The family bed, co-sleeping, shared sleep – no matter what you call it, it means that your child sleeps with you. Sharing sleep is popular with parents (particularly nursing mothers) of babies who wake throughout the night, since it allows parents to avoid getting up out of bed and traveling up and down a dark hallway. Co-sleeping is common with parents of older babies who enjoy the nighttime closeness. If you decide to have your baby sleep with you, either for naps or at nighttime, you should adhere to the following safety guidelines:
- Your bed must be safe for your baby. The best choice is a flat, firm mattress on the floor, with no crevices between mattress and wall or furniture. Don’t use soft surfaces such as a waterbed, sofa, or deep pillow-top mattress.
- Make certain that fitted sheets stay smooth and secure and cannot be pulled lose.
- If your bed is raised off the floor, use mesh guardrails to prevent baby from rolling off the bed, and be careful that there is no space between the mattress and headboard or footboard. (Some guard-rails designed for older children are not safe for babies.)
- If your bed is placed against a wall or furniture, check every night to be sure there is no space where your baby could become stuck.
- Position an infant between mother and the wall or guardrail. Fathers, siblings, and grandparents may not have the same awareness of a baby’s location as mothers do.
- Use a large mattress to provide ample room for everyone’s movement.
- Make certain that the room your baby sleeps in, and any room he might have access to, is child-safe.
- Do not ever sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, have used any drugs or medications, are an especially sound sleeper, or if you are suffering from sleep deprivation and find it difficult to awaken.
- Do not sleep with your baby if you are a large person, as a parent’s excess weight has been determined to pose a risk to baby in a co-sleeping situation. If baby rolls towards you, if there is a dip in the mattress, or if you suspect other dangerous situations, play it safe and move baby to a bedside crib.
- Remove all pillows and blankets during the early months. Use caution when adding these as your baby gets older. Keep in mind that body heat will add warmth during the night. Make sure your baby doesn’t become overheated.
- Do not wear any night-clothes with strings or long ribbons. Don’t wear jewelry to bed, and if your hair is long, put it up.
- Do not allow pets to sleep in bed with your baby.
- Never leave your baby alone in an adult bed unless it is perfectly safe. For example, a mattress on the floor in a childproof room, when you are listening in with a reliable baby monitor.
- Make sure that your young baby is sleeping on his or her back – the safest position for sleep.
When to make changes
Sleeping situations go through a transformation process throughout the early years of a child’s life. Some families make a decision to co-sleep with their children until they feel that they are ready for independent sleeping. Some families make changes when their babies sleep better at night, or to accommodate a need for private sleep. The best advice is: go with the flow – and make adjustments according to what works best for your family.
This article is a copyrighted excerpt from The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley (McGraw-Hill)