Breastfeeding mothers have slept in the same room, and often on the same sleeping surface, with their infants for as long as there have been humans on this earth. Only in recent history, with so much research being done on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the safety and risks of bed sharing, and the health benefits of breast milk versus infant formula have doctors even given it a name. Breastsleeping is the newest term for breastfeeding moms and babies who co-sleep. Even though this sleeping arrangement has a long history, there are some breastsleeping risks you should be aware of.
Doctors James McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, and Lee Gettler, director of the Hormones, Health, and Human Behavior Laboratory, both at the University of Notre Dame, coined the term in a peer-reviewed commentary piece in the journal Acta Paediatrica titled, "There is No Such Thing as Infant Sleep, There is No Such Thing as Breastfeeding, There is Only Breastsleeping." The anthropologists argue that not only can breastsleeping be safe if the rules for bed-sharing are applied, but the nourishment a child receives while breastfeeding can help lower the risk of SIDS. But that is under the assumption that parents follow the safety guideline. Otherwise breastsleeping can come with some of these risks.
One of the biggest bed-sharing risks — whether you're breastfeeding or not — is your baby suffocating. Moms who are breastsleeping are advised not to use a lot of pillows or comforters. On his site, pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon recommended that babies only sleep under light blankets or a blanket sleeper.
Blankets and sheets can cause entanglement and strangulation, but the University of Notre Dame warned that hair can also be dangerous when you are bed sharing. To prevent the possibility, the site noted that very long hair should be tied back to prevent entanglement around a baby's neck. And before you think this doesn't happen, consider this: in 2015, The Daily Mail reported that a 20-month-old child was nearly strangled by strands of her older sister's long hair. If you're not willing to tie up your tresses, then you may not want to try breastsleeping.
3. Falling Off Of The Bed
Because Dr. Sears' recommended that the baby sleep adjacent to the mother — not in between both parents — there is a greater risk for your baby to fall out of bed. To prevent this, consider using a a mesh bed rail or push your bed up against the wall making sure there is no gap between the bed and the wall.
4. Medication-Related Drowsiness
Most parents know that they shouldn't bed share after drinking or doing illegal drugs, but pediatrician Dr. Sydney Spiesel warned listeners of NPR that even over the counter medications such as antihistamines can cause a parent to sleep too deeply, increasing the risk that they will roll over on to their baby. Don't practice breastsleeping if you are taking medication that can cause drowsiness.
5. Sibling-Related Injuries
Infants who breastsleep should not share a bed with an older child sibling because they are too young to be fully aware of the baby's presence while they sleep, according to Kids Health From Nemours. Transition your older child out of your bed if you plan to breastsleep.