Having a baby means buying a ton of stuff. Not only can this get super expensive, but if you're anything like me, once your baby arrives you realize you don't really need half of the things you have. Not only that, you have to go shopping with a newborn to buy some things you forgot (bedside co-sleeper, I'm looking at you). So, if you've decided to have your baby sleep in your room, you might be wondering, "Do you need a crib if you're co-sleeping?" After all, if you can save yourself an unnecessary trip in the outside world, you'll be able to at least consider that day a win.
According to the updated American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) safe infant sleep guidelines, the answer to this question is yes. The AAP recommends all babies sleep in the same room as their parents (which, for the record, is called co-sleeping), but not in the same bed as their parents. This arrangement should ideally continue until your baby's first birthday, but definitely for at least the first six months of his or her life.
According to the AAP, the safest place for an infant to sleep is on their backs on a separate sleep surface designed for infants to remain close to the parents’ bed. Whether you choose a crib, bassinet, play yard, or bedside co-sleeper, it's recommend that it have a firm mattress and include no bedding, except a fitted sheet, to reduce the risk of suffocation. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health and Human Development (NIH), keeping your baby close to your own bed and on a separate surface can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
There are tons of safe options to fit your space and budget. The AAP, however, cautions against buying used cribs or bassinets, as they may no longer meet safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or may have missing parts. In addition, parents and providers should check to see if a used crib has been recalled before using it for a new baby.
You may be wondering if there is any safe way to bed-share with your baby. According to the AAP, the answer is no. In their newest policy statement, however, they do acknowledge that falling asleep with your baby in bed with you is something that happens to many parents, especially during nighttime feedings. If you plan to feed your baby in bed, they recommend doing it with no pillows, sheets, or blankets and placing your baby back in their crib or bassinet as soon as you can.
A safe alternative to a crib, that may give parents the best of both the safety of a crib and the closeness of bed sharing, is a bedside co-sleeper that attaches to the side of the bed. It's important to know that while the CPSC has published safety standards for these co-sleepers, sleepers that rest on top of your bed have not been evaluated for safety. Another option is placing your baby's crib or bassinet close by, so you can gaze lovingly at them, make sure they are OK, and can easily comfort and feed them when they wake up.
So, if you are expecting a baby and planning to co-sleep, you should probably buy a crib (or, at minimum, a play yard), so you can all rest easy. Well, as easy as you can rest with a newborn.