The Safe Bed-Sharing Checklist

Safe bedsharing

For a multitude of reasons, safe bed-sharing is a great tool to improve infant and family sleep.  Check out our post on Top Cosleeping Myths, Busted for the low-down. Before you invite junior into your bed, understanding the ins and outs of co-sleeping safety is a must. We’ve excerpted the high-level info from the Sleep chapter of The Other Baby Book to get you started.

1. Mama’s milk only. Breastfeeding mothers are hormonally more attuned to their infants during sleep. So if you’re formula feeding, it’s best to use a cosleeper or separate sleeping space within your room during that crucial first year.

2. Firm up. Sadly, your favorite waterbed, pillow top, or memory foam mattress that molds to your body isn’t best for the baby. Your little one may sink in and have his airways obstructed. A firm natural latex or organic cotton mattress provides great support, without the risk (and toxic fumes!).

3. Get off the couch. Couches are nice to snuggle up with your honey, but are notoriously dangerous spots to snooze with the baby. Nodding off into a deep sleep—especially as an exhausted new parent—poses a big risk for babies, who can roll into crevices or onto the floor.

4. No smoking. According to a 2008 CDC study, one in five Americans over age eighteen smokes. We won’t share the risks of smoking, as you’d have to live in a cave to not know, but we will say that smoking and sharing sleep don’t mix. Smoking lowers levels of prolactin, reducing a mom’s awareness of her baby’s needs.

5. Sober up. Find a new space for the baby if you or your partner is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any judgment-impairing substance. This goes for medications that have the ability to alter your physical or mental state. These substances increase the risk of overlaying.

6. Lighten your load. Heavy comforters, extra pillows, and thick blankets all pose risks, since little ones (even newborns), can be quite the wigglers. We don’t want them to find their way under the bedding and risk suffocation. You can either turn up the heat (not too warm!), wear an extra layer and put the baby in a sleep sack, or use a blanket tucked in at your waist level. Co-sleeping babies are often hotter than their cribbing counterparts, so take it easy on the layers until you’re familiar with your baby’s clothing needs. Mom’s body gives off so much heat that summer babies are usually fine in their birthday suits.

7. Less is more. Especially in the early months, a baby is usually safest between mom and a mesh bed rail. Fathers and especially older siblings generally don’t have the same sensitivity to a new baby in bed. And please, find Fido a new sleep space. Dogs and cats are particularly ill-suited co-sleepers for baby.

8. Say no to cracks. Check your bed thoroughly for spots where the baby could get lodged or fall off the bed. If your mattress sits apart from the headboard, side rails or wall, be sure it’s snugly secured before your baby joins you.

9. When three’s a crowd. If either parent is overweight or obese, take caution to investigate any dips or crevices that a baby could roll into. When in doubt, keep baby out.

10. Go austere. Jewelry, pajamas with fringes and strings, and perfume all may interfere with safe sleeping. Use common sense. A pair of stud earrings you wear every day is likely harmless, but Chanel No5 can assault your baby’s delicate breathing faculties.


FrontCoverThis content was adapted from the vast archive of environmental, family and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz.

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