Co-Sleeping and Room-Sharing: What’s considered safe?

When your baby is a newborn, your instincts are to keep them safe and feeling loved. That means sharing a room while sleeping and lots of snuggle time for many parents. However, while you may think keeping your baby next to you in bed is the safest place for them, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against bed sharing as it increases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant under one year of age. 

Even though bed-sharing is not considered safe, there are many ways to co-sleep and room share that are entirely safe and recommended! This article covers safe and developmentally appropriate ways to co-sleep with your little one, when to stop, and tips to keep your baby safe. 

Safe Ways to Co-Sleep

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing or co-sleeping until your baby is six months old. Co-sleeping, however, is not the same as bed-sharing. Instead, co-sleeping simply means your baby sleeps close to you within the same room.

Safe ways to co-sleep include using a bassinet, crib, playard, or side-sleeper. It is not recommended that your baby sleeps in the same bed as you. A baby who sleeps in the same bed as their parents are roughly three times more likely to die from SIDS than a baby who sleeps independently. Babies under four months old are at the highest risk of SIDS.

The benefits of co-sleeping or room-sharing are that it makes nursing at night more manageable and cuts the risk of an infant’s sleep-related death in half.

Risks of Bed-Sharing

When parents bed-share, they risk rolling onto their baby or the baby suffocating in pillows or soft bedding.

The risk of death from bedsharing increases if the baby is premature, the mother is a smoker or smokes while pregnant, or parents are influenced by alcohol, drugs, or medication. 

Approximately 3,500 infants die each year from sleep-related deaths, many of which could be prevented. 

Tips for Room Sharing

  • Babies should sleep in their own crib on a firm mattress and a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Babies should not sleep with any blankets, toys, crib bumpers, or pillows
  • If you fall asleep while holding or feeding your baby, place them on their back in their own crib as soon as you wake up
  • Do not sleep with your baby on the couch armchairs, or place your baby to sleep on soft furniture

When to Stop Room Sharing?

It is recommended that parents room-share until their baby is at least six months old; however, you can continue to co-sleep until one year of age. Parents should stop room sharing sometime between nine and twelve months. As your baby approaches their first birthday, they become more independent and better able to communicate with you. 

If your baby is waking up and begins looking for you or calling for you, it may be time to switch them to their own room. By six months old most babies can sleep through the night without a feeding, so if they are waking up, it is out of habit and not because they are hungry.

Once your baby passes their first birthday, their independent streak can make transitioning them to their own room trickier. Therefore, consistency and a plan are critical whenever you decide to switch your baby to their own bed. 

Tips to Stop Room Sharing

  • Create a transition plan with your partner and share the plan with your baby. Just because they can’t speak yet doesn’t mean they won’t understand what you’re telling them.
  • Make sure both you and your partner are on board with the plan and be ready to provide support as needed. Your child is likely to resist the change initially, so be prepared for some sleepless nights. 
  • Stay consistent even when your baby pushes back and resists (and they probably will). If you are consistent, your child will learn that no amount of whining, tantrums or crying will change the plan. 

Safe Sleep Infant Tips

Whether you are co-sleeping or not, you should follow some infant sleep tips to keep your baby safe.

  • The only thing in your baby’s crib should be a firm crib sheet.
    • Do Not use pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, crib bumpers, or any other items in the crib.
  • Babies should be placed on their backs to sleep until twelve months old
    • Once they learn how to roll over you, do not need to turn them back if they roll over in their sleep
  • Use a firm mattress and make sure it matches the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Allow your baby to use a pacifier; the use of a pacifier is shown to reduce SIDS.
  • Do Not bed share, but DO room-share until your baby is at least six months old.
  • Keep the baby’s room cool; a comfortable temperature is 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS; none of these products have been approved by the AAP to reduce SIDS.

Bringing your baby home is a time of joy and excitement, and keeping the baby close makes many parents feel better in the early months. Room-sharing until six months is entirely normal and recommended; however, your baby should always sleep in their own crib or bassinet. Following the tips in this article will help keep your baby safe and provide you with ease of mind that your baby is close and cared for.

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