How to Co-Sleep Safely With Your Baby

James J. McKenna is an expert on co-sleeping and the “family bed." Here are some pointers from his book, “A Quick Guide to Safely Sleeping with Your Baby.”

There are many definitions for co-sleeping:

Roomsharing is when babies sleep in a crib or bassinet in the same room as their parents.

Bedsharing is when babies and their parents sleep on the same bed or surface.

It is important to not bedshare if the right conditions cannot be maintained.

•    Parents need to be aware of the baby and be responsible for the baby’s well-being while sleeping.
•    Mothers should be breastfeeding.
•    Babies must sleep on their backs.
•    Sleep on a clean, firm, non-quilted mattress with tight-fighting sheets and few pillows and blankets.
•    Place mattress without its frame in the middle of the room, or be sure to block holes or gaps near the bed that baby can fall into.
•    No furniture should be too close to the mattress and headboard, footboard and frame are tightly pressed to the mattress as well.
•    Provide a smoke-free environment.  Do not co-sleep if either parent smokes.
•    Set the thermostat a little lower, mom’s body temperature keeps the baby warm enough and too much warmth increases the risk of SIDS.

Do not bedshare...

•    If you are obese.
•    If you smoked during your pregnancy.  If you, or your partner, smoke now.
•    If you sleep on a waterbed, recliner, sofa, armchair, couch or bean bag.
•    If you sleep on multiple pillows, a sagging mattress, a feather mattress, or a sheepskin.  If you use heavy bedding, such as comforters or duvets.   
•    If your room is too hot.  Overheating is associated with higher rates of SIDS.
•    If you, or another adult who will be sharing your bed, are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
•    If there are other children who can, or are likely to, climb into your bed.
•    If there are stuffed animals on the bed that could cover the baby’s face.
•    If either parent is ill, tired to the point where it would be difficult to respond to the baby, or if either parent realizes that the caregiver is much more tired than usual.   
•    Never leave an infant alone on an adult bed.
•    Do not allow anything to cover the baby’s head or face.
•    Do not leave long hair down or wear nightclothes with strings or ties. These pose a strangulation risk to the baby.

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