The overwhelming majority of parents co-sleep with their children at some point. Kim West, author of Good Night Sleep Tight, divides them into three categories: committed co-sleepers, short-term co-sleepers, and reactive or “we didn’t plan it this way!” co-sleepers. Committed co-sleepers believe in the family bed philosophy and bed-share for years. Many parents opt for short-term co-sleeping during the newborn stage, while others end up doing it reactively (i.e. when it’s 3am and they are too tired to take on another waking). Regardless of the reason or rationale, it is essential that parents take precautions to ensure that their little one is safe.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and The American Academy of Pediatrics have formally recommended against co-sleeping with a child under two years of age because of the risk of death or injury. First Candle, an organization dedicated to reducing sudden infant deaths, cites research that suggests that 80% of sudden infant deaths occur when the baby is sleeping with a parent or other adult.
However, as Dr. Harvey Karp states in Happiest Baby on the Block, “The vast number of infant deaths in bed are preventable by taking a few reasonable precautions. For example, 80% of the deaths noted by the CPSC could have been avoided by filling the spaces around the bed to keep babies from getting wedged in and by never sleeping on waterbeds. Most of the remaining 20% of deaths could have been prevented by using a co-sleeper attachment.”
A co-sleeper, such as Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet, is a great option. It allows parents to sleep alongside their baby, easily bringing them into bed for feedings, without worrying about their baby rolling off the bed or getting accidentally smothered.
What follows is a list of safety tips from various sources, including First Candle, Dr. Harvey Karp, Kim West, and SafeBedSharing.org.
· Your baby should sleep on a firm surface, covered by a well-fitted sheet that can’t be easily pulled off.
· Avoid pillows, toys, or loose bedding (including quilts, sheepskins, blankets, mattress pads, etc.) that could smother your baby.
· Never leave an infant or toddler unattended on an adult bed.
· Never let your baby sleep on a waterbed, sofa, or another soft, flexible surface.
· Eliminate spaces between the mattress and the wall or nearby furniture, or the mattress and the structure of the bed (headboard, footboard, side rails and frame), where your baby’s head might get trapped.
· Let your young baby sleep only on his back.
· Never let another sibling sleep next to your baby. Children sleep deeply and may roll over onto the baby.
· Never sleep next to your baby if you are intoxicated or have been using drugs, are taking medications, are overly tired or in any other way feel that your ability to be aroused could be affected.
· Do not sleep with your baby if you are very obese.
· Do not let your baby overheat during sleep.
· Do not smoke around your baby or allow anyone else to do so. Smoking exposure may increase the risk of SIDS.
· Tie back very long hair in a pony tail or braid it. Long hair could cause suffocation or strangulation.
There’s a lot of contradictory information floating around and recommendations are always changing, so it is best to regularly re-visit safety issues with your pediatrician.
For more information, here are some helpful starting points: