Co-sleeping With Your Baby


Co-sleeping with Your Baby

In many cultures and for many years co-sleeping has been the norm but here in the United States more and more infants are placed in cribs outside of the parent’s room.  Recently, KVUE news had a brief report about the dangers of sleeping with your baby and the ABC’s pertaining to where the infant sleeps:




Having slept with all 3 of my children as did many of my friends and clients, I wanted to look into this further and see what had triggered this alarm of the “dangers of co-sleeping”. On February 28, KVUE news reported there had been 5 infant deaths in 9 days in Travis County and all were related to "unsafe sleep conditions". A father had fell asleep with the 13 day old infant on his shoulder and the baby fell to the mattress while he was asleep , face down onto the mattress, and suffocated. No details were given about the other 4 cases.

A study done in 1999 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that many deaths of infants were caused by sleeping in bed with their parents. The study showed 515 cases of accidental infant deaths occurred in an adult bed over an 8 year period between 1990 and 1997, that’s about 65 deaths a year. These deaths were not classified as SIDS. However the study did not determine if there was safe bedding or if the parents were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.   Many people felt this study was another way to promote people to buy cribs.  Also, if you consider the epidemic of SIDS as a whole, there were  about 4250 cases of actual SIDS between 1990 to 1997.  So if  there are 65 cases of  accidental deaths in an adult bed, that would be only 1.5% of the total cases of SIDS. There has been a decrease in SIDS due to the sleep on the back campaign. However,  It does bring up two good questions:

·         How many cases of actual SIDS occur in an adult bed versus in a crib?

·         How many babies sleep with their parents in the U.S., and how many sleep in cribs?

One researcher did examine the study by the CPSC and came to the opposite conclusion, that it is actually SAFER to sleep with your baby (Mothering Sept/Oct  2002). So, until there is a true study done on how many babies sleep with their parents and this is factored into the rate of SIDS in a bed versus a crib, it is unfair to say sleeping in a crib is safer.

There has been a new national campaign to warn parents not to sleep with their babies by the USCPSC and is co-sponsored by JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) which is an association of crib manufacturers.

Parents shouldn’t be told not to sleep with their babies but educated on how to sleep with them safely.

There are many benefits to co-sleeping: 1) babies sleep longer and in a more natural rhythm with their parents which may actually help reduce the chance of SIDS 2)breastfeeding is easier and in turn the mother gets more sleep which may help with preventing postpartum depression


If you do choose to sleep with your baby, there are some Do’s and Don’ts:

Here are some safe ways to educate parents:

  • ·         Use an arm’s reach co-sleeper
  • ·        Take precautions to prevent baby from rolling out of bed, even though it is unlikely when baby is next to its mother. 
  •      Use a guardrail made of mesh or push the mattress up next to the wall.
  • ·         Place the baby next to mother and not between the mother and father.
  • ·         Place the baby to sleep on its back
  • ·         Use a large bed, preferably a queen or king, with a firm mattress

You should not sleep with your baby if you or anyone in your bed:

·         Taking medication or drugs that make you extra sleepy

·         Have drunk alcohol

·         Are a smoker, even if you do not smoke in bed

·         Are unusually tired

·         Extremely obese

·         Do not sleep with baby on a cushiony surface such as a waterbed or couch

·         If you are the child’s babysitter

·         Don’t allow older siblings to sleep with the baby under nine months

·         Don’t fall asleep with baby on  the couch

·         Don’t overheat or overbundle the baby

·         Avoid hair sprays, deodorants, and perfumes as they will camouflage the natural maternal smells that the baby is used to and may irritate the baby’s tiny nasal passages


It boils down to common sense when sharing sleep and can be done safely if precautions are taken.  The question is “How can I sleep with my baby safely”, not “Is it safe to sleep with my baby”.