Parents have recently been wide-awake with questions about whether or not it’s ok for them to fall asleep with their baby next to them in bed. Well, let me try to blanket their concerns and provide some information on this topic.
Whether or not to bed-share with your baby remains a controversial issue. On one hand, there are studies that suggest a baby who sleeps with her mother in the same bed becomes a more secure and confident child and is more likely to sleep through the night. There is also the added benefit of having the baby right there to breastfeed.
But there have also been reports that suggest there is an increased risk of babies being accidentally suffocated while bed-sharing by being wedged between the mattress and wall or bed frame, or rolled onto by a sleeping parent who doesn’t realize this has happened. In addition, there is new data indicating an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is associated with bed-sharing, especially if the mother is a smoker.
So what do I recommend? I personally do not recommend bed-sharing at all, but instead suggest baby co-sleeping nearby in a crib, bassinette or sidecar cradle attached next to the bed. If despite the concerns I have raised families still want to bring their baby into bed to sleep with them, it is important that parents not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Use sheets that fit tightly on the mattress and do not use loose pillows or soft blankets that can cover the baby’s face. Waterbeds are not recommended since baby’s face can sink down and he or she will not be able to raise it up since they lack the necessary head control.
Hopefully tips like this will uncover a better understanding of the possible risks of having your baby co-sleep with you in bed.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.