The emergence of the phrase "breastsleeping" — and the subsequent influx of pro-bedsharing support that followed — has helped reinforce the idea that sleeping in the same bed as your baby can be a very healthy and safe way to sleep. Besides the obvious convenience of having your child within an arms reach, there are numerous health and developmental benefits for babies who co-sleep, especially when breastfeeding is involved (ie. breastsleeping.) But there is a right and a wrong way to practice breastsleeping believe it or not. If you've ever wondered "Can I breastsleep on the couch," thinking that it may follow the same guidelines as regular breastsleeping in a bed, isn't the same (or the safest) scenario.
According to the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, founded by James McKenna, breastsleeping should be done under specific conditions for it to be as safe as possible. The website's safe co-sleeping guidelines stated that infants should "never sleep on couches or sofas with or without adults as they can slip down (face first) into the crevice or get wedged against the back of a couch where they may suffocate."
Furthermore, BellyBelly noted that the vast majority of co-sleeping-related injuries or fatalities occurred in unsafe and unrecommended situations, like on a sofa or when one parent was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Since there is a marked difference between safe and unsafe breastsleeping, educating parents on how to do it safely is important. An article from Leader Today, a publication from La Leche League International, noted that increasing awareness and education about safe breastsleeping is vital to the success of the movement. The Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory noted that safe co-sleeping begins with breastfeeding, and informed and committed parents. The infant should always sleep on their back, without excessive blankets or pillows around them. The bed should be firm (no waterbeds,) and without any gaps or spaces where the baby could fall or get stuck.
So, in a word, no, breastsleeping on the couch isn't a recommended scenario. But when practiced safely, breastsleeping can be a life changing habit for both mother and baby.