Checklist for Safe Co-Sleeping

Mother sleeping with her baby

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Whether out of a desire to be close to their child, necessity, or to get a good night’s rest with a child who can’t seem to sleep alone, polls show that close to 70% of parents co-sleep with their babies for at least part of the night. However, it is important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against bed-sharing due to the risk of unintentional injury or death.

So, you may want to reconsider this arrangement since it can pose serious and life-threatening risks to your child. If you do choose to co-sleep, note that it should not occur with infants less than one year of age. The following are precautions to take to ensure that your child is safe throughout the night.

Consider Your Bed Choice

Use a large mattress to provide ample room and comfort for everyone. The best option is to place the mattress on the floor, making sure there are no crevices that your baby can become wedged in. Your mattress, crib, or Pack 'N Play should be flat, firm, and smooth. Do not allow a baby to sleep on a soft surface such as a waterbed, sofa, pillowtop mattress, beanbag chair, or any other flexible and yielding structure.

Keep Sheets Secure

Make sure your fitted sheets stay secure and cannot be pulled loose. Loose bedding can pose a suffocation risk for your child.

Remove Pillows and Blankets

When sleeping with an infant, remove pillows and blankets, which can suffocate a young child. To stay warm, dress baby and yourself warmly for sleep. Keep in mind that body heat will add warmth during the night, so make sure your baby doesn't become overheated.

Use Bed Rails

If your bed is raised off the floor, use mesh guardrails to prevent baby from rolling off the bed, and be sure that there is no space between the mattress and headboard or footboard. (Some guardrails designed for older children are not safe for babies because they have spaces that could entrap tiny bodies.)

Mind the Gap(s)

If your bed is placed against a wall or against other furniture, check every night to be sure there is no space between the mattress and wall or furniture where baby could become stuck.

Childproof Your Room

Make certain that the room your baby sleeps in, and any room they might have access to, is childproof. If you sleep upstairs, a child gate should also be installed at the top of the staircase. One day in the near future, your baby will likely crawl out of bed as you sleep to explore the house.

Check Your Sleep Depth

Some people are light sleepers, others can sleep through anything. Parents should pay attention to their own sensitivity to their baby. Your little one should be able to awaken you with minimum movement or noise (e.g., a sniff or a snort). If you find that you sleep so deeply that you only wake when your baby lets out a loud cry, consider moving baby out of your bed, perhaps into a “sidecar” arrangement with baby's crib or cradle directly beside your bed.

Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

Do not ever sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you have used any drugs or sedative medications, if you are an especially sound sleeper, or if you are suffering from sleep deprivation and find it difficult to wake.

Wear Simple Pajamas

Avoid nightclothes with strings or long ribbons. Don't wear jewelry to bed, and if your hair is long, pin it up. Again, these measures help ensure nothing obstructs your child's breathing.

Avoid Strong Scents

Don’t use strong-smelling perfumes or lotions that may affect your baby's delicate senses.

Keep Pets Out of Bed

While you may be able to follow all of these suggestions, your pet won't. It's best to keep pets out of the bed you share with your baby entirely. If your pet won't take the hint, it's best to consider a different sleeping situation for your child.

1 Source
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  1. Moon RY. SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Evidence Base for 2016 Updated Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162940. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2940

By Elizabeth Pantley
Elizabeth Pantley is a best-selling author of the "No-Cry Solution" series and an international best seller of "The No-Cry Sleep Solution."