Sharing Sleep With Your Baby

Mother and baby sleeping in bed

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What is Co-Sleeping?

Co-sleeping is called by many names: family bed, sharing sleep, bed-sharing. It generally means that a baby or child sleeps with their parents in a parent's bed or in a co-sleeper attached to the parent's bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend against bed-sharing with babies, because it increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The AAP recommends that until they are at least 6 months old (but ideally until their first birthday), babies should sleep in the same room as their parents, but never in the same bed. This is called room-sharing.

Why Co-Sleep?

Proponents of the family bed say that they sleep longer and better when they sleep with their babies. Those mothers who breastfeed say that sharing their bed with their newborn or older baby makes breastfeeding much easier and in turn they get more sleep.

Generally, the benefits of co-sleeping relate to longer-term breastfeeding and more sleep for the parents. But these don't outweigh the risks of SIDS.

The Risks of Co-Sleeping

While doctors don't fully understand what causes SIDS, they do know that following the ABC's of safe sleep (babies should sleep Alone, on their Back, in an empty Crib) reduces the chance that a baby will die in their sleep.

Co-sleeping is even more risky if a parent or caregiver:

  • Has been drinking alcohol 
  • Has been taking drugs, pain medication, etc.
  • Smokes
  • Has other children or pets in the bed
  • Is sleeping on a water bed
  • Is sleeping on a couch
  • Is sleeping on a chair or recliner
  • Is overtired

More Rules for Co-Sleeping Families

Here are some additional things to remember if you decide to co-sleep. To reduce the risk of SIDS:

  • Your baby should be on their back for sleep.
  • The mattress should be firm and clean.
  • An adult should always be able to see the baby.
  • There should be no sheets, blankets, stuffed animals, quilts, or pillows in the bed; make the family bed as much like the crib as possible (a firm mattress with just a fitted sheet and nothing else).
  • Dress your baby in a sleep sack for warmth.

The bottom line is that if you choose to sleep with your baby in your bed for any amount of time, you need to follow safe bedding practices. The first thing is where you sleep. You should never sleep on the couch or on a waterbed with your baby. Your bed mattress should be firm, flat and free of blankets, toys, and pillows.

Pull the mattress away from the wall to prevent your baby from falling between the bed and the wall. Be sure your partner knows that the baby is in your bed. Do not allow pets to share your bed.

A Word From Verywell

Sleeping with your baby is a personal choice. But be aware of the science and the risks. Prioritizing everyone sleeping as much as possible may seem like a good goal, but it puts babies at increased risk of SIDS. All of the SIDS prevention recommendations are actually designed to keep the baby in a less-deep sleep state. That's because with SIDS, it is believed that some babies sleep too deeply to rouse themselves if they are having trouble breathing.

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