After hearing horror stories of children being suffocated while co-sleeping, many parents, concerned about the safety risks that bed-sharing entails, wrongly believe that bed-sharing is dangerous. Thankfully, the truth is that bed-sharing can be just as safe - if not more safe - than putting baby in his or her own crib to sleep, provided that certain conditions are met.
The problem with many of the studies that have been done on bed-sharing is that they didn't take all of the factors into account. There is a huge difference between a family who intentionally and attentively sleeps with baby in the bed out of concern for baby's well-being or a desire to bond and a mother who accidentally falls asleep with baby on the couch or who brings baby into her own bed simply because she cannot afford to purchase a crib.
For parents who want to share a bed with their babies and who are aware of the guidelines and risks, co-sleeping can be a safe choice. Here are a few of the guidelines that must be followed in order for co-sleeping to be considered safe.
- Both parents must be non-smokers, light sleepers, of a healthy weight and not taking any medications, drugs or alcohol.
- Baby should sleep in between the mother and a mesh guardrail only - not next to the father, other siblings or pets who don't have the same instincts mothers do.
- The bed should not have any loose or thick blankets which could find themselves near baby's face.
- There should be no cracks or crevices where baby could get stuck.
- The mattress must be large, flat and smooth - no pillow-top mattresses, waterbeds,couches or armchairs.
- Avoid pajamas with strings or ribbons, which pose a suffocation risk. If the mother has long hair, she should tie it back with a hair tie.
- It is recommended that the mother breastfeeds.
- The baby should lie on his or her side or back - never on his or her stomach.
If you have your heart set on co-sleeping and you are able and determined to follow all of the safety guidelines, rest assured that co-sleeping can be a safe and wonderful choice for your family. Families all over the world bond in a family bed every night; yours can too!