The Crucial Difference Between Co-Sleeping & Bed-Sharing That Could Save Your Baby's Life

If I'm being completely honest, the transition from co-sleeping to bed-sharing did not occur because I was a saintly mother dedicated to nurturing my baby in the most sensitive way possible. Nope — exhaustion and torture-level sleep deprivation are what fueled my choices when I first became a mother. And like so many other first-time or new moms, I was so deliriously desperate for any semblance of sleep that I didn't do the research I probably should have. In retrospect, I can see the crucial difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing that could save your baby's life. Not to sound overly dramatic, but I shudder when I look back at pictures where my newborn was surrounded by blankets and other hazards.

As most parents will tell you, SIDS is at the top of their list when it comes to fears about their baby's safety. What is perhaps the most devastating aspect, is that SIDS can happen during nap time or bedtime. Thankfully, there are preventative measures you can take to make sure your baby is sleeping as safely as possible. One of the very first steps a parent can take is to arm themselves with knowledge. As a friend of mine says, "when you know better, you do better."

So what is the big deal about sleep-sharing and what affect can it have on your child's well-being? According to Kids Health from Nemours, co-sleeping is when parent and baby are within, "sensory touch of each other," whereas bed-sharing is when parents share a bed with their child, as the name would suggest. What has most people concerned about the difference between the two, is that bed-sharing with a newborn can be risky if not done properly. Where co-sleeping provides closeness, but at a safe distance—like with a bedside bassinet—bed-sharing has virtually no barriers between parent and child.

So, can bed-sharing work? According to parenting and sleep expert, Dr. William Sears, bed-sharing can be done safely as long as the parent is not overly-exhausted, the bed is free of smothering hazards, and baby is put to sleep on their back and not wedged between pillows or people. Echoing this sentiment, professor of anthropology at William and Mary, Barbara J. King told NPR, "with an aware, motivated, and engaged adult as part of the pair, bed-sharing may be quite safe." Yet, if you're still nervous about having your child in bed with you, you can always opt for co-sleeping or room-sharing where you and your baby sleep in separate beds, but are still within arms reach in case either one of you needs a little reassurance or comforting.