Nighttime Parenting Against the Grain: A Guide to Safe Bed-Sharing

Bed-Sharing with Baby

Bed-sharing continues to be a hot-button topic among parents and pediatricians alike and despite current AAP recommendations against it; the practice is on the rise.  A study completed in 2013 by the National Institute of Health showed that the number of parents choosing to bed-share with their babies more than doubled between the years of 1993 and 2010 from 6.5 percent to 13.5 percent. Reasons cited for the decision to bed-share include strengthening the breastfeeding relationship, improved sleep for mom and baby and fostering a secure attachment. Renowned advocates of bed-sharing like Dr. William Sears and Dr. James McKenna tout its short and long term emotional and physical benefits for mom and baby and believe that it can even prevent SIDS when practiced safely. If you are considering bed-sharing with your baby, here are some tips to ensure that your baby sleeps safely.

  1. Choose a firm mattress with tightly fitted sheets: Remember that adult beds were not designed with infants in mind and therefore need to be tailored to create the safest sleep environment possible. In addition to a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet, ensure that your baby’s sleep space is free of pillows and loose blankets. Place baby slightly higher than you to avoid contact with your blankets and scoot your pillow away from him. 
  2. Position baby in between mom and the wall or mesh guard rail: The safest place for your baby when bed-sharing is next to mom. Mothers have been found to be more in tune with baby’s presence even when they are asleep and are less likely to roll onto the infant compared to fathers. It is very important to make sure that the mattress is flush with the guardrail or wall and that there are no crevices in which the baby could become lodged. 
  3. Make sure both parents agree to bed-share: Bed-sharing with your baby should be a unanimous decision and it is best if both parents go into the practice thinking as if they are the primary person responsible for baby’s safety and wellbeing at night. Never bring your baby into the bed at night without alerting your partner of their presence. 
  4. Invest in a large bed: The more space available to your family in the bed, the easier it is to create a safe spot for baby. If you plan to bed-share with your baby, consider the money you will be saving on a crib and invest in a king size bed instead.
  5. Always put baby to sleep on her back: Whether your baby sleeps in a crib or in the bed with you, the safest position for her is on her back. Even if you turn baby to her side to nurse, be sure to return her to her back before you go back to sleep.
  6. Ensure baby is a comfortable temperature: The safest temperature for baby while sleeping is between 65 and 68 degree. Dress baby warm enough that he does not require a blanket but don’t over bundle him. The use of a ceiling fan to circulate airflow has also been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. Also, do not swaddle a baby when bed-sharing. In the event that an adult does roll onto baby, it is safer if they have use of their limbs. 
  7. Don’t use sheepskins, stuffed animals, pillows or other fluffy objects around or under baby: Baby’s sleep space should be as bare and firm as possible to reduce the risk of suffocation. 
  8. Do tie up excessively long hair that may pose a strangulation hazard to baby.

DON’Ts of Bed-Sharing:

  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you smoked during pregnancy or are currently a smoker.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of alcohol, sedatives or any mind altering drug that may lessen your ability to rouse when necessary.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby if you or your partner is extremely obese.
  • DO NOT sleep with your baby ever on a couch or a waterbed.
  • DO NOT allow siblings to bed-share with a baby under 9 months of age.
  • DO NOT bed-share if you are extremely overtired. 

DO NOT sleep with your baby if they are premature or low birth weight.

Bed-sharing is a personal family decision that must be made with a comprehensive understanding of the necessary safety precautions and the associated risks. Although there are many reported benefits to bed-sharing, the safest sleep arrangement for your baby is for him to have his own space. Co-sleepers and sidecar cribs offer a great alternative to bed-sharing and allow mom and baby to be close enough to nurse and touch while providing a safe and separate sleep space for baby. Whatever sleep arrangements you choose for your family, be sure that both parents are on board. For questions about safe infant sleep or for any and all inquiries about pregnancy and natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Preventing SIDS: The Do's and Don'ts of Safe Sleep

Preventing SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is one of the scariest thoughts to a new parent. You’ve read about it, you know it’s often unexplainable, and you can barely sleep those first nights at home watching your tiny baby’s every breath. Although SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between 0 and 12 months, you can dramatically decrease the chances of this tragedy by practicing safe sleep habits with your baby. Here are a few of the most important precautions to take when considering how you will put your baby down for a safe night of sleep.

The Do’s

  • DO place baby on his back to sleep.  Since the American Academy of Pediatrics established the Back to Sleep Campaign in 1994, the incidence of SIDS has been significantly reduced. Back sleeping is most important during the first six months of life when the risk of SIDS is the highest but should be followed for the first year.
  • DO breastfeed when possible. Research has shown that breastfed babies are as much as 60% less likely to die from SIDS than babies who do not receive any breastmilk. For other great reasons to breastfeed your baby, check out this article!
  • DO choose a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet.
  • DO offer a pacifier to baby for naps and bedtime. Research suggests that the act of sucking on a pacifier may reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • DO make sure your crib meets current safety standards.
  • DO opt for a wearable blanket or a sleep sack instead of a blanket in the crib.
  • DO have baby sleep in your room: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep in their parents’ room at least until they are six months of age.
  • DO seek good prenatal care during pregnancy.
  • DO have your baby practice tummy time during wakeful hours to help strengthen his head, neck and shoulder muscles.
  • DO educate other caregivers who will be responsible for creating a safe sleep environment for your baby. One out of five SIDS related deaths occurs when baby is in the care of someone other than their parents.

The Don’ts

Baby Sleeping in Crib
  • DON’T leave any soft objects in the crib such as blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or bumper pads. Any extra items in the crib can pose a risk for suffocation and strangulation.
  • DON’T use swings, car seats and other infant chairs for routine sleep.
  • DON’T use positioners or wedges in the crib.
  • DON’T let baby get overheated. Choose lightweight clothing and keep the temperature in the room cool but comfortable. 
  • DON’T put baby to sleep in an adult bed. Your baby should have his own separate sleeping space that is free of pillows, blankets, and other soft objects. Having a separate sleep space for your baby also removes the risk of you or your partner accidentally rolling onto him while you are sleeping.
  • DON’T smoke during pregnancy or after your baby is born. Smoking during pregnancy is responsible for more than 1000 infant deaths each year.
  • DON’T ever put baby to sleep on a couch, a lounge chair or any soft surface with cushions or blankets. Babies can become lodged between cushions or roll off of open surfaces resulting in suffocation or serious injury.
  • DON’T ever cover baby’s head with anything while he is sleeping.
  • DON’T fall asleep accidentally with baby in your bed or on the couch.

Although the causes of SIDS-related deaths are often unexplained, research suggests that there may be certain brain abnormalities present that make certain babies more susceptible. Because these factors are not identifiable at birth, it is even more important to take the precautions to eliminate environmental risks. Simple safeguards such as placing your baby on his back to sleep and keeping the sleep environment clear from any excess items can reduce the risk of this tragedy by up to 60%.

Don’t take risks when it comes to creating a safe sleep environment for your little one. You both will sleep better at night knowing he is safe and sound. For questions about safe sleep for your newborn or other pregnancy or postnatal related inquiries, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birth Center. Your baby’s safety is our first priority.