Is Co-Sleeping Safe?

Is Co-Sleeping Safe?

Learn About Co-Sleeping Safety

Co-sleeping is often an easy solution, or at times it may feel like the only solution to get your baby to sleep. Some parents may also co-sleep as a way to comfort themself. Separation anxiety can be real for parents and babies. Parents that choose to co-sleep may find it hard to reverse the habit. While you may choose to take advantage of snuggles all night long once in a while, it’s best you avoid co-sleeping. Keep reading to learn more about co-sleeping safety and at what age co-sleeping is in fact safe, along with everything else you’ll need to know.

Is co-sleeping safe?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), co-sleeping or bed-sharing is not recommended. However, it’s recognized just how many parents choose to co-sleep. Should you choose to co-sleep, you should be aware of the risks involved. Co-sleeping can increase the risk of sudden death syndrome known as SIDS. It can also increase the chance of suffocation or strangulation. Sleeping with our babies may make us feel closer to them so we know that it’s bound to happen, but be careful. And keep in mind that although there are risks, it’s still unlikely that co-sleeping will hurt your baby. While there are ways to make bed-sharing safer, the safest option is to sleep in separate beds.

What are the effects of parent-infant co-sleeping?

While there are dangers involved with co-sleeping, there are positive effects too. First and foremost, your baby will probably sleep better, and you might too. Second, babies may experience less stress. Lastly, co-sleeping can help babies breathe more regularly and use energy more efficiently. While co-sleeping can offer beautiful benefits, not all co-sleeping arrangements are as safe as they can be. In addition, co-sleeping does not help your baby learn to self-soothe which may create more problems in the long run. Before choosing to co-sleep do your research and always put your baby’s safety and health before your own needs.

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Is co-sleeping more natural?

Co-sleeping may seem like a once-in-a-while practice for some people, but in many cultures and societies, it’s an accepted way of life. Anthropologists claim that it’s a more natural sleep method in primates and traditional societies. However, it’s frowned upon by most in the Western world.

Some parents consider co-sleeping as a more natural way of sleeping because it’s a part of their culture. Those who weren’t raised on co-sleeping may do it because they are too tired to cope with their sleepless child and don’t want to make multiple trips in and out of the room.

At what age is co-sleeping safe?

Co-sleeping becomes safer after a child is one year old. At this age, the risk of SIDS becomes substantially lower.

However, because the child is more aware, co-sleeping at this age will get them used to sleeping with mommy and daddy and it may be harder to break them of this habit. Also, you may end up with a larger child sleeping in your bed which can impact your marriage and your good night’s sleep.

What are the pros of co-sleeping?

Co-sleeping does have its benefits. Aside from maybe making life easier, it can offer the following pros:

  • More natural way of sleeping for some: If you were brought up in a culture that promotes co-sleeping, it may feel more natural to you and your child.
  • Aids with development: Some experts say that the increased physical contact of co-sleeping with the parent helps regulate the baby's body temperature. It’s also said to support regular breathing, growth, and energy use and to reduce stress.
  • Produces calmer conditions: Co-sleeping allows parents to instantly soothe their child, so they don’t have to get out of bed every time they cry. Babies will also feel calmer knowing their mom or dad is nearby.
  • Creates the feeling of love: Although many parents feel it is best to let a child cry it out and self-soothe, babies need to know that their cries for help are being considered. Ignoring them can be psychologically damaging.

What are the cons of co-sleeping?

While sleeping with your baby may be comforting for the both of you, if possible, it should be avoided. It’s through uncomfortable times that we all become stronger, and it starts at a very young age. Here are the downsides of co-sleeping:

  • Increases the risk of SIDS: Co-sleeping raises body temperature and increases the risk of hypoxia which contributes to SIDS.
  • Parents and babies may actually sleep less: Although some feel that co-sleeping means better sleep for the parent and child, studies have shown that when parents and children sleep together, they stimulate each other causing wakefulness.
  • Diminishes self-soothing: When babies sleep with their parents, they may become spoiled, and they may have trouble self-soothing.

Can you safely bedshare with a newborn?

While co-sleeping will always present certain risks, there are things you can do to improve co-sleeping safety:

  • Never sleep with babies under 3 months or preemies
  • Avoid co-sleeping if you or your baby is unwell
  • Never co-sleep if you’re using alcohol, drugs, or any medications that present risks
  • Refrain from co-sleeping if you smoke
  • Co-sleep on a firm flat surface for optimal breathing
  • Place your baby on their back away from objects so that there’s no risk of being suffocated or trapped
  • Never sleep with a swaddled baby
  • Keep blankets and pillows away from your baby’s sleep space
  • Tie your hair back and remove anything else that might be a strangling risk

While all of the above can promote co-sleeping safety, finding a way to get your baby to sleep well on their own is the best solution. You may feel like you have tried everything, but trust us when we tell you, the solution you’re looking for does exist. After being in your very same shoes, Tara Williams, Mom of 3, thought the third time was the charm. Instead, she was blessed with a baby boy that just did not want to sleep! As any mom would, Tara Williams went to work trying to do everything she could to help her son sleep. It was through long sleepless nights and plenty of trial and error that Dreamland Baby weighted sleep products were born. Dreamland products are proven to get your baby to sleep faster and keep them sleeping longer. And you know what that means - a full night of sleep for you too.

What are the new co-sleeping guidelines?

