How to safely sleep with your child

What to Know

Want the comfort of being close enough to touch your baby at night? You’re not alone. It’s completely normal, and mothers around the world sleep with their babes, but it’s important to do so safely. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room sharing for the first 6 months of life.

Father holding hand of a sleeping toddler boy in bed

Room sharing means sleeping on a different surface than baby but having her within easy reach in the same room that you sleep. Your baby should still be on her back, on a firm infant-safe mattress or pad, free from toys and blankets.

For breastfeeding families, room sharing can be especially advantageous. Having your baby close by can make nighttime feedings easier, with more time spent on both feeding (to help maintain your milk supply) and sleeping (for you and your babe). Room sharing can also be especially beneficial for prematurely born babies and those with low birth weight.

Other documented benefits of room sharing are that it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% (compared to babies who sleep in separate rooms), minimize separation anxiety and can support positive psychological and relationship development. Within the context of healthy family dynamics, research shows that adults who experienced room sharing in babyhood have more comfort with physical affection, a more positive attitude about life and an increased ability to be alone.

Bed-sharing means sleeping on the same surface as your baby. This arrangement is not recommend by the AAP due to the baby’s possible entrapment in your adult bedding, mattress, head or sideboard, or even your own body.

What to Do

Follow safety guidelines for room sharing

Both parents should assume responsibility as primary caregivers and make a decision together that it is the right choice for their family.

Consider a “sidecar” arrangement with a crib rather than bed-share

A “side-care” is when one side of the crib is lowered or removed and the crib is securely attached to the mother’s side of the bed. Don’t improvise this setup. Instead, purchase a sidecar crib specifically designed for this purpose.

Breastfeed instead of bottle feed

Breastfeeding reduces the risk for SIDS. After feeding, be sure to move baby back to her own sleeping space

Place your baby to sleep on her back on a firm mattress

Safe bedding and the correct sleeping position for your baby are critical, no matter where she sleeps. No pillows or stuffed animals should ever be placed around your baby. Avoid heavy blankets and comforters as well.

The sleeping space should be set up so that there is no way for her to be entrapped.

Do not allow other children to sleep with babies under 12 months old

Infants a year or less should not sleep with other children, even siblings. Instead, your baby should sleep near an adult who can take responsibility for the little one.

Never sleep with your baby or put your baby to sleep on a sofa, recliner or futon

Babies are at risk for slipping into the cushion crevices or becoming wedged between the seats, backs and sides of these types of furniture.

Sources

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