Co-Sleeping: Benefits, Risks and Safety Tips

Dr. Heather Donovan Hogan, BSN, RN,CNM,DNP

Co-Sleeping: Benefits, Risks and Safety Tips


By


Dr. Heather Donovan Hogan, BSN, RN,CNM,DNP



The decision to co-sleep with your child is a personal and important choice. It is important to know the benefits and the risks of co-sleeping, and how to safely co-sleep with your child. Some information that tells us that sharing a room with your baby may be good for you and your baby; but there is not enough information right now to tell us whether sharing a bed is either harmful or good for you and your baby (Blair, Fleming, Smith, Platt, Young, Nadin, Berry, & Golding, 1999). However, there is some information that tells us that certain conditions may be harmful to your baby, and we will discuss those later (Blair et al., 1999).


Co-sleeping refers to a number of ways in which a baby sleeps with their parents (McKenna, 2007). It can include the following:


Sleeping in the same room with baby’s bed located in the parent’s bedroom Sleeping in the same bed with baby and parent sharing the adult’s bed part of the night, all of the night, or some of the nights of the week (McKenna, 2007)


Anytime you sleep near your baby to share warmth or protection, you are co-sleeping.


What are the benefits of Co-Sleeping?


Your baby will wake up more during the night, and spend less time in deep sleep (Solter, 2001). This may not seem like a benefit, but it has a protective effect.


Sleeping with your baby may lead to more time breastfeeding (McKenna & McDade, 2005).


Sleeping with your baby can lead to a larger milk supply (McKenna, 2007).


Co-sleeping can allow parents to continue to provide the same parenting-style for their baby during the evening and night time hours as used during the daytime (McKenna, 2007).  


For example, if the baby cries out at night, the parent is able to reach out to provide immediate comfort and spend time together with the baby just like during the daytime hours.  


Co-sleeping may provide a parent who is away from their baby during the day, more time to bond with their baby at night (McKenna, 2007).  


The American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] (2005) states that co-sleeping can have benefits for the mother and the child; however, AAP also states that co-sleeping must be done safely in order to protect your baby from harm.


How do I safely sleep with my baby?


There are a few simple steps to take so that sleeping with your baby is a safe and enjoyable event.


Use a firm mattress Place your baby on their back to sleep Use minimal bedding or blankets Do NOT smoke in the home Do NOT sleep with your baby if either parent has had any of the following:

Alcohol Drugs Sedatives Medicine that will make it difficult for you to wake up Do NOT sleep with your baby if you are sick or so tired that you will not be able to respond to your baby’s needs Do NOT have older children or pets in the bed with you and your baby Place the mattress so that if your baby rolls, there is no danger for the baby to become trapped between the mattress and a piece of furniture or a wall. (Example: Place the mattress in the middle of the room, off the bed frame, and directly on the floor).

Do NOT place anything over or near your baby’s face or head including: pillows and blankets, plush toys and stuffed animals, or any other soft and fluffy items.

Bed-sharing may not be right for you if you are obese or are a heavy sleeper.

Do NOT leave your baby alone in your bed Do NOT co-sleep on a couch or sofa (McKenna, 2007).



Sleeping with your baby is a family decision that needs to be made by both of the people who will be sleeping with the baby (McKenna, 2007). It is important to understand the benefits and the risks for co-sleeping so that you can make the best decision possible for you and your baby. Please note that we do not endorse any particular choice of sleep setting, however we do endorse informed decision-making.


References


American Academy of Pediatrics (2005). The changing concept of sudden infant death syndrome: diagnostic coding shifts, controversies regarding sleep environment, and new variables to consider in reducing risk. Pediatrics 116(5) 1245-1255.


Blair, P.S., Fleming, Smith, I.J, Platt, M.W., Young, J., Nadin, P., Berry, P.J., and 

Golding, J. (1999). Babies sleeping with parents: Case control study of factors influencing the risk of the sudden infant death syndrome. British Medical Journal 319, 1457-1461.


McKenna, J.J. (2007). Sleeping with your baby: A parent’s guide to cosleeping. Platypus Media: Washington, DC. 


McKenna, J.J. and McDade, T. (2005). Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breastfeeding. Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, 6, 134-152


Solter, A. (2001). Hold me! The importance of physical contact with infants. Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health, 15(3), 193-205.