How can I make co-sleeping safer?
First and foremost: Babies should always sleep on their backs on a firm surface, without blankets which could cover their faces, and away from soft objects which could entrap their faces and cause suffocation. There should never be pillows or soft bedding around an infant. There are several risks for infants sleeping with parents (or other adult caregivers) in the parents’ bed: blankets and pillows may cover the baby’s face, a parent could roll over on top of the baby, the baby may fall off the bed, or the baby may become trapped between the mattress and the wall. All of these scenarios could result in injury to the baby.
If you choose to co-sleep with your infant, there are some important parent responsibilities:
- Both parents must be aware of the co-sleeping infant and understand the responsibility.
- Never co-sleep if taking sedatives (anything that might make you sleepy), if intoxicated, or otherwise unable to wake easily.
Know, too, that adult beds are not designed for infant safety. Babies should only be placed on a separate, firm surface. There are co-sleeping infant beds which can be attached to the side of the parents’ bed or placed on top of the parents’ mattress. While these are certainly safer than being directly on the parents’ bed, care must be taken to ensure there is no soft bedding or sides, which could entrap the baby’s face. As with any infant crib, make sure the mattress fits snugly against the sides of the infant sleeper.
About Dr. Debra Babcock