Few subjects are as hotly debated among parenting experts and pediatricians as the practice of bed sharing with infants. While many attachment parenting gurus sing the praises of co-sleeping, it’s important for new parents to make fully informed decisions about the sleeping arrangement they choose for their new bundle of joy. These are 10 of the reasons why you may want to think twice before entering into a bed sharing arrangement with your new infant.
- You’re Not Breastfeeding – The most common reason for parents to opt for a bed sharing arrangement is in order to practice breastfeeding on demand. Breastfeeding certainly doesn’t reduce the chances of overlying or accidental suffocation, but choosing to share a bed when you’ll be forced to get up in order to prepare formula does nothing to mitigate sleep deprivation during Baby’s first few months of life.
- You Drink Alcohol, Even Socially – One of the most common factors in cases of suffocation or overlying was the consumption of alcohol before sleeping. If you or your partner drinks at all, even socially, it’s simply not safe to run the risk of sharing a bed when you’ve been imbibing.
- You Plan to Have Pillows or Blankets on Your Bed – The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be placed on their backs to sleep, in cribs that do not contain plush blankets, fluffy pillows or toys that could present a risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Because your bed will almost certainly contain pillows and blankets, you might want to give the practice of bed sharing a second thought.
- You’re a Smoker – A study published in the SLEEP journal showed a correlation between maternal cigarette smoking and an increased risk for SIDS due to an association between maternal smoking and an alteration in the infant arousal process. The authors of that study suggested that maternal sleeping was the greatest modifiable risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, replacing even stomach sleep positions. Because bed sharing has also been associated with infant mortality, it’s wise to forgo the arrangement altogether if Mommy is a smoker.
- You Share Your Bed With Older Children – The more bodies in your bed, the higher the likelihood of someone accidentally rolling over onto a vulnerable newborn that’s also sharing the space. If you have older children that still sleep in your bed, sharing is far from an ideal arrangement.
- You Plan to Transition to a Crib Later – Some babies have a more difficult time transitioning to a crib in their own rooms after a lifetime of bed sharing with Mom and Dad. The transition may be relatively smoother when your baby reaches six months of age, but can get more difficult to successfully make at a later age.
- Your Baby Was Premature – Premature babies are also at a higher risk of SIDS than most, which means that bed sharing only introduces another factor that could increase that risk as well. Stacking risky behavior on top of a non-controllable factor can definitely be construed as reckless.
- Your Bed is Elevated – Even if you never roll over onto your child, there’s never an incidence of suffocation or SIDS and your baby never becomes wedged between the mattress and a headboard or wall, most beds are still high enough off the ground to present a risk of serious injury should your infant roll off of the bed.
- Your Bedroom Can Accommodate a Crib – Non-elective bed sharing happens when financial circumstances or severe space constraints force parents to share a bed with their new baby and has been linked to an increased risk of infant mortality in a study sponsored by the University of Notre Dame. If you do have room for a crib and are not forced by circumstance to share a bed with your new baby, it’s better to err on the side of caution by room sharing without sharing a bed.
- You Want Your Bedroom to Be a Calming Retreat – While the American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend room sharing, there are still plenty of parents that opt to put Baby to sleep in her own room. If you have any desire to create an environment in which your bedroom is a reprieve from the demands of parenting, sharing a bed with your new baby is not the way to make those dreams a reality.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend room sharing, but not the practice of sleeping in the family bed. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has also ordered the recall of some devices intended to place infants alongside an adult bed for easy access, so be sure that you carefully research any products before purchasing them. Remember that co-sleeping doesn’t necessarily mean sharing the same bed, as the term is generally used to describe an arrangement in which newborns and infants sleep in a crib or bassinette placed in their parents’ bedrooms.