Co-sleeping is practised in many parts of the world and involves babies and young children sleeping close to their parents rather than in a separate room.
The practise centres on sleeping in sensory proximity to one another so that individuals – whether side by side or in a bassinet across the room – can sense that someone else is present by touch, smell, taste or noise. Co-sleeping can be quite a tricky topic, however…
Telling someone that you and your partner share the bed with your baby can provoke unwelcome and often lengthy conversations about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and studies that say you’re either putting your child in harm’s way or stifling their development. What’s worse is that because SIDS is so rare and child development is such an obscure science, it can often feel like you have nowhere to turn for answers.
The truth of the matter is that no one actually knows what’s right for you and your little one, and around half of all UK mums sleep with their baby in the first few months after birth. Sometimes parents find it easier to settle their baby this way or they choose to co-sleep because they’re breastfeeding, while some parents occasionally fall asleep without meaning to. No matter the reason, the best way to make sure you’re doing right by your child is to keep abreast of the latest safety guidelines.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) updated its recommendations about co-sleeping back in December 2014. In the update, NICE confirmed that the incidence of SIDS is higher when parents or carers sleep with their baby, but no distinction was made between bed sharing and sleeping with a baby on a sofa or chair, which are demonstrated to be more dangerous.
A greater risk of SIDS has also been linked to the following:
- Premature babies or babies with a low birth weight
- Co-sleeping if either parent smokes
- Co-sleeping if parents or carers have been drinking
- Co-sleeping if parents or carers have been taking recreational or prescription drugs that may affect their awareness.
Some of these risks may seem obvious at first glance, but there are lots of medicines – both herbal and prescribed – that can make you feel drowsy, so check with your doctor beforehand if you’re uncertain.
Here are a few more safety tips to consider before co-sleeping with your baby:
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back
- Make sure your baby can’t fall off the bed or become trapped between your mattress and the wall
- Ensure bedding never covers your baby’s face or head
- Do not use pillows. Your baby doesn’t need a pillow until they’re at least a year old
- If you’re feeling tired whilst holding your baby and there’s a risk that you may fall asleep on a sofa or armchair, move to a bed or ask someone to look after the baby whilst you get some rest.
As aspiring superheroes of shut-eye, we’ve been contemplating the noble mattress whilst writing this blog and have come up with a helpful mantra that you can employ whenever you’re confronting parenting dilemmas or picking a new mattress: different options work well for different families. And that’s all there is to it!
So, as long as you and your family are aware of the latest safety guidelines and take the necessary steps to co-sleep safely, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a good, wholesome night’s sleep together.