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Bed sharing, also known as co-sleeping, increases the risk of SIDS. Find out how you can stay close to your baby at night while keeping her safe.
What is bed sharing?
"Bed sharing" refers to having your baby sleep in bed with you, rather than in a separate space such as a crib.
Some people call sharing a bed with your baby "sleep sharing" or "co-sleeping." However, co-sleeping can also be used as a more general term to refer to your baby sleeping close to you, either in the same bed or nearby, for example, in a bassinet that attaches to the bed.
Is bed sharing safe for my baby?
Not according to the safe sleep policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Instead, the AAP recommends having your baby sleep in a crib, bassinet, or play yard in your room near your bed for the first six months, ideally for the first year. That way, you can easily see and reach her for feeding or comforting.
It's especially important to provide close but separate sleeping arrangements for the first six months of life, when the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and other sleep-related deaths is highest. Room sharing cuts the risk of SIDS by as much as half, according to the AAP. (For more ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, see SIDS and baby sleep safety.)
Bed sharing is not recommended for any baby, but it's especially dangerous for a baby who is:
- Younger than 4 months
- Born preterm or with a low birth weight
- Placed on a soft surface such as a soft mattress, waterbed, couch, or armchair
- Placed in a bed with loose or soft bedding, including pillows, flat sheets, or blankets
- Bed sharing with someone who drank alcohol or took drugs (including medicine that's sedating)
- Bed sharing with a smoker (even if that person is not smoking in bed) or has a mother who smoked during pregnancy
- Bed sharing with someone who isn't a parent (including caregivers and other children)
- Sleeping with multiple people
Isn't sleeping with my baby a good way for us to bond?
There are other effective, safe ways to bond with your baby, including using a baby carrier, sharing skin-to-skin cuddle time, playing, and reading. Bonding is a process that continues over time and occurs during everyday caregiving through simple interactions like looking your baby in the eye, talking to him, and smiling.
Breastfeeding is so much easier in my bed. Do I have to give that up?
Not necessarily, but ideally put your baby back in her separate sleeping area as soon as she's finished nursing (or bottle feeding, if you take her to bed with you for that).
If you're concerned that you might fall asleep, clear away soft items including pillows and bedding (sheets to get entwined in, blankets that could cause her to overheat, for example) when you feed your baby in bed. And if you fall asleep while feeding her, put her back in her crib or bassinet as soon as you wake up.
Note: If you're tired, it's safer to feed your baby in a bed cleared of soft items than to feed her in an armchair or on a couch. Falling asleep on plush furniture puts your baby in danger of SIDS, suffocation, and entrapment (getting wedged between the seat cushions).
Can I let my twins sleep together?
The AAP recommends that twins or other multiples not sleep together. Bed sharing with other children places an infant at higher risk of SIDS. Also, multiples are often born preterm and with low birth weight, both risk factors for SIDS. To be safe, have them sleep separately.
Are bed-sharing devices safe?
The AAP says that most bed-sharing products haven't been studied adequately to make a recommendation for or against their use.
- Bedside sleepers. The U. S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has safety guidelines for bedside sleepers (bassinets that attach to the side of an adult bed). Check to see that any bedside sleeper you're considering carries CPSC certification.
- Wedges and other positioners put in place to keep your baby separated from other sleepers in a bed are not safe because a baby could slide or roll into an unsafe position when using them.
- Portable bed railings that attach to the side of an adult bed are not safe because they can entrap or strangle a baby.
Are there other benefits to my baby sleeping separately?
- Better sleep for both of you. Many parents say that they sleep better when their babies are in their own beds, and there's some evidence that babies sleep better too.
- Fewer wake-ups for feeding. Proximity to their mothers can cause some babies to wake up more often to feed, even if they're not hungry.
- Easier weaning from night feedings. Bed sharing can make it harder to wean your baby from waking up at night to nurse or take a bottle. Breastfeeding babies, in particular, smell their mothers' milk and may develop a habit of waking repeatedly to feed, even if they're not hungry.