Is Bed Sharing Safe For Babies?
The reasons behind bed-sharing with your baby are understandable. However, there are also risks associated with this practise that you need to know.
Parents co-sleep for different reasons. Many do it because they believe that bed-sharing makes their baby feel safe. While some do it because it is satisfying. However, co-sleeping is a term that most people use when they mean bed-sharing with a baby. But those are two different things.
What exactly is bed-sharing with a baby?
Bed-sharing and co-sleeping are terms that people easily interchange. Bed-sharing is the act of sleeping on the same bed surface with your baby. While co-sleeping is when you share the same room with your baby. Though this can mean in the same room and on the same surface too. For this reason, co-sleeping is sometimes used as a general term of description. Consequently, there are two ways to co-sleep: sleeping in the same bed and sleeping in the same room.
Both practices have drawn and have continued to draw a lot of arguments on both sides. Therefore, it can be a bit hard to figure out which way to go when it comes to your baby's sleeping arrangements.
Is it safe to share a bed with your newborn?
The straight answer to the above question is no. The reasons behind bed-sharing with your baby are understandable. Who wouldn't want to cuddle with their bundle of joy? To feel the baby breathe beside you throughout the night? Plus, there are other reasons apart from emotional ones. Parents usually get so tired during the day and want to keep the baby close to make things easier through the night. Other reasons include:
- Helps make breastfeeding easier and more convenient.
- Babies tend to wake up frequently when the feeding time is shorter. This can add up to a greater amount of sleep. So, being close and getting fed immediately helps them sleep better.
- Sharing the same bed with baby helps parents get their sleep routine up to speed with the baby's routine.
- The baby falls back to sleep easily with parents by the side.
- Parents work during the day. Hence, by practising bed-sharing they regain some closeness with their baby.
However, as tempting as it is to sleep on the same bed with your baby, the practice is not safe. It puts your baby at risk of suffocating or dying suddenly. Bed-sharing is the most common cause of death in babies, especially those 3 months and younger. Usually, death occurs for reasons that include:
- Suffocating due to the softness of the mattress, pillows and blankets. The softness allows the baby to roll over and suffocate.
- Suffocating due to getting stuck between the mattress and headboard or wall.
- Choking due to the baby's head getting caught up in an area or cord in the bed.
Tips on sharing a bed with your newborn
There are risks to bed-sharing with a baby. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against bed-sharing. But if you are willing to go through with bed-sharing despite the warnings, then you should take the following precautions.
- Avoid sharing a bed with a baby under the age of four months. Instead, get a bassinet or crib and put next to your bed.
- Dress your baby in moderation. With a lot of clothes, you risk causing the baby to overheat.
- Lay the baby on his or her back to avoid sudden death due to suffocation.
- Whatever you do, don't cover the baby's head while sleeping.
- You shouldn't let the baby sleep alone in an adult bed.
- Avoid placing the baby on soft surfaces, including soft mattress or sofa.
- Be sure that there's no opening in your headboard that can trap the baby's head.
- Be sure that the mattress fits with the bed frame. This is to avoid the baby getting trapped between the mattress and frame.
- Avoid taking alcohol or drugs that might make you roll over onto the baby.
- Move your bed away from curtains and blinds the baby might get caught up in.
- Avoid falling asleep with the baby on your chest.
Tips for room-sharing with baby
Room-sharing is quite different from Bed-sharing. The AAP does recommend the practise of room-sharing without bed-sharing. Sleeping in the parents' room but on a separate surface lowers a baby's risk of sudden death. The following tips will help your room-sharing journey with your baby.
- The fact that you're room-sharing doesn't mean you can't create a nursery for your baby. You can use a physical room divider that is the same colour as the walls of your room. That way the baby is in the same room but not on the same bed.
- Even though you're sharing the same room, the baby still has his or her own space in the room. Avoid moving the baby close to your bed. You will end up checking the baby every two minutes.
- A good rug helps absorb noises that might wake the baby.
- Even though you're sharing a room, don't forget to establish a sleeping routine for the baby.
- White noise helps the baby sleep. There are many soothing white noise machines you can buy. Also, a fan can work for this purpose.
Your baby should sleep in the same room with you at least until his or her first birthday. After that, you can consider moving the baby to another room.
Reference: Kids Health