Co-Sleeping: Should you do it and is it safe?

To co-sleep or not? This has become a widely debated topic over the years and many parents find it challenging to determine whether co-sleeping is best for their family and if it is safe.   

When taking to the internet, you will likely find conflicting information as many professionals claim co-sleeping can be un-safe while others promote the practice.  Additionally, friends and family usually have no problem offering up their opinions and thoughts with you based on their own experiences.

So how can you really know for sure that you are making the right decision when it comes to co-sleeping?

You get to make the choice and you can do so by learning the risks and the benefits and then deciding if it is a practice you want to adopt in your household.

 What is co-sleeping?

This is a good place to start, as you might find various definitions of what co-sleeping actually means. Generally, the term co-sleeping is defined as-the practice of parent and child sharing a bed.

In American culture, independent sleeping is practiced more often, while in non-Western cultures it is not usually the norm for babies to sleep alone.  

While there might be benefits of co-sleeping, we are not able to promote the practice due to safety and the risks of SIDS. If you are weighing your options though here are a few things you should consider…

1)      Sleep environment- As mentioned above it is very important that the environment that your baby is sleeping in, is safe for sleep. A baby should never be placed in an area where a parent or care-giver could potentially roll over on them or is close to blankets that could cause suffocation.

The AAP recommends…

  • Your baby be placed on a firm mattress with no blankets or objects in the crib/bassinet

  • The temperature should be set between 70-72 degrees in the room and dark curtains are recommended

  • Always place your baby on their back for sleep

2)      Discuss with your partner why you want to co-sleep. Often times, parents end up co-sleeping without really discussing what their goals or expectations are around sleep. Mom might feel comfortable with co-sleeping while Dad does not. It is important to have a discussion around the why as well because co-sleeping often happens due to the parents desires when it might not be best for the child.

Questions to consider…

  • Are you looking for more of a bonding experience? If so, consider instead having the bassinet in arms reach of your bed

  • Are you too tired to put your baby back in their crib after feeding or waking at night? If this is the case I urge you not to co-sleep for this reason as this is when the majority of SIDS cases happen because parents are so tired they often don’t fully remember falling back asleep

  • Are you worried your baby won’t sleep if you don’t co-sleep? There are a lot of ways you can soothe your baby without needing to co-sleep. Practicing independent but loving sleep skills from the start will help with this!

As a Mother I can relate to wanting the bonding experience AND being completely sleep deprived. But as a sleep professional, I unfortunately have seen too many situations of co-sleeping that have led to heartbreaking outcomes of SIDS. There are many alternatives to co-sleeping that provide the same benefits with less of the risk!

Because I understand that every parent is going to make the choice they feel is best, if you do decide to co-sleep I encourage you to read up on as many safe sleep tips as possible when doing so.