Expert tips by Caroline May (midwife)
Co-sleeping with baby is a topic which comes up regularly on here and when most people talk about co sleeping they are actually referring to bed sharing. Many pregnant women swear they will never co sleep, then the baby arrives and sleep deprivation kicks in and it all becomes about survival.The safest place for your baby to sleep is undoubtedly on their back in a cot in your room, for at least the first 6-12 months, however it is estimated that on any given night around 30% of infants are bed sharing, so even if you think you will never co sleep it is worthwhile learning how to do it safely.
Co sleeping has been seen as a risk factor for SIDS, but there is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that it is not the co sleeping itself that is the risk factor, but the circumstances in which the co sleeping occurred. When you look at the numbers, co sleeping in the right circumstances can be very safe. Co sleeping if you are a smoker or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not. It should go without saying really.
However co-sleeping isn’t always a planned event and many parents have fallen asleep whilst feeding in a chair or sofa. This type of unplanned co sleeping can be very dangerous and contributes to a significant proportion of co sleeping deaths. Be aware of situations where you may doze off on a sofa or in a chair and try to avoid these. It may well be better to feed during the night laying down in a safe bed than to risk dozing off in an unsafe chair.
If you do decide to co-sleep:
- Make sure your mattress is firm and not sagging
- Keep your baby away from the pillows
- Make sure your baby cannot fall out of bed or become trapped between the mattress and wall
- Try to minimise bed clothes such as doonas and make sure they cannot cover your baby’s face
- Don’t leave your baby alone in the bed, as even very young babies can wriggle into a dangerous position
- Do not let your baby co sleep with another child or an animal
It is not safe to bed-share in the early months if your baby was born very small or pre-term
Do not co sleep if you or your partner are under the influence of legal or illegal drugs, or alcohol, or if you or your partner smoke.
Caroline May qualified as a Midwife in 1999 and has worked in both community and hospital settings around Australia and in the UK. Currently residing in Perth with her partner and two young children, Caroline is particularly interested in home and waterbirth and is passionate about enabling women to make an informed decision and play an active role in their care. You can find all her articles here.
(Disclaimer: All information provided should be used in conjunction with safety guidelines such as those from SIDS and Kidsafe. Go to Sids and Kids for more information on safe sleeping.)