New co-sleeping guidelines recommend room-sharing versus bed-sharing as a safer alternative to co-sleeping. This sounds like semantics, but here’s what room sharing looks like:

  • Their own sleep space. This might be a crib, playpen, or bassinet inside your room - often next to your bed but still completely separate. 
  • Sidecar crib. A sidecar sleep space means that the baby’s bed is open-sided and connected to your own bed. It’s essential that they both be equal in height with no gaps between them for this to be considered safe. Sidecar cribs are kind of the gray area between co-sleeping and room sharing and are growing in popularity in recent years as we become more aware of the dangers of co-sleeping in the same bed. 
  • For many parents, this is a beautiful solution because it offers many of the same benefits of having a baby in your bed without all the risks. Not only does room sharing prevent the risks that come with co-sleeping, but it’s also considered safer than having your baby in their own room (this applies to infants under six months of age). According to the AAP, room sharing can decrease the risk of SIDS by up to 50%. 

    What does AAP recommend for co-sleeping?

    The AAP’s official recommendation for co-sleeping is, don’t do it. If you are absolutely set on co-sleeping, the AAP recommends waiting until your baby is at least four months old and outside the age range for increased risk of SIDS (2-4 months). To be as safe as possible but still connected to your baby, the AAP recommends setting up their own separate sleep areas right next to your bed. You can be close enough to touch but remain separated by the sides of their crib, bassinet, or playpen. The AAP agrees that a sidecar sleep setup may be an option but states that there is little research done on their overall safety. 

    Why does AAP recommend room sharing?

    There are many reasons why the AAP recommends room sharing for infants, especially in their first six months of life and up to one year old. Most importantly, it is the safest way for your baby to sleep. Studies have proven that infants who sleep in the same room as their parents have a greatly reduced risk of SIDS. As with many aspects of SIDS,  the exact “why” to this is unknown. Experts believe it could be due to a number of contributors, such as noises from your regular tossing and turning, breathing, snoring, etc., preventing the baby from falling asleep too deeply. Very deep sleep can make a baby “difficult to rouse,” which can be a trigger for SIDS. Additionally, parents seem almost to have a sixth sense when it comes to their babies. It is not uncommon for a mom or dad to “sense” something is wrong, and tend to their babies on that feeling alone. Being in the same room helps keep you in tune with your baby and their needs. 

    Safety aside, room sharing makes it heaps easier to feed, comfort, and tend to your baby throughout the night. 

    Is it biologically normal to co-sleep?

    Think about your last trip to the zoo. If you’re lucky, you may have seen mama animals with their babies during nap time. Most mammals contact sleep with their young; that’s because, naturally, co-sleeping is biologically normal. Not only is it biologically the norm among animals, but many cultures worldwide still consider co-sleeping a normal way of life as it has been instinctually ingrained for as long as humans have walked the Earth.

     It is important to note that while research shows that co-sleeping is unsafe, certain risk factors may not apply to everyone - but make those “risk” numbers go up. There has not been a clear definition in every study between the dangers of sleeping with your baby in a bed vs. in a recliner, or the dangers of sleeping next to your baby while intoxicated vs. completely sober. While we know sleeping with your baby in a chair, and obviously while intoxicated, is significantly more dangerous … these cases may have a large part in the “numbers” when it comes to some of the research regarding the safety of co-sleeping. 

    What is the biggest risk with co-sleeping?

    The biggest risks when it comes to co-sleeping are suffocation, strangulation, entrapment, and SIDS. Co-sleeping in itself is not dangerous, in fact, it does have many benefits for both mom and baby. The dangers come from pillows, soft surfaces, blankets,  loose hair or straps, and the risk of rolling over onto your baby. A popular, unofficial guide to safe bed sharing is called the “Safe Sleep 7.” This is a list of 7 things you can do to keep your baby safer while bedsharing. 

    Safe sleep 7:

    • No smoking in, or outside of the home. 
    • No drinking, or medications that cause drowsiness.
    • Breastfeeding. 
    • Healthy, full-term baby.
    • Lay baby on back for sleep.
    • Do not overdress, swaddle, or cover in blankets. 
    • Be sure the sleep surface is safe - this means firm, flat, and free of loose blankets or pillows.

    Additionally, it is recommended that mothers sleep in a “C-Curl” on their side and facing the baby throughout the night. 

    Keeping the “Safe Sleep 7” and ideal positioning in mind as you bedshare, you greatly reduce the risks that come with co-sleeping. 

    How does co-sleeping affect a child's development?

    The jury is still out on whether or not co-sleeping positively or negatively affects a child’s development. As with anything, it does have pros and cons, with studies to back up the good, the bad, and the ugly of co-sleeping. 

    While some experts say that co-sleeping can cause separation anxiety or dependency in the long run, many experts (and parents) can attest to the fact that co-sleeping has many benefits, including: 

    • Increased feelings of security - this can reduce stress in your baby 
    • Strengthened parent-child bond
    • Improved sleep - this, in turn, improves overall development. 

    It’s important to keep in mind that every child and every family has different feelings, needs, and practices when it comes to co-sleeping. For the best advice on what is safe for your family, speak with your child’s pediatrician. 

     

    Learn About Safe Sleeping:

  • Safe Sleeping Guidelines
  • New AAP Guidelines on Safe Sleep
  • Safe Sleeping Environments For Babies
  • Winter Sleep Safety
  • Tummy Sleep Safety
  • Is Co-Sleeping Safe?
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    Learn About Product Safety:

  • Weighted Swaddles Safety
  • Weighted Sleep Sacks Safety
  • Transitional Swaddles Safety
  • Weighted Blankets Safety
  • Sleep Sack Safety for Babies Who Can Roll
  • Safe Baby Sleep Aids
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