Newborn baby sweet sleeping on a white bed

I’m a huge proponent of doing everything you can to raise a happy, healthy baby. However, I know I am one of many professionals who feel there is a disconnect between all the rules for safe sleep and what is actually happening in people’s homes. With October being SIDS Awareness Month, this seems very apropos to discuss as a community.

It is a major accomplishment that in the US, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates declined considerably from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 to 39.7 deaths per 100,000 births in 2013.  However, SIDS is still the leading cause of death in infants between the age of 1 month and 1 year of age.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), to have a safe sleep environment and lower your baby’s risk of SIDS, one should:

  • Always place your baby on his back to sleep
  • Have the baby sleep near you, in the same room, but not in your bed
  • Use a firm sleep surface for baby
  • Breastfeed
  • Don’t smoke and keep your baby away from second hand smoke
  • Use a fan in the room with the baby
  • Use a pacifier, but only after the first three weeks when breastfeeding is established
  • Avoid overheating your baby (ideal room temperature is 68 degrees)
  • Remove bumper guards, blankets and toys from crib

That’s a lot of rules. But is that what actually happens?

When I listen to moms, I hear the reality of life with a baby. If I ask if they are co-sleeping with their baby in their bed, very few moms say yes. However, their next comment is typically: “Well, the baby starts in the crib, but when he wakes up the first time, I’m really tired, so I bring him into bed with me.” This essentially means the baby is spending much of the night in their bed.

As a mom, I totally get that. As a lactation consultant, I know co-sleeping helps promote bonding and maintain a good milk supply. However, since the peak SIDS incidence occurs in months 1 to 4, this is a time when I believe parents should especially exercise caution.

I believe we have scared parents so much about co-sleeping that there is an alarming increase in the number of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), many of which are due to suffocation. Infant suffocations can happen when parents or childcare providers fall asleep while holding a baby on a couch or recliner and accidentally roll over onto the baby.

A bed, set up for safe co-sleeping, is a much safer option than a sofa or cushy chair.

So, my recommendation is, if you chose to have your baby in your bed, be sure you have a safe sleep environment:

  • No pillows or blankets near the baby
  • A firm sleep surface
  • Don’t risk allowing anyone to be in the bed with your baby if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or are at risk for rolling over onto the baby.

In the end, choosing where your baby sleeps requires parents to assess what makes sense to them for their health, safety, and sanity.

Have you struggled with choosing between getting sleep and following all the rules for “safe sleep”?

Share your comments below.

6 responses to “Where Is Your Baby Sleeping?

  1. I have a now two year old, but we bed shared for the first month (pretty much skin to skin like in the hospital). Then moved to co sleeping with an arms reach co-sleeper. I feel it’s so true to get rid of this stigma of co sleeping/bed sharing because it happens and it’s better to have it happen safely rather than sleepily in an unsafe bed at 3am. I feel like breastfeeding and co sleeping go hand in hand. We even bought one of those in the bed co sleeping contraptions so we couldn’t roll over her. Now at two years old she sleeps lovely in her big girl crib (since about 6months plus or minus growth spurts, teething and colds). She co sleeps with me during naps because I work night shift and it’s our bonding time. I love it and wish more people did it safely.

  2. These are good reminders! I’m definitely a fan of safe co-sleeping habits, as it helps mommy and baby get better sleep. All 3 of my little ones have bed shared with me.

  3. I’m guilty of falling asleep while nursing on the couch, but never unsupervised. I never bed share because my husband is a deep sleeper and a roller. Knowing your sleeping habits and your partners is definitely important for successful bed sharing.

  4. I was against bed sharing, but definitely not co-sleeping. (In my opinion co-sleeping is when your child is within arms reach in your bedroom with you, and bed sharing is when they are in your bed.) For the first 6 weeks of my son’s life, he was in his bassinet every night. I was an exhausted new mom who sat up and nursed him every time he woke up, which seemed like every hour on the hour for 15 minutes. Once he would fall back to sleep, I would so very carefully tuck him back in his little bassinet and wait for his next cries. Then one weekend I went out of town, and we stayed in a hotel. I FORGOT THE BASSINET! I left it right next to the back door, but with all of the other useless crap I thought I needed for our two night trip (can you write a blog post about all the stuff you need and don’t need on a trip with a baby?!) I looked right past it. The first night in the hotel I borrowed one of their travel “cribs”, which is really just a pack and play. Because the space was so big, he woke up a lot. More than normal. The second night I let him share my bed with me and when I woke up the next morning I felt like a new woman. I had a ton of energy and felt great. I was determined to make it a one time thing, but the next night when we were back at home I started him out in the bassinet, then brought him to my bed with me after his first wakeup.

    This “habit” became our routine. Then a month or so later he became too long for the bassinet and was still not happy by himself in the top of the PnP, so he would go to bed with me. Now at 2 years old, he sleeps in his crib most nights, but still sometimes like to be close to mom and dad. I have a baby girl who will be 6 months next week and we’ve got the same routine going. I don’t use a lot of pillows for myself anymore and I sleep with my blankets up to my waist. If my son decides to come in to bed with us, baby and I head in to the guest bedroom and share there.

    I feel as though we are safe because I know our habits. I know when my husband is going to sleep deep, and we don’t sleep with him on those nights. As previous posters have said, it’s about being safe. Remove excess pillows. Use lightweight blankets. Know your surroundings. I’m open about it when people ask, because I want other new moms to know it’s ok, as long as you are safe about it.

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