16 March, 2021
Bed Sharing with Babies
Many parents, whether intentional or not, at one point or another, sleep with their baby in their bed.
It's a really beautiful experience for most parents but frequently there's stress about safety, particularly from fathers in the early days.
What's the Difference between Bed-Sharing & Co-Sleeping?
Bedsharing and co-sleeping are often used interchangeably. It's a bit of semantics that fatigued parents don't need to know, but they are in fact different!
Co-sleeping is room-sharing. Your baby may be in their own cot or bassinet but they are in your bedroom.
Bed-sharing, as the name implies, is sharing the same bed. This means bedsharing is a type of co-sleeping but not all co-sleeping families are bed-sharing.
There's a lot of benefits of co-sleeping. It's recommended that babies co-sleep until at least 6-12 months.
There are times that are more risky to share a bed with your baby, such as:
- Your baby is unwell
- You are extremely overtired
- Your baby is very small (premature or very very young)
There are a number of ways you can reduces the risks involved with bedsharing and co-sleeping.
Babies can't regulate their body temperature particularly well. They can overheat easily. Sharing a bed or being right next to your baby in a co-sleeping bassinet can get warm. Make sure the baby is dressed appropriately with a lighter sleeping bag.
Keep adult bedding away from the baby, like pillows and blankets. Using a sleeping bag for bubs is helpful. This is instead of, not as well as, your blanket or doona.
Avoid alcohol, drugs and sedative medication if you are planning on bedsharing. If you do have a few drinks, you might need to sleep in the spare bed.
Breastfeeding is incredible.
Yet another benefit of breastfeeding is reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
If you are having trouble breastfeeding, please seek help. There are lots of very smart people out there who can help make it a more enjoyable and easier experience.
If you are a smoker, it's suggested that you room-share, but not bed-share. Your bedroom should be a smoke-free zone (3). This is because it increases the risks of SIDS. Smoking during pregnancy also increases the risk.
Your mattress should be firm enough that your baby isn't rolling around. If you sit on the bed, your baby should stay in the same position and not flop over. If your baby moves too much, try your spare bed or a floor mattress as other options and repeat the test.
Waterbeds, beanbags and pillows should be avoided. These are all too soft so that they may get stuck in positions or dips in the bed.
The mattress should be off the wall so that your gorgeous bubs doesn't slip into the gap. On the same principles, babies shouldn't sleep on the couch.
Put baby to sleep on his or her back. While there are issues with flat head syndrome (called plagiocephaly), it's a safer position to be in.
What happens if my baby rolls to their belly? If your baby is rolling by themselves both ways then this is generally considered safe. This means your baby can roll from front to side / back and back to the front again. If you feel uncomfortable, you can turn them on to their back again. It may help you sleep better!
If your baby can only roll onto their belly then, gently move them to their back. Easier said than done I know.
From 3 - 6 months, you may start to see your baby rolling on to the side or front. You should free the arms from their swaddle around 3 months in preparation for this. Most babies will have outgrown their startle reflex by this age. If they haven't, speak to your paediatric Chiropractor about exercises to help integrate this primitive reflex.
Remove any excess items from the bed, including extra bedding. Babies shouldn't be put to sleep on pillows. In fact, it's generally recommended that toddlers don't have a pillow before the age of 2 (1, 2).
Long hair should be tied up. Excess jewelry removed. These all pose a potential suffocation risk.
- Avoid smoking, drugs, alcohol and sedative medication
- Ensure the baby doesn't overheat and is on a stable, firm mattress
- Breastfeeding is protective of lots of things, including making bedsharing safer
- Put baby to sleep on their back
- Don't use pillows
About the Author
Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Chiropractor, Sleep Coach, Postpartum Doula (in-training), Perinatal Yoga & Pilates Instructor
There's a lot of change that happens for both parents and babies in the first few months after birth. There's tremendous growth and development for the bubba. Parents need to learn new (or remember and relearn with subsequent kids) how to look after a child. Mother's bodies are healing from pregnancy & birth and the new challenges of breastfeeding.
This is a passion area for Cassie. She helps support her clients through this transition with Chiropractic, Yoga & Pilates, Sleep Coaching and Doula support services.
Similar articles you'll enjoy:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. (2013) Keeping Baby Safe. Safety Alert Brochure. Retrieved from https://www.productsafety.gov.au/system/files/Keeping%20baby%20Safe_0.pdf.
- Red Nose. National Scientific Advisory Group (NSAG). 2013. Information Statement: Pillow use. Melbourne, Red Nose. This information statement is a revision of the information statement first posted in March, 2013.
- Carpenter, R. G., Irgens, L. M., Blair, P. S., England, P. D., Fleming, P., Huber, J., ... & Schreuder, P. (2004). Sudden unexplained infant death in 20 regions in Europe: case control study. The Lancet, 363(9404), 185-191.