My Take on Bedsharing
Forty-two percent of families in the U.S. bedshare when their baby is 2 weeks and 34 percent bedshare at 3 months, according to research from the University of Virginia. However, many reported cases of tragic deaths have been associated with bedsharing. For that reason, scientists have spent a great deal of effort over the past 20 years evaluating if -- and how -- babies can safely bedshare. And the results are worrisome.
In a study by British researchers, a third of sleeping moms accidentally rested an arm or a leg on their baby. Infant-sleep experts in New Zealand videotaped 80 infants -- 40 in cribs and 40 bedsharing -- and found that the faces of the bedsharing babies were covered for a total of nearly one hour per night. Typically, the mom or the baby cleared the blanket away. But five still had their head covered when they awoke in the morning.
On the other hand, it gets a little confusing because bedsharing babies in Japan don't have a higher SIDS risk (possibly because they're sleeping on hard futons). And studies in England, Canada, and the U.S. have found no increased risk with bedsharing as long as the parents are sober, attentive, and nonsmoking.
Still, after considering all the current studies, most respected medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommended against bedsharing with babies under 1 year.
While I see the benefits of bedsharing with older babies, I am too nervous to suggest it during an infant's first four to six months -- or first year, if you smoke or are obese, profoundly tired, or using alcohol or drugs (even antihistamines). Why take even a small risk? I believe the best approach is to have your baby sleep right next to your bed in a bassinet or a crib, but not in your bed. You can easily nurse and comfort her, and you'll sleep better knowing you've done everything possible to keep your baby safe.
Originally published in the July 2012 issue of Parents magazine.
From the book The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids From Birth to 5 Years, by Harvey Karp, M.D. Copyright © 2012 by Harvey Karp, M.D. Published on June 12, 2012, by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.