How Safe is Your Baby's Sleep?

More Sleep Mistakes

Sleep Mistake #3

We share a bed with Baby.

Bedsharing, defined as sleeping on the same surface with Baby, is common, Dr. Mindell says. Sixty-five percent of the moms we polled have slept in bed with their infant, and of those, 38 percent do so regularly. The majority of these bedsharing moms worry about their baby's risk of accidental suffocation, but they do it anyway. Why? To help their child sleep, to make nursing easier, to bond with Baby, and because Baby won't sleep anywhere else, they say.

"It was the only way I could get my son Joshua to go down," says Nicole Bogert, of Waterbury, Connecticut. "He would be miserable in his Pack 'n Play, and the instant I put him in bed with us it was like magic -- he went right to sleep."

But bedsharing is perilous. Studies show that about half of all suffocation deaths among infants happen in an adult bed. Compared with sleeping in a crib, the overall death rate is more than 40 times higher for babies who sleep with a parent. "There are multiple dangers in an adult bed that can suffocate Baby, from a less-firm mattress and big pillows to fluffy comforters and extra blankets," Carr says. "Parents also mistakenly believe they're light sleepers and would wake up if they rolled over on their baby, but that's not the case in so many tragic instances."

Safety upgrade For a newborn, attach a co-sleeper to the side of your bed. It's a smart option for a mom who wants to keep her infant close. To transition your little one to a crib, do so in small steps, suggests Dr. Mindell. For instance, put your baby in her crib and sleep in her room with her until she adjusts. If there's nowhere in there for you to sleep, place her in a portable crib in your room. Then, when she's used to that, move her to a crib in her own room. Not only will be she be safe, she'll snooze more deeply. "In one study I conducted, we found that babies who sleep with Mom and Dad wake up twice as often than when they sleep alone," Dr. Mindell says. "They don't learn to soothe themselves, and that's what keeps them up."

Sleep Mistake #4

We take naps on the couch with Baby.

A staggering 53 percent of moms in our poll report they share the couch with their infant, a number that astonished our experts. It's by far the most dangerous choice because couches can be softer and more plush than an adult bed, and Mom or Dad could accidentally roll over and suffocate Baby, Dr. Moon says. Ironically, some parents think couch-sharing is relatively safe because if they put Baby between their body and the back of the couch, she can't fall off like she could in a bed. In reality, the child can become trapped between the parent's body and the couch, and that can be much more dangerous, Dr. Moon says.

Joann Ramaker, from Austin, Minnesota, is among the moms who thought she was making a responsible choice. "When my son came home from the hospital, I wound up sleeping with him on my chest on the couch every night," she says. "I was scared of sharing a bed with him because he was so tiny." Her son had been born premature and spent his first weeks in the hospital. "I thought that if we were on the couch together, I wouldn't move or roll over on him, and he wouldn't fall off." But after several weeks of that, Ramaker began sharing her bed with him. "I knew it was a bad habit, but since he would not breastfeed, for me it felt like our bonding time, and I loved it."

Safety upgrade Bond with your baby before bed, and then put her in her crib, Carr says. When you're wiped out or if it's nighttime, avoid nursing or feeding your baby on the couch. You're more apt to doze off there than in a less comfy spot, Dr. Mindell says. If your sweetie falls asleep and you're tempted to snuggle her while you browse your Netflix queue, think twice. Finally, never place a sleeping baby on a couch. About 18 percent of moms say their baby has slept on a couch alone, but even if you're awake, it's never safe. It takes only a minute for suffocation to occur. Practicing safe sleep habits for your baby can be grueling during the first year. You're exhausted, up and down all night, and listening to your baby wail on her back in her bare crib. In these moments, sticking to what you know is right may feel insurmountable. But this stage won't last forever. Your baby will drift off. Soon enough, she'll outgrow these risks (and you'll graduate to big-kid concerns). In the meantime, you'll rest better knowing that you've done the safe thing.

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