The family bed has long been a traditional custom in many cultures. My own mother-in-law always shared a bed — first with her parents, and then with her two younger sisters — until she grew up and got married. Because co-sleeping has remained popular, especially among breastfeeding moms, experts have come up with guidelines to keep babies as safe as possible when sleeping in their parent's beds. If you are considering keeping your baby with you overnight, there are some things you should do before you start bed sharing.
Many parents turn to co-sleeping as a means to get more rest. According to research by Dr. Sears, mothers and babies who sleep together tend be in the same stage of sleep for longer periods, which helps everyone in the household to get more rest. Additionally, What To Expect noted that babies who share a bed with their parents tend to fall asleep more easily at bed time, and go back to sleep more quickly when they wake up during the night. It's no wonder why new parents, many of whom are carrying around a huge sleep deficit, begin bed sharing.
Here are some ways to prepare before you start sharing your bed with your baby.
1. Quit Smoking
Even if you only smoke outside and never in your baby's presence, Dr. Sears warned that smoke will stay in your clothing and hair. When you sleep next your baby, your baby is inhaling pollutants that stick to your body such as benzene, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, and nicotine. Babies of parents who smoke are at an increased risk of SIDS according to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC).
2. Get A Safe Mattress
If you're still sleeping in a full-size bed, it's time to upgrade. Dr. Sears recommended a queen or king-size bed for co-sleeping so that both the parents and the baby will have plenty of room to roll over safely. Make sure not to choose a soft mattress if you will be bed-sharing. According to WebMD, firm mattresses may reduce your baby's risk of SIDS.
3. Keep The Baby From Falling Out Of Bed
Dr. Sears also recommended that the baby sleep adjacent to the mother, and not in between both parents. To keep your baby from falling off of the bed, invest in a mesh guardrail or push your bed up against the wall making sure there is no gap between the bed and the wall.
4. Transition Older Siblings Out Of The Family Bed
If you are already bed-sharing with an older child, you should transition the older sibling out of the bed before bed sharing with an infant. Kids Health From Nemours warned that babies should not share a bed with other children, particularly toddlers, because they aren't aware of the baby's presence while they sleep. The experts at the University of Notre Dame's Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory (BSL) agree, stating that infants under one year old should not sleep with other child siblings.
5. Get Rid Of The Comforter
Pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon recommended that babies only sleep under light blankets or a blanket sleeper. This means you will have to put away the down comforter until your baby is over a year old.
6. Stick To One Pillow
If you're like me, you sleep best with two pillows under your head (and maybe even one under your back or between your knees.) Unfortunately, pillows pose a suffocation risk to babies. According to Babble, you should only use one pillow and make sure that you keep the pillow away from the baby's face.
7. Use Tight-Fitting Sheets
Kelly Mom recommended that your bottom sheet fit snugly on the mattress with no bunches or creases. This is to prevent the baby from getting tangled in the sheets, or having the sheet bunch up around his face.
8. Invest In An Incontinence Pad
When I came home from the hospital, I realized that I had accidentally brought home the reusable incontinence pad that was on my hospital bed. Somehow, it got inadvertently tangled in my pile of used nursing gowns and baby blankets. I only felt slightly guilty when I pulled it out of the dryer, and figured my insurance company was most likely billed for it.
This pad was a lifesaver when I needed to change the baby in bed overnight, and it also kept leaky diapers from drenching us and soaking our mattress overnight. Alpha Mom recommended fastening down the waterproof pad with safety pins to keep it from bunching up. You can find your own reusable incontinence pad ($13) on Amazon.
9. Make Sure Your Partner Is On Board
Last, but certainly not least, make sure that your partner wants to bed share, as well. Pregnancy and Baby suggested that in order for bed sharing to work best, both parents should agree and feel comfortable with the idea.