How to Co Sleep Safely With Your Baby

Co-sleeping, also known as sleep-sharing, is the practice of sharing a sleeping space with your newborn baby. Although it is frequently practiced in some corners of the world, developed countries have mostly balked at the idea. That's because co-sleeping carries increased risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome.[1] Still, it may be possible to co-habit the same sleeping space with your newborn safely and productively, without losing sleep and encouraging more breastfeeding.[2]


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    Breastfeed. Mothers who nurse their children are intensely aware of their babies as they share sleep. Breastfed infants also instinctively align themselves with mother's breasts while sleeping, keeping themselves well away from mother's pillow.
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    Use as firm a sleeping surface as possible. It's not safe to co-sleep on a water-bed, feather-bed or other overly-soft sleeping surface.
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    Think big. A king size bed is best, so invest the money you would have spent on a crib to upgrade to a firm, king size bed. However, if you co-sleep safely, any bed size will be fine.
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    Make sure your sheets are tight and lay flat on your bed. If your sheets are very loose, you can purchase elastic clip-on "sheet keepers" in the bedding department of most stores.
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    Remove any extra pillows, blankets, decorative throws, pillows and bolsters, and stuffed animals. Keep only what you absolutely need.
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    Stay close. The baby is safest between the mother and a bed rail or the wall. (Mothers usually know where the baby is even in their sleep, while partners and older children don't show the same keen awareness.)
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    Mind the gap. The bed should be flush against a guard-rail or the wall. Insert pillows or tightly-rolled blanket if there is a gap. Remember that a guard-rail that is designed to keep a toddler or preschooler from rolling out of bed may not be safe for an infant. (An infant is much smaller, so the guard-rail may pose an entrapment risk.)
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    Place the baby to sleep on their back. No matter where the baby sleeps, he should sleep lying on his back.
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    Lower your bed. When the baby is old enough to get out of the bed, it's safest to remove your bed frame and place your box spring and mattress on the floor, in case of falls. Teach your baby how to wiggle out of bed feet first, the same as they would go down stairs.
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    Soften the blow. If your room has hard floors, place soft throw-rugs beside the bed and at the end of the bed, to cushion accidental falls.
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    If you smoke, quit. Studies show that the risk of infant death due to SIDS is highest in infants who co-sleep with smokers. If you do smoke, it is NOT advised to co-sleep with your infant.


  • Dress the baby in layers, such as long sleeves and a warm sleep sack, and place them on top of the bedding. Check your baby's temperature to avoid overheating your baby. Remember that mothers and infants share body heat while sleeping together, so comfortable dress for the mother will be comfortable for the baby as well
  • If you do not feel safe with the baby in your bed, purchase a co-sleeper such as the "Arm's Reach Bedside Co-sleeper" or the "Amby Bed," or put your baby's crib in your bedroom. Both mother and baby can still benefit from co-sleeping in this way. A crib pulled against your bed with one side lowered is NOT a safe option. This poses a risk of entrapment/strangulation.
  • As the baby gets older, he/she may be able to sleep safely in the middle of the bed, providing your partner or older child can sense their presence and not roll over on them.
  • A low budget way to keep your baby from getting trapped in the space between the bed and the wall is to wedge a body pillow into the space tightly so that it only sticks out a small amount and the exposed part is firm to the touch.
  • Be sure to child-proof your entire bedroom as soon as the baby starts crawling, so they can get out of bed and be safe while you're still resting. Close bedroom doors or use gates so your baby can't leave the room.
  • When traveling and in unfamiliar sleeping quarters, sleeping bags work very well to keep babies close. Use them unzipped on the floor, however, and make sure that they don't provide any more padding than what you would receive with a firm mattress. Otherwise the risk of suffocation becomes quite high.


  • Do not co-sleep with your baby if you are so exhausted or ill that you're not able to sense the your baby's presence beside you.
  • Do not co-sleep with your baby if you have an illness, such as sleep apnea, that prevents you from rousing easily.
  • Do not co-sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol that impair your ability to sense the baby's presence beside you.
  • Do not allow other children to sleep next to the baby. Older children are unlikely to sense the baby's presence in the bed, and incidences of SIDS go up dramatically when older children share the bed with an infant.
  • Do not swaddle your baby while co-sleeping. Your baby's arms must be free to move so that mother can better sense the baby next to her.
  • Don't wear night-clothes that are too loose or have ties that could be unsafe for your baby. Ditto for your partner.
  • Research has shown that when tragedies occur, it is often the first time a particular "safe sleep" procedure wasn't used. This is particularly important for the Back to Sleep position: "Research has shown that babies who are used to sleeping on their backs but who are suddenly placed in bed on their sides or their tummies face a very high risk of SIDS. This risk factor jumps from the standard incidence rate of 0.56 deaths per 1000 live births to 6.9 per 1000 for the side-lying position and 8.2 for the tummy-lying position.
  • If your room isn't child-proofed, do not allow your baby out of bed unless you get up with them.
  • Contrary to myth, obese mothers can co-sleep with their baby safely, provided they follow basic safety guidelines and have no health problem that prevents them from rousing easily from sleep.
  • Do not co-sleep with your baby if you are a smoker. The risk of SIDS is three times higher than with non-smokers.

Things You'll Need

  • Tight, flat sheets - you may need elastic clip-on sheet keepers.
  • Firm mattress.
  • Sleep clothing that is warm enough for both mother and baby so that no blankets are needed in the bed.

Article Info

Categories: Baby Sleeping and Nursery