If you have a child then you know how exhausting parenting can be. I've been a parent for almost eight years and I'm positive I've been sleep deprived the entire time. That exhaustion makes it easy to fall asleep in places you normally wouldn't, and it's tempting to curl up on the couch with a baby who has finally been lulled to sleep. After all, moms need sleep, too, right? But when it comes to safety, should you sleep on the couch with your baby? While sleep is important, no question about it, the location you're in when you finally get some shut eye is important, too.
I could list the pros and cons of babies sleeping on couches, with or without another human. I could list all the reasons why us parents sometimes fall asleep with babies in places we shouldn't. The truth of the matter is, though, that there really is no gray area here. According to researched published in Pediatrics, the most dangerous place for your baby to sleep is the sofa. The study goes on to highlight that "out of over 9,000 sleep-related infant deaths between 2004 and 2012, nearly 13 percent occurred on a sofa — most in babies under 3 months old." In other words, babies sleeping on couches, with or without a caregiver, is astronomically dangerous and parents should take every precaution to avoid accidentally doing so.
According to a 2014 study, WebMD says "infants who died sleeping on a sofa were nearly twice as likely to die from suffocation or strangulation as babies who died sleeping elsewhere." The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released safe sleep recommendations that agree. The new recommendations released in 2016 caution against bed-sharing of any kind, but they place particular emphasis on avoiding the sofa, stating, "Never place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair. This is an extremely dangerous place for your baby to sleep." The guidelines state that baby should always be placed on a flat surface clear of any other object or bedding to sleep. In other words, in addition to the fall risk of a traditional sofa, the soft cushions and cracks are easy places for baby to get trapped and suffocate.
As reported by The Atlantic, Lori Feldman-Winter, co-author of the AAP guidelines, said that the danger of couch sleeping with an infant is so great that if a nursing parent thinks there is any chance that they might fall asleep while nursing on the couch, they should bring the baby to bed rather than risk accidentally falling asleep.
Without exception, all experts agree that allowing a baby to sleep on a couch can be deadly. Adding an additional human to the couch sleeping situation is even more dangerous. So, what's a solution for the ever-sleep-deprived parent? If you're too tired to safely feed the baby on the couch, consider taking the baby to bed in a safe sleep space or, even safer, find another adult to keep an eye on you so they can wake you if you doze off. Then you can put your baby to sleep in their crib and you can sleep comfortably, alone, in your bed.