We all bring our babies up in different ways and as parents, we do our best to make the right decisions and choices. The subject of having baby in bed with you is one that people tend to have strongly held opinions and feelings about. Is there a “right or wrong” answer?
The advice from the UK safe sleep charity, The Lullaby Trust, is that in order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [SIDS,] a young baby should always sleep in a separate cot or moses basket and that for the first 6 months, their cot should be in your room.
Not everyone either believes or follows this advice, however and lots of parents make a deliberate choice to have their children sleep in the bed with them. There are many reasons for this – some cultural, some for convenience and some because it just feels right.
Others of us don’t actually set out to co sleep but end up sharing a bed accidentally because it’s the only way that the baby is content; because a single minded toddler insists on it and/or because we are just too tired to get up in the night!
Whatever the reason for sleeping with your baby or child is, you need to make it as safe as possible. Here are some tips:
- If you’re pre planning to co-sleep, then it is safest to place your mattress on the floor, and preferably not up against a wall.
- Be aware of the risk of you or your partner rolling over and squashing your baby or of them falling out of bed or getting trapped between the bed and the wall. For that reason, it is essential that neither you nor your partner has taken alcohol, medication or drugs which might have a sedating effect on you.
- It is safer for a baby (especially under a year or so) to have their own space on top of your bed (perhaps in a sleep pod) with their own well-fitting sleep bag or bedding tucked in at chest height. Having them sleep under the covers with you can be dangerous. Remember always to place younger babies down to sleep on their backs.
- Keep the room temperature at 16 – 20 degrees C.
- Do not use heavy blankets, pillows, duvets, soft toys or indeed anything that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat. Always, of course, make sure that their head is uncovered.
- If either of you smoke (even if it’s not at home) it is safer to avoid co-sleeping altogether.
- Similarly, if either of you is unwell or excessively tired, you should not sleep in the same bed as your baby.
- Even if you and your partner are paragons of clean living and good health, it is not advisable to share a bed with your little one if they were premature (earlier than 37 weeks) or had a low birth weight (5lb/2.5kg approx or under).
- If your child is poorly or has a high temperature, you might want to keep them close, but they should not be in bed with you because of the danger of them overheating.
- For parents who want to co sleep while their baby is very young, but have too many risk factors; a good compromise is to invest in one of the many co-sleeping type cots which are designed to join onto your own bed, but which also allows them to have a safe sleeping place of their own.
Conversations about co-sleeping are not always easy and as with many aspects of child and baby care, there are opposing views about it. No parent, whether pro or anti co-sleeping wants to feel criticised when they are doing their best, and as parents and professionals, it’s always good to respect others’ considered, thoughtful choices.
For more information on co-sleeping, click here.
By child sleep expert, Health Visitor and author, Andrea Grace © 2018