If you currently co-sleep, there's a good chance that it didn't start out intentionally. You probably began because of the breastfeeding convenience, or maybe your baby was cranky and only calmed down lying next to you. Perhaps you are well prepared and co-sleep by room sharing, but not bed sharing. But even if you've done all of your research there are still co-sleeping risks you may not know about.
Most experts agree that having your baby sleep on a different surface, (preferably a crib) but in the same room is safest for your baby. Think about how you currently sleep. You probably have one or two pillows, a sheet, a blanket and maybe even a comforter on your bed. None of those are safe for babies. But if you don't bed share, is still considered co-sleeping? The March Of Dimes defines co-sleeping as sleeping close enough to your baby that you can see, hear, touch or smell each other. This means you can still practice co-sleeping, even if your baby doesn't sleep in your bed.
If you are bed sharing and want to continue to do so, you should become aware of all the safety measures you should take and what is considered dangerous. Here are some lesser known co-sleeping risks you may not be aware of.
1. Over The Counter Medications
Most parents know that they shouldn't co-sleep 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, putting their baby at risk for suffocation. Always sleep in separate beds if you are taking medication that can cause drowsiness.
2. Accidental Co-Sleeping
Sometimes an adult can fall asleep with their baby in an unsafe location such as a sofa. Kelly Mom warned that a baby can get wedged or trapped between the sleeping adult and the sofa cushions.
You should never allow an older sibling or other child to co-sleep with a baby who is under one year of age, according to Kelly Mom. Children can thrash around unknowingly in their sleep and put the baby at risk for suffocation or strangulation.
4. Long Hair
The University of Notre Dame warned that very long hair should be tied back to prevent entanglement around a baby's neck. 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 perhaps you should move baby to their own space.
Parental obesity can cause sleep apnea in addition to the risk of smothering your baby according to Dr. Sears. Parents with sleep apnea can sleep too deeply and may not be able to arouse as quickly in a dangerous situation.
Dr. Sears also warned that babysitters should not co-sleep with infants. They may not have the awareness and arousability that parents have for their own infants.
7. Long Jewelry/Lingerie Strings
Another little known risk, according to Dr. Sears, is jewelry and strings or ties that are longer than eight inches. These items can become wrapped around a baby's neck while you sleep.