Sharing sleep safely: What you need to know

9 More Safety Tips for Families Who Share Sleep

1. If bed-sharing, ideally, both parents should agree and feel comfortable with the decision. Each bed-sharer should agree that he or she is equally responsible for the infant and acknowledge that the infant is present . Both parents should think of themselves as primary caregivers.

2. If you sleep with your baby, it is important to be aware that adult beds were not designed to assure infant safety!

3. Since contact with other bodies increases the infant's skin temperature, babies should be wrapped lightly in the co-sleeping environment. Obviously, if the room temperature is already warm (above 70° F) the baby should not be covered with any heavy blankets, sheets or other materials. A good test is to consider whether you are comfortable; if you are, then the baby probably is as well.

4. Persons on sedatives, medications or drugs, or intoxicated -- or excessively difficult to arouse -- should not sleep on the same surface with the infant.

5. Infants under a year old should not sleep with other siblings -- but always with a person who can take responsibility for the infant. Toddlers or other little children should not be permitted to sleep in the adult bed next to an infant, as toddlers are unaware of the dangers of suffocation.

6. If the mother has excessively long hair it should be tied up to prevent entanglement around the infant's neck. (Yes, it has really happened!)

7. Extremely obese persons, who may not feel how close their infant is, may wish to have the infant sleep alongside but on a different surface.

8. It is important to realize that the physical and social conditions under which infant-parent co-sleeping occur, in all it's diverse forms, can and will determine the risks or benefits of sharing sleep. What goes on in bed is what matters.

9. Finally, though it is not a pleasant thought to consider, it may be important to reflect on whether you would think that you suffocated your baby if, under the most unlikely scenario, your baby died from SIDS while in your bed. Just as babies can die from SIDS in a risk-free solitary sleep environment, it remains possible for a baby to die in a risk-free bed-sharing environment. Just make sure, as much as this is possible, that you would not assume that, if the baby died, that either you or your spouse would think that bed-sharing contributed to the death, or that one of your really suffocated your infant by accident. That SIDS can, indeed, occur, where safe bed-sharing, breastfeeding and complete nurturing and care for the infant has occurred, makes this question worth discussing with your partner.

While I do not recommend any particular type of sleeping arrangement to any parent, since I do not know the circumstances within which particular parents live, I do recommend a parent consider all of the possible choices, and to become as informed as is possible, matching what they learn with what they think can work the best for their family.

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