Bed-sharing – baby sleeping the same bed as their parents, is a contentious practice. Bed-sharing supporters contend that a baby should always sleep in their parents’ bed. Others, though, feel that sharing a bed is dangerous.
Co-Sleeping, Room-Sharing and Bed-Sharing
Although “bed-sharing” and “co-sleeping” are terms that often used to describe the same thing, there are several distinctions:
Co-sleeping: This is when a parent and baby sleep in close social or physical proximity to one another and are aware of the other’s presence.
Room-sharing and bed-sharing are types of co-sleeping:
Room-sharing: This is when parents have a crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard in the room, located close to the bed. They might also attach a bedside sleeper to the side of their bed.
Bed-sharing: This is when parents share a bed, couch or chair with their newborns. Bed-sharing with a newborn increases the incidence of sleep-related mortality, particularly sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which has generated concerns about this.
Supporters of bed-sharing assert – and certain research back up their assertions – that bed-sharing:
- Supports breastfeeding by making it more convenient to breastfeed at night.
- Improves the number of months a mother breastfeeds her child.
- Makes it easier for babies to fall asleep.
- Helps mothers and babies to get more sleep at night.
- Provides more time for mothers to be close to their babies.
However, bed-sharing has risks that outweigh its advantages.
Why is bed-sharing dangerous?
Bed-sharing is common in some cultures and there aren’t many baby deaths associated with it. The reduced risk in these nations may be attributed to differences in mattresses, bedding and other cultural customs.
However, due to major safety risks, health experts strongly advise parents against putting their babies to sleep in adult beds. Bed-sharing raises the risk of SIDS, suffocation and strangulation.
There are numerous dangers for a baby in an adult bed, including:
- Suffocation caused by a soft mattress, memory foam, waterbed, or loose or soft bedding such as pillows, blankets or quilts.
- Entrapment and suffocation when a baby gets trapped or wedged between a mattress and headboard, wall or other object.
- Strangulation in a bed frame that allows part of a baby’s body to pass through an area while trapping the baby’s head, or from dangling cords.
Babies should never be put to sleep with any pillows, blankets, toys, stuffed animals or other items. They should only be placed to sleep on their backs on a hard mattress or other firm sleep surface, such as in a portable crib.
The practice of room-sharing without bed-sharing is recommended as to lower the risk of SIDS in babies.
Bed-sharing and SIDS
In particular, preterm infants (preemies), newborns with low birth weights, and healthy full-term infants less that 4 months of age are at a higher risk of SIDS death when their parents share a bed with them.
In addition, the following factors raise the chance of death while bed-sharing:
- A baby sleeping on a couch alone or with a parent.
- A baby sleeping between two parents.
- A mother who smokes.
- Exhausted parents.
- A parent who just used alcohol or drugs.
- Bed-sharing with pillows or bedcovers.
- Bed-sharing with other children.
Place a bassinet, play yard, or crib next to your bed to keep your baby close by yet out of your bed. This enables you to maintain the right level of intimacy, which is crucial if you’re breastfeeding. The risk of SIDS is decreased when the baby sleeps in a separate area from the mother in the same room. You can also consider to get a bedside sleeper, which attaches to your bed, allows you to be close by your baby yet on different surfaces.
Ensure that all the sleep surfaces and sleeping aids you use for your baby meets the safety standards.
Experts advise that baby should sleep in their parents’ without bed-sharing until they turns one-year old. It is preferable to wait until the baby is at least 6 months old if parents want to let the baby to sleep in another room.
Despite the dangers, some parents feel that bed-sharing is best for their family. If you decide to sleep with your infant in the bed with you, take these safety measures:
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back to lower the chance of SIDS.
- Keep your baby’s clothing to a minimum to prevent overheating.
- Give your baby a pacifier when it’s time for bed, but don’t for it. You don’t have to replace the pacifier if it falls out during sleep.
- Stop swaddling your baby if your baby starts to try rolling over.
- Never leave your baby unattended in an adult bed.
- Avoid putting your baby to sleep on a soft surface like a sofa, waterbed or soft mattress. Make sure the mattress on your bed is firm.
- Ensure that the headboard and footboard of your bed don’t have any openings or cutouts where your baby’s head might get trapped.
- Ensure that the mattress is snugly fit in the bed frame to prevent your baby to get trapped between the mattress and the frame.
- Never cover your baby’s head when they’re sleeping.
- Do not place any pillows, comforters, quilts and other soft or plush items on the bed. Instead of using a blanket, you can dress your baby in a sleeper.
- Avoid placing your bed near draperies or blinds where your baby could be entangled by cords and get choked.
- Never fall asleep with baby on your chest.
- Avoid dozing off with your baby on a couch, a rocker, or a recliner.
- Avoid wrapping your baby in weighted blankets, sleepers or swaddles.
- Don’t place your baby to sleep in a product that isn’t specifically designed for babies to sleep in, such as a car seat or a feeding pillow.
- Never use any product or devices that claim to lower the risk of SIDS.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or using medicines or drugs that could make your less alert or keep you from waking up.