Every parent with a newborn has asked themselves the age-old question: “When will we get more sleep?” Trying to figure out what sleeping arrangement will give us the most shut-eye while maintaining your baby’s safety can be a little challenging. Experts say the safest place for your baby to sleep in their first six months is in a separate Moses basket or cot in the same room as you. However, nearly half of parents choose to bed-share with their newborns.
Regardless of how often you practise co-sleeping, it’s important to always follow guidance around safe co-sleeping to minimise the risk to your baby’s wellbeing. It’s worth knowing the do's and don'ts when it comes to co-sleeping and how to bed-share safely. Here are our top tips for sharing sleeping space with your baby for a comfortable and safe night’s sleep...
What is Co-Sleeping
The term "co-sleeping" means to share a sleep surface (for example, a bed) with your baby.
But co-sleeping can also mean simply putting your baby to sleep in the same room as you but in a separate bed or cot.
What Are the Benefits of Co-Sleeping?
There are many advantages to co-sleeping with your newborn, including;
Co-sleeping is convenient and is the best way to maximise your own sleep.
Bed-sharing can strengthen your breastfeeding relationship. If your baby is right next to you, you won't need to get up in the middle of the night for feeds and even better if you manage to master breastfeeding lying down.
Bed-sharing can improve the quality of sleep for both mother and baby. Scientific research suggests that, on average, bed-sharing mothers get more sleep than mothers who don’t share the bed. They are woken up more frequently but usually get back to sleep faster, leading to more sleep overall.
Efficient Nappy Changing
Co-sleeping makes nappy changing more efficient. A top tip is to keep nappy changing equipment next to the bed. This means that you can do middle of the night nappy changes without getting out of bed.
How to Co-Sleep Safely
Before co-sleeping with your baby, ensure you meet all the below steps for a safe night’s sleep.
You must be;
- A non-smoker (no smoking in or outside the home)
- Sober and unimpaired
- Breastfeeding your baby
And your baby must be;
- Healthy and born at full-term
- Placed on their back (never on their tummy or side)
- Lightly dressed
And you both must be;
- On a safe sleeping surface
Positions and Tips
If you do co-sleep with your baby, here are the recommended sleeping arrangements for safe infant sleeping;
- Ensure your baby can’t fall out of bed or become trapped between the mattress and wall.
- Keep pillows, sheets and blankets away from your baby to avoid them overheating or covering their face and obstructing their breathing. You could use baby sleeping bags instead. Use different togs for different seasons to keep your baby at a comfortable temperature all year round.
- Avoid letting pets or other children into the bed at the same time.
- Follow the same rules if your baby’s sleeping next to you in a bedside cot or side sleeper too.
- Don’t sleep on the same surface with your baby if you have taken drugs or sedatives, consumed alcohol, or if you’re overly tired.
- Don’t sleep on the same surface with your baby if you’re a current smoker - infants exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are at a greater risk for SIDS.
- Don’t sleep on the same surface if you smoked during pregnancy.
- If sharing a sleeping surface, place your baby next to you, rather than between you and your partner.
- Babies less than a year old should not sleep with siblings or other children.
- Don’t fall asleep on a sofa or chair while holding your baby.
- If you have very long hair, tie it up when your baby is next to you so it doesn’t wrap around their neck.
- A parent with obesity may have difficulty feeling how close their baby is to their own body and should always sleep on a different surface than the baby.
When is Co-Sleeping Unsafe?
The main circumstances where co-sleeping becomes a risk factor is;
- Sleeping on a sofa, armchair, or other unsuitable sleeping spaces
- Sleeping on a soft mattress
- If you have drunk alcohol or taken drugs that make you drowsy
- If you smoke or smoked during pregnancy
- If your baby was premature (born before 37 weeks) or had a low birth weight (2.5kg or 5½ lbs or less) or if a health professional advises you not to
Is SIDS a Risk?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of an infant where no cause can be found. It’s most common in babies under 6 months and a high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their heads covered by loose bedding.
There is no clear link between co-sleeping and SIDS, provided you follow the safe bed-sharing guidelines.
You can take steps to reduce the risk of SIDS by;
- Making sure you don’t fall into the unsafe categories above
- Ensuring the sleeping surface is as safe as possible
Safe Bed-Sharing Checklist
Follow the below checklist for safe sleep;
- A Super King mattress - for a couple with a baby, only a Super King mattress will provide enough room for all three to sleep safely. The space between sleepers is essential to prevent crushing or overheating.
- A mattress that is medium-firm or above - mattresses which are soft and sag a little, are not good for babies. Too much padding increases the risk that their nose and mouth being covered. A firm, good quality mattress is ideal.
- No gaps - there should be no crevices or spaces that your baby could fall or get trapped in. Watch out for spaces between your mattress and any bedside tables or your headboard.
- No loose cushions or pillows - one standard size pillow each for both you and your partner will be fine. Loose pillows and scatter cushions all raise the risk of the baby’s face being covered.
- Ambient temperature - ensure the room is neither too hot or cold.
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