’t leave your baby unattended in the bed
- make sure there is no loose bedding
- make sure there is no way your baby can become wedged or trapped
- do not use an electric blanket
- dress your baby in light clothing
- ideally you and your baby have the bed to yourself and you can be in the middle of the mattress
To make co-sleeping safe, there are also reasons not to do it:
- if you or anyone in the bed smokes or vapes
- if you or anyone in the bed has been drinking alcohol
- if you or anyone in the bed has taken any drugs or any medication that could make you drowsy
- if your baby was born before 37 weeks of pregnancy or weighed under 2.5kg or 5½ lbs when they were born
It is important to see co-sleeping as bed sharing – sleeping on the sofa or in a chair with your baby is not safe.
Blair, Sidebotham, Peach and Fleming (2014) found that when sofas, smoking and alcohol/drugs are removed, co-sleeping did not pose an increased risk and the research team stated: “Campaigns against bed-sharing unjustly stigmatises and condemns bed-sharing parents. It would be more effective and accurate to inform families as to how to bed-share safely, especially considering the positive relationship between bed-sharing and breastfeeding, and this study’s finding of a protective impact of bed-sharing beyond 3 months postpartum.”
Good sources of co-sleeping information
As a doula I work with parents from across Newcastle and Tyneside.
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Copyright: Janine Smith