bed sharing with baby safety, co sleeping, bed sharing, baby sleep with mom
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How to Bed Share with Baby Safely

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Maybe you always knew you wanted to and maybe you didn’t, but chances are you have or will sleep with your baby in your bed at some point.

When you do, it is crucial that you know how to bed share with your baby safely.

What’s the difference between bed sharing and co-sleeping?

While these two terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually different things.

Bed sharing is when a parent or caretaker shares a sleep surface (such as a bed) with a baby or child.

Co-sleeping, on the other hand, is when a baby or child sleeps in the same room as their parents or caretaker.

So, bed sharing IS co-sleeping, but not the other way around if that makes sense.

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“Co-sleeping is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but bed sharing is not.

- Our Happinest -

Interestingly, co-sleeping is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but bed sharing is not.

Co-sleeping has been associated with higher breastfeeding rates and a lower rate of SIDS. This is all pretty confusing, because bed sharing is associated with an increased rate of SIDS.

A Word of Caution

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages bed sharing with infants younger than 6 months of age.

This recommendation is based on studies that show that babies who sleep on the same surface as an adult (a bed, couch, etc...) has an increased risk of dying.

That’s pretty serious, right?

Cause of death among bed sharing infants includes suffocation, smothering, falling, and SIDS.

While there have been nearly two dozen studies done on the subject, they all seem to have some flaw (small sample size, not separating out data from “high-risk” individuals, etc).

This means that these risks might not be as cut and dried as they first appear. Regardless, it’s worth knowing this recommendation before proceeding.

Benefits of Bed Sharing

You might be feeling a bit conflicted right about now, and understandably so.

You know that bed sharing can be dangerous, so why do all of your instincts want to hold baby close at night instead of putting her in a separate bed?

Because bed sharing is NATURAL. That’s why.

When you are close to your baby, you both get loads of endorphins that make you feel good and help grow that special bond.

Instinct will tell you to keep your baby close so she’s safe. Where is safer than her mother’s arms?

Breastfeeding is SO much easier when you bed share with baby.

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“Moms who sleep with their babies are much more likely to have successful breastfeeding relationships that last up to and past six months.”

- Our Happinest -

In fact, moms who sleep with their babies are much more likely to have successful breastfeeding relationships that last up to and past six months.

Babies also tend to sleep better when they are close to mom. Your touch, warmth, and smell are extremely comforting your baby and encourages baby to sleep deeper and longer.

I bed shared with both of my babies, and never had those bleary eyed on-the-verge-of-a-mental-breakdown sleep deprived days that a lot of new parents get.

My babies slept well, nursed easily, and we all woke up in the mornings happy and refreshed.

Isn’t that nice?

More sleep and plenty of nursing makes for happier moms and healthier babies!

When should you NOT bed share?

Studies have shown that certain conditions are especially dangerous. Make sure to never bed share with your baby if any of these apply to you.

You smoke

Mothers who smoke cigarettes have been linked to a dramatically higher rate of SIDS in their babies when bed sharing.

I would go so far as to say don’t smoke anything prior to bed sharing. Vapes, marijuana, cigars, etc are all downers.

They affect your nervous system making it less sensitive and responsive. For you this may feel like relaxation, but when you sleep this becomes very dangerous to your baby.

You become less responsive and aware than if you had not smoked.

This puts baby in danger of accidental smothering on top of a higher SIDS risk.

You’ve been drinking

Alcohol also impairs your awareness and sensitivity. Just like cigarettes, it greatly increases the chances that your baby could get hurt while bed sharing.

You have taken medicine

If you take any kind of medicine that warns you not to operate a motor vehicle, you shouldn’t bed share.

Anything from sleep aids to allergy medicine, the drowsiness these cause can make it difficult for you to wake up to help your baby.

You are extremely tired

A tired mama is a difficult to wake mama. We are all tired at night, but, if you feel like collapsing into bed, it might be best to avoid bed sharing.

You are not baby’s mom

Sorry dads. Studies have shown that men are less likely to wake up to baby’s cries and sounds of distress.

This makes for a dangerous situation. If baby accidentally is covered or needs help, dad may not even notice in time to respond.

Mom and baby have a special bond that allows her to be subconsciously aware of her child. Other caretakers (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc) may not be as aware.

If you are not baby’s mother, do not bed share until baby is at least 6 months old.

You have a medical condition

You know what you are capable of and what you aren’t. If you have a medical condition, such as sleep apnea or chronic seizures, don’t bed share with your baby.

Use common sense and be realistic. Don’t take that chance with your baby’s wellbeing by hoping it’ll be ok. It’s not worth it.

Baby is not breastfeeding

I hate to tell you this, but if your baby is strictly on formula, it isn’t safe to bed share.

There haven’t been enough studies into this to know why exactly it happens, but there is enough research to show that formula fed babies are more likely to die from SIDS than breastfed babies.

Since these studies were also specifically targeting babies that bed share, I feel it is important to mention it here.

My speculation here is that breastfed babies benefit from an immunity boost, better respiratory and cardiovascular function, and improved ability to self regulate body temperature.

Formula fed babies don’t have these benefits and may be at higher risk.

