It's a contentious subject between mothers in the United States: do you let your baby sleep in your bed? The trend has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome in the past, but it can also promote bonding and make breastfeeding easier. It's a personal decision, and one that each family should be making on their own, with advice from their pediatrician. However, how many parents actually co-sleep? And when they say "co-sleep," are they sharing their beds, setting up bassinets in the corner, or just sneaking kids in for a quick snooze on restless nights?
One study, the National Infant Sleep Position study, surveyed over 18,000 caregivers over 17 years and found that 13.5 percent of parents reported bed-sharing in 2010 — the highest reported amount in nearly two decades. A previous NISP study also found that nearly 45 percent of parents reported bed-sharing with their infants at least some of the time.
The number of parents sharing their beds with infants could be even higher than that, though: in March, a British survey of 600 parents found that 46 percent of them had lied about co-sleeping with their child due to fear of being judged. Of course, there's several different kinds of co-sleeping, and sharing a bed between a parent and an infant is only one of them. So how are parents choosing to co-sleep with their babies?
When sharing a bed, parents share a mattress with their infant. Bed-sharing has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, so it's important that parents do not bed-share with children when they've taken medication that makes them drowsy, had alcohol, or feel too tired. Beds should also be pushed against walls, leaving no gaps for children to become wedged between.
There's also the risk of suffocation when parents share a bed with their child, but luckily, parents seem to be making bed-sharing safer: in 2010, only 7.8 percent of parents covered their infants with quilts or comforters, compared to 41.2 percent in 1993, according to the NISP study.
According to Parenting Science's Dr. Gwen Dewar, a sidecar method may be one of the safest ways to co-sleep. With a sidecar arrangement, parents attach a crib safely to the bed, then lower the barrier next to the bed so that the parents have easy access to the infant. It provides the closeness and comfort of co-sleeping while eliminating some of its dangers.
Crib In The Same Room
Rather than leaving babies in a separate room, in this situation parents will keep babies' cribs or bassinets in the same room for easy access. While it's not quite the same as a sidecar arrangement, babies are still within arm's reach for parents, making both breastfeeding and comforting easier throughout the night.
Co-sleeping can be made a much safer arrangement for babies, if the right methods are used, and the amount of parents sharing their beds seems to be increasing. Whatever method of co-sleeping (or solo sleeping!) you choose to pursue, make sure to talk to your doctor about the risks and how to do it safely — and then enjoy your time with your little one.