While the American Academy of Pediatrics and other children's health groups advise against co-sleeping (especially for babies under 1), we know it's a common practice for many families, especially for breastfeeding moms who can feed their babies more easily this way. But co-sleeping has serious risks for your baby, including suffocation from pillows, sheets, and blankets; the chance that you or your husband can roll over onto your baby; or the possibility that your baby can fall out off the bed during the night. For a safer option, many parents prefer using a co-sleeper (it's basically like a play yard that attaches to your bed), which allows your baby to have his own safe sleeping space while still being right within arms' reach. But if you do opt to sleep in the same bed as your baby, following these steps can make it safer:
- Never leave your baby unattended in your bed.
- Have your baby sleep in the middle of the bed, between parents.
- Don't co-sleep after drinking alcohol or while using sleeping pills or other medications, like antihistamines, that can make you extra-drowsy.
- Keep extra pillows, comforters, quilts, and other plush items off the bed.
- Don't place your baby on a pillow and be sure the sheets or blanket do not cover his head.
- Make sure your bedding fits the mattress snugly.
- Make sure your headboard and footboard don't have openings or cutouts that could trap your baby.
- Never sleep with baby in a waterbed.
In addition to the safety issues involved, it's also important to consider that regularly co-sleeping can establish a pattern that can be tough to break down the road. We've known many a 3-year-old who still climbs into Mommy and Daddy's bed every night.