Tips for safe co-sleeping
For many mums and dads, co-sleeping is something that they would love to do. There is a level of security in having your baby close enough to hear their every breath and snuffle. For breastfeeding the advantages are obvious! To simply reach over and pick-up your baby without having to leave the comfort of your bed is bliss! However, co-sleeping is actively discouraged by many midwives, post-natal nurses and medical practitioners. Like with any activity, there are risks involved. Here we have some handy tips for safe co-sleeping with your baby.
Is there a way to co-sleep SAFELY?
Yes, there is! As long as you understand the risks and learn how to address them, you can co-sleep safely with your baby. Learning how to set up a safe sleep safe is the key to co-sleeping safely. There are different ways to co-sleep. Whichever way you choose, ensure that you put safety measures in place to protect your baby.
What is considered co-sleeping?
Co-sleeping is sleeping within close proximity of your baby. There are two ways you can co-sleep with your baby. You can bed-share or room share. Both options can be performed safely if you set up your baby’s sleeping space correctly. Let’s look tips for both safely co-sleeping while bed sharing and room sharing.
Bed sharing is what most people refer to as co-sleeping. Its only one method but it’s certainly the more controversial of the types. Let’s face it though, even if you don’t intend to bed share, there are often times when baby ends up in bed with you because you are exhausted. An exhausted mum can be a risk for baby when bed-sharing, so we want to ensure our baby is safe if we choose to bed share. Bed sharing is common in many countries and cultures, but far less common in Western countries. I once met a mum who had immigrated from Brazil who told me that co-sleeping was the norm where she came from. She said she had never heard of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) until she came to Australia and was shocked to learn that we need teach safe sleeping techniques.
Some research studies suggest that it is the way we live in Western cultures that increase the risks, such as heated rooms, the type of bedding we use and the way we configure the bed and sleeping arrangements. However, we do have some tips on safe co-sleeping while bed sharing with your baby.
Options for safe co-sleeping with your baby in bed
One option for bed sharing with your infant, is to set up a separate sleep space for them. You can do this by purchasing something like a Cosy Crib or a cocoon. This sets up a safe space around your baby, where air can circulate and prevent baby from rolling from the safe position you place them in. It can also prevent parents from accidentally rolling on their baby.
The disadvantage of a Cosy Crib or cocoon is that they can grow out of it quickly depending on their growth rate. And it can also take up a fair amount of space in the bed.
The cuddle curl
Another way that many breastfeeding mums bed share with their baby is using the cuddle curl position. In the cuddle curl, your body creates the safe space for your baby. This position involves bringing your knees up and your arm tucks under your head or your pillow, creating a curl shape around your baby.
With your knees bent, this will prevent you from rolling on your baby as well as your partner. However, the safest way to use this position is to sleep between your baby and your partner. During sleep, your baby will instinctively keep its face near your breast. Its almost like its nature’s way of preventing your baby from moving into an unsafe position such as close to the bedding.
Tips for safer bed sharing
Whichever way you choose to bed share, let’s look at some tips to ensure the safety of your baby.
- Always sleep baby on their back
- Make sure that the baby’s head is uncovered with plenty of space around them for air circulation
- Make sure the baby is not in a position where they can be covered by other bedding such sheets, doonas or pillows
- Make sure the mattress is firm and clean
- Remove all strangulation risks, such as untied hair or jewellery
- Move your bed away from the wall to prevent your baby falling between the wall and the bed
- Make sure that your baby can’t fall out the bed
- Place your baby to the side of one parent, not between them
- Use sleeping bags for warmth rather than swaddling or wrapping your baby
When not to bed share with your baby
Even with our tips for safe co-sleeping with your baby in bed, there are still times when it is not safe to bed share with your baby. Do not bed share with your baby if:
- you or your partner are under the influence or alcohol
- you or your partner are unwell
- you or your partner is a smoker
- you or your partner has taken drugs that make you drowsy or less aware, including prescription drugs
- your baby is unwell, premature or small for their gestational age.
Many parents are more comfortable with room sharing rather than bed sharing. This is a great option for safe sleeping as its easy to achieve but you can still keep your baby close. Red Nose recommends room sharing with your baby for the first 12 months.
The benefits of room sharing
- Room sharing has been shown to reduce SIDS and SUDI by as much as 50%.
- Keeps your baby nearby for breastfeeding
- You can respond to your baby’s needs easily and quickly with less disruption to your night
- Unlike bed-sharing, room sharing is safe for baby’s whose parents are smokers, however the room should be kept smoke-free
- Parents get better sleep without being disturbed by a moving baby in bed or by having to get up to leave the room
- Babies get used to their own sleep space which can make it easier if they need to sleep away from the parents for any reason
How to set up your room sharing
In order to room share, you will need an individual sleep space for your baby. This can be either a cot, bassinet or cradle. Many people don’t have room in their bedroom to accommodate a cot in the space around their bed. So a bassinet or cradle on wheels is ideal for this situation. A bassinet or cradle that can be moved from room to room, is also great for day time sleeps as it is recommended to continue room sharing during the day.
One great option for room sharing, is our Kaylula Co-sleeping cradle. The great thing about this co-sleeper is that the side drops down and you can set the cradle up right next to the parent for easy reach during the night. The benefit is that baby has its own safe sleep space but is within arms reach of mum or dad at any time. A compact cot can be set up in a similar way. A cot like our Ergonomic Cot or the Ergonomic Mini Cot may be suitable for a smaller bedroom that can’t fit a traditional sized cot. Plus they are easily moveable as they come with wheels.
It is important to note though, that once your baby is able to roll over or pull themselves up on their own, you need to ensure that they are unable to get out of the cradle or cot set up. This will occur at around 4-6 months of age, so you will need to reassess your set up to ensure that you keep your baby safe. If you are using a cradle or bassinet, you will need to move your baby into a more secure sleep space.
Safety tips for co-sleeping while room sharing
- Always sleep your baby on their back
- Keep your baby’s face and head uncovered
- Keep the room smoke free, before and after birth.
- Choose a safe cradle or cot that meets Australian Standards
- Breastfeed where possible.
When you make plans to ensure that your baby’s sleep space is safe, you can co-sleep safely. You can chose the method that suits you and your partner, or you can use a combination. No one solution fits everyone, but arming yourself with the knowledge from our tips for safe co-sleeping, you can keep your baby safe, and ensure that you all get a good nights rest!