Sharing sleep in a family bed with your baby is a rather controversial topic. Known as co-sleeping, the practice is common in many parts of the world. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued some warnings regarding bed sharing, because the baby is vulnerable to overnight accidents and even SIDS.
However, there are plenty of benefits to co-sleeping for both the child and the parents. Moreover, bed sharing can become a safe practice if the parents take the necessary precautions. Today we will look at some of the things parents should do in order to create a safe environment when sharing the family bed with their baby.
Advantages of Sharing the Family Bed with the Baby
Co-sleeping will not sit well with all families, but it comes with many advantages young parents find hard to ignore:
- Parents usually get more sleep when they co-share the family bed with the baby;
- For moms, breastfeeding is easier during the night when the baby is close by; moreover, co-sleep also correlates with longer term breastfeeding;
- Babies sleep more and better as well; when the baby tosses and turns and wakes up, the mother can nurse or soothe them immediately, putting them back to sleep before they have a chance to fully wake up;
- Co-sleeping reduces nighttime separation anxiety for the baby;
- Immediate intervention is possible in case the baby is sick and needs care during the night;
Co-sleeping helps building mother-child attachment bonds, which are essential for the healthy development of the baby from a psychological point of view.
If you choose to share sleep with a baby, you need to focus on making this special environment safe for the child. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents to share the bedroom and not necessarily the bed, you have means to achieve your co-sleeping goal in a safe manner. Here are the main things you should know about co-sleeping.
You should invest in a great mattress. This is your first priority, as your baby needs to sleep on a firm and clean (hypoallergenic mattresses are a good choice, together with organic cotton bed linens), with the bedding fitting tightly to the mattress. Moreover, the mattress should always fit tightly to the headboard and footboard of the bed. Make sure there are no spaces in between the bed and the wall.
- The bed should stay far away from all furniture and objects that may pose a harm to the baby (bedside tables with sharp corners or glass tables, bedside lamps, curtains or blinds cords etc.).
- Make the bedroom childproof.
- Babies should always sleep on their back. Even if they roll, you need to make sure they don’t sleep on their tummy.
- Remove any headboard or footboard presenting cutouts or slats.
- Never co-sleep if you use a waterbed.
- You may consider using a floor mattress to avoid any accidents if the baby rolls over during the night. If you sleep in a regular bed, you may want to consider using mesh bed rails on the sides and at the bottom to make sure the baby does not end up on the floor if they roll over out of the bed.
- Never co-sleep if you intend to use a sofa, recliner, futon, couch or another piece of furniture that exposes the baby to slipping in a crevice.
- You should remove any pillows, stuffed animals, blankets, and anything else that can suffocate the baby or lead to overheating.
- Always use a light blanket when you co-sleep to avoid overheating the baby. Some use loosely knitted blankets that have holes in them to prevent the child from suffocating or overheating.
- Before going to bed, you need to dress the baby in lighter clothes to avoid overheating.
- If the mom has long hair, she should put the hair in a bun on top of her head.
- Parents should avoid sleeping in clothes that feature ribbons or straps, to avoid these items wrapping around the baby’s neck.
- If the parents are heavy sleepers, they should avoid co-sleeping.
- Never co-sleep if you already share the bed with a pet or an older child.
- If the parents are overweight, they should avoid co-sleeping.
Other Rules to Follow if You Co-Sleep
When you decide to share the family bed with your baby, no precautions are enough to keep them safe. If we mentioned the safety measures you need to take to protect the baby, it is time to talk about some rules dedicated to the parents.
Do not co-sleep with a newborn if the child was born prematurely. Even if low-weight babies or premature babies benefit more from co-sleeping, you should place them on a nearby surface beside your family bed.
Do not share the family bed if the mother smoked during pregnancy or if one of the parents is still a smoker.
Do not co-sleep in the same bed if one of the parents is overly tired.
Do not co-sleep if any of the parents drank alcohol or ingested medication, sedatives, or any other drugs (or substances that can make the parent less aware). One of the parents should always see the baby during the night and must be aware of any changes in the sleeping environment.
Co-sleeping is an option you should consider for its benefits, but you need to take serious precautions for the safety and well-being of your baby.