Co-Sleeping

This post goes out to all those new parents whom I don’t get to see much since I made the change out of primary care.  I so miss seeing your babies and helping to guide you each step of the way.  This is also in memory of A.S., a baby boy that I cared for who died of SIDS.

Co-sleeping Recommendations

For some people, the idea of leaving their baby alone in a crib is inconceivable, while for others the idea of sleeping with a baby is too worrisome.  While the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages co-sleeping due to studies that suggest an increased risk of SIDS, there are parents who are going to sleep with their children regardless of this data. This article is to educate those parents so to minimize the potential risks co-sleeping.

There are many groups and cultures that support co-sleeping explaining it to be safer and better for bonding.  Ultimately, the choice to share your bed with your child or let them sleep alone is your decision, and your’s alone.  The below recommendations will help to educate you to the risks of co-sleeping and provide ways to limit the danger.

Here is an example, described in one British study, of a typical sleeping position which was found to be characteristic of breast feeding mothers and their infants:

“The mother spontaneously adopted a distinctive lateral position facing the infant, with her knees drawn up under the infant’s feet and her upper arm positioned above the infant’s head. This position facilitates the baby’s easy access to mother’s breasts, and babies orient themselves towards their mother’s breasts for most of the night.”

This position provides several safety benefits:

  • the baby is flat on the mattress on his/her back, away from pillows
  • the baby is constrained by the mother’s knees and arm so that it can’t move up or down the bed
  • the mother controls the height of bed covers over the baby
  • it is very difficult for the baby to be rolled on by either parent, as the mother’s elbow and knees are in the way
  • the mother is close enough to monitor the baby’s temperature and breathing continually.

When sleeping with an infant, always sleep facing your infant, with the above description being the ideal position, keeping your baby close to your face and chest.  Babies should be dressed in sleep sacks so to avoid using adult blankets for babies.  Furthermore, to avoid accidentally pulling adult covers over your baby’s head, I recommend parents dress themselves warmly enough to keep their own blankets at their own waist level.  When possible, I highly recommend breast feeding, as well, for many benefits, including a decreased risk of SIDS.

Rules regarding co-sleeping:

  • Always use a firm mattress for bed sharing. Soft mattresses can allow baby to accidentally roll over causing suffocation. If your mattress is soft, consider using a sleep box or bassinet that attaches to the side of the bed instead.
  • Make sure all bedding fits snuggly on the mattress. Fitted sheets that come loose could cover baby’s face.
  • Make sure mattress is flush against head and footboards. If there are any gaps baby could become lodged between headboard/footboard and mattress and cause suffocation.
  • Always place baby to sleep on her back if co-sleeping. This has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Never leave an infant or toddler unattended on an adult bed. Co-sleeping or family bed sharing consists of an adult and a child. Babies can roll off of beds (even when using a co-sleeping device), can become tangled in blankets, or otherwise need the attention of an adult. I recommend babies not be left unattended in the early months.
  • Never let your baby sleep on a water bed or on a couch. Water beds and couches are associated with suffocation.  If your baby will sleep at another person’s home who does not have a crib, never let them sleep on a couch or sofa.  Bring your own crib or let them sleep in a box.  Never even put a baby on a waterbed.
  • Never sleep next to your baby if you are intoxicated or have been using drugs, are taking medications, are overly tired or in any other way feel that your ability to be aroused could be affected.
  • Do NOT sleep with your baby if you currently smoke. This has been associated with a higher incidence of SIDS.
  • Never let another sibling sleep next to your baby. Children sleep deeply and may roll over on baby. A baby is best placed next to Mom or Dad only.
  • Avoid adding railings or putting furniture next to the side of your bed. Baby could become lodged next to railing or furniture and suffocate
  • Avoid pushing your bed against a wall. Baby could also be lodged between the bed and wall causing suffocation.
  • Avoid over-dressing your baby. Overheating is also associated with an increased risk of SIDS.
  • Avoid strings or ties on night clothes or blankets. These could cause strangulation. Be sure to remove toys or other objects from bed before sleep time, to avoid suffocation.
  • If you have very long hair wear it in a pony tail or braid it. Long hair could cause suffocation or strangulation.

Comments are closed.