Caring for Mom

Safe sleeping: Alternatives to co-sleeping

Safe Sleeping: Alternatives to Co-Sleeping

When you're exhausted and baby is crying in the middle of the night, you would do anything to soothe her back to sleep. You might rock in a rocking chair until you both fall asleep or snuggle baby in bed with you. Your instincts are right — baby wants to be close to you and be comforted by you. However, co-sleeping and bed-sharing involves serious safety risks, especially in infants younger than 4 months old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against bed-sharing due to the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The risks include suffocation from soft bedding or pillows; suffocation when infant's head is covered by blankets or quilts; getting trapped or wedged between a mattress and wall or other object; and strangulation in a bed frame.

Yes, it sounds scary and horrific. And unfortunately, it happens. That's why the safest place for baby to sleep is in a crib, cradle or bassinet — sleeping on her back. More ways to keep your baby safe include:

  • Don't fall asleep with baby on your chest.
  • Don't sleep on couches, recliners or rockers with a baby.
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs or medicines that make you feel groggy while caring for baby.
  • Don't leave baby with caregivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • If you're overly tired, try to catch up on rest while baby is safe in her crib.

Share Your Room, Not Your Bed

Sharing a room (not a bed) may be a good option for some families. According to AAP, having an infant sleep in the same room as the mother is important for breastfeeding and might actually lower the risk of SIDS. Here are some options for safe sleeping in the same room:

  • Position a bassinet or play yard next to your bed. That way, baby is close to you without the risks of sleeping in the same bed.
  • Buy a special bassinet (called a bedside sleeper) that attaches to your bed. It allows your baby to be next to you without the risk of sharing blankets or rolling over onto your infant.

If you have questions about safe sleeping practices for your family, talk to your child's doctor.