Should You Co-Sleep and Share a Bed with Your Child?
I received a pretty interesting question from one of my readers a few days ago. Janet, who is a first time mom, asked:
Is okay if I slept with my child on the same mattress?
To answer that question, let’s first take a step back and figure out what does it mean to co-sleep. Wikipedia defines co-sleeping as the practice in which babies and young children sleep close to one or both parents, as opposed to in a separate room. In other words, co-sleeping could either mean that the child is sleeping with her parents on the bed (aka bed-sharing) or in a crib that is in the same room. Janet’s question pertains specifically to bed-sharing.
Bed-sharing is actually quite a common practice in certain countries. Take a look at India whereby a study conducted in 2006 concluded that approximately 93% of children aged between 3 and 10 years old bed-share with their parents. Attachment parenting, which focuses on nurturing the unique connection and bond between parents with their children is often one of the reason why parents choose to practice bed-sharing. Besides that, most parents bed-share is due to the fact that it allows parents to quickly attend to their child’s needs. In addition, many mothers choose to bed-share in order to promote prolonged breastfeeding; the idea being that the mother can sleep while breastfeeding.
Despite these perceived benefits of bed-sharing, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has strongly recommended against the practice of bed-sharing as it is the primary cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), especially if one of the parents has the tendency to smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs (even over the counter). Bed-sharing can be dangerous because the adult could be in deep sleep and is not have awareness of the infant’s presence on the bed. This can cause the infant to be trapped in between the adult and a pillow, which can end up suffocating the infant. Infants who are 3 months old or less are particularly at risk given that their motor skills and muscles are not fully developed, making it difficult to escape possible threats.
At the end of the day, despite these pros and cons, the decision to bed-share remains in the hands of the parents. There is no rule of thumb per say. If you do end up deciding you want to bed-share with your little one, these are best practices that you certainly need to consider:
- No soft objects such as pillows, comforters or toys should be within the infant’s sleeping environment. This is to avoid entrapment and suffocation.
- Make sure your baby cannot fall off the bed.
- Don’t leave your baby alone on your bed as infants can move about into a dangerous position.
- Do not sleep on the same surface as your infant when you are extremely tired or exhausted.
- Do not wrap or swaddle your infant when bed-sharing as this may cause overheating which is a risk factor for SIDS.
Personally, I wouldn’t bed-share, just to be safe. I would definitely co-sleep, but I would have my little one in a crib. Even if you don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs, all it takes is one mistake or one of the risk factors to be present which can put your infant in danger. Why take that risk?
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