The Family Bed: Co-Sleeping with Babies

Mother with newborn

Whether in favor or opposed to bed sharing, everyone agrees that infant sleep safety is an issue wherever babies sleep. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) strikes thousands of infants a year. While the American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse co-sleeping, if your family chooses to practice this, check with your child’s pediatrician and follow the steps below.

What to Consider if Your Child is Sleeping in Your Bed:

  • Consider placing very young infants in a cradle or bassinet at your bedside to achieve closeness.
  • Don’t sleep in a waterbed.
  • Make sure the mattress is fit tightly to the headboard of the bed. There should not be any space between the bed and adjoining wall where the infant could roll and become trapped.
  • Remove any bedding, extra pillows, shams and extra blankets. Keep any soft materials out of the bed for children under 12 months.
  • Put your infant to sleep on his or her back.
  • Never sleep with a child if you are drinking alcohol, taking medication or using substances that have a sedative effect.
  • Never smoke around the child or in the bedroom. Secondhand smoke puts infants at risk for SIDS.

Beyond the infant safety issue, the pro and con arguments rest on whether one believes it is good for the child’s development or good for the family to share a bed. Is it appropriate closeness or a closeness that may interfere with healthy child and family development?

Arguments for Sleeping in the Same Bed with Your Child:

  • The family bed increases parent-child attachment in both directions, resulting in the child having a deeper sense of security.
  • There is actually less chance of SIDS because parents become alert to the child’s breathing, and the child may benefit from the parents' rhythmic breathing.
  • Both the child and parent are more likely to sleep through the night.
  • Everyone in the family is happier and more secure.

Arguments Against Sleeping in the Same Bed with Your Child:

  • It may result in family disunity if parents are not equally in favor of the arrangement.
  • It can inhibit marital relations.
  • It can get crowded when there is more than one child in the bed.
  • Light or restless sleepers may cause less sleep for all concerned.
  • It may delay the child’s independence.
  • Do not do this if you are a heavy sleeper, as you may not be aware of your child’s needs.

Check with your child's pediatrician before introducing co-sleeping and carefully consider the pros and cons for your family.

Web sites with more information and opinions:

Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of co-sleeping.

Discover some of the risks involved with co-sleeping with your baby.

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Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Mother with newborn