How to bed share with baby safely

Ok. If you don’t fit any of the categories listed above, then you should be able to bed share safely with your baby.

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“For safe bed sharing, it’s all about having a safe prepared environment.”

- Our Happinest -

For safe bed sharing, it’s all about having a safe prepared environment. The last thing you want to do is doze off with your baby in a dangerous space!

Follow these guidelines to prepare your sleeping space for baby.

Minimize pillows

Your baby does not need a pillow, and you only need one. Extra pillows can shift on the bed and lead to suffocation.

We don’t want that, do we?

A firm mattress

Ok ok. So, technically a FIRM mattress is best, but I personally have a medium firmness level on my mattress and it’s fine.

What you don’t want is a super soft squishy mattress or one that has a thick feather or memory foam mattress topper. Waterbeds are a big fat no (do people still have these??).

If baby is lying on her side next to you (for nursing maybe) you don’t want her face sinking into the bed. Obviously, that wouldn’t be safe.

Never sleep on a couch

I don’t care how comfortable your couch is, never sleep with baby on a sofa.

One side is a smothering hazard and the other side means falling to the floor.

Just don’t do it.

Sheets & blankets tight and low

Your bed should be made, and the fitted and top sheets should be tucked in tightly. You don’t want loose sheets shifting around at night.

Keep the sheets and blankets folded back to about waist height.

Baby doesn’t need to be covered. Instead, dress your baby warmly at night.

I like to wear a comfy cardigan to bed or button down pajama top. That way I can nurse baby without being cold. Just make sure the fabric isn’t long enough to obstruct baby’s face.

No swaddles

Swaddling a baby who sleeps in a crib makes sense. It helps baby feel like she is being held and helps to keep her warm.

Swaddling a baby that is bed sharing is dangerous because the swaddle could come loose during the night and cover baby’s face.

Also, because you are lying next to baby, she could roll into you since she won’t be able to open her arms for balance.

Instead, put baby in a footed pajama (these are what I use) and snuggle her.

Keep baby from falling

The best way to prevent baby from falling off the bed is by sleeping on the outside edge yourself.

Bed bumpers and such are good in theory, but, realistically, pose the same threat as crib bumpers. Baby could have her airway blocked should she roll into them.

That being said, if you do need to have baby sleep on the outside, keep her at least two feet from the edge. If you have a high bed, never do this with a baby that can roll over!

A lot of bed sharing families find it safest to put the mattress straight onto the floor. That way, should baby roll off the bed, she won’t get hurt.

You do you mama!

Keep pets off the bed

We have 3 dogs who all loved to climb into our bed at night. I had to put a stop to that quick once our newborn came home.

A dog or cat could easily hurt a baby in bed without meaning to.

Before bringing baby to your bed, you need to teach your pets that that is not where they sleep anymore.

Be aware of others

Your spouse and other children need to keep their distance from baby while sleeping.

It’s best if older siblings do not share the same sleeping space as baby in order to prevent accidental injury.

If you have a toddler that likes to sneak into your bed at night, just make sure to plan for this so that baby doesn’t get trampled or squished.

Your spouse doesn’t have to sleep in another bed, but definitely make sure they are far enough to not accidentally roll over onto or hurt baby at night.

Don’t overdress baby

Ok, so baby needs to be warm, but not hot! Overheating is a real problem since your baby can’t tell you if she’s too hot.

A good rule of thumb is to dress baby in as many layers as you.

If you are wearing a lightweight cardigan to bed, dress baby in a light cotton pajama. If you have on a fleece nightshirt, dress baby in a fleece footed pajama.

Makes sense?

Touch baby’s hands and face to see if she’s getting too hot or cold.

No stuffed animals

Stuffed animals and blankies are just like pillows in that they can accidentally get pulled over baby’s face.

Keep these items away from the sleep space.

Keep a low light on

A small nightlight can help you to see baby while she sleeps.

This is SO handy for making sure baby is safe, helping her latch, and even swapping out that midnight diaper.

I use this night light that I found on Amazon. It’s great, because it’s also a white noise machine which helps muffle small sounds.

I check my baby multiple times a night, just to make sure that she’s ok.

Time to Snuggle!

I know that was a lot of steps, but don’t be intimidated. It’s mostly common sense right?

Now, it’s safe to bring baby to your bed and cuddle up with that cutie pie!

I personally like to lay down a towel or something to sleep on, because I leak milk all over the place. But you do what works for you.

You’ll find that you end up curled around your baby with baby facing you. Baby might be more comfortable on her side or back - never lay baby on her belly to sleep.

It’s best if you stay on your side curled around baby, but it’s possible to sleep on your back as well. Just don’t turn your back on baby while sleeping.

I keep one arm above baby’s head to keep her from scooting up and under my pillow.

Nursing side lying is literally one of the greatest things on this planet. Just leave your lower breast out for baby to nurse on demand and enjoy those baby snuggles!

Just remember if you use common sense and know your limits, bed sharing can be a safe and wonderful experience.

Your beautiful baby is only little for so long.

Happy bed sharing!

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You might also enjoy reading Bed Sharing - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. You can also read about what happened when I Gave Up Sleep Training.

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