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Sharing the Bed with Baby: Is it Safe?

If youíre like a lot of American parents, you may not be making specific plans to bring your new baby into bed with you. Then again, you may find yourself sleeping with your baby on most nights, whether you planned to or not. It happens that way quite often.

Before the babyís born, the idea of having a third person, even a tiny one, sleeping with you at night might seem strange. But here is a common scenario: you put the baby to sleep in his own room, in his crib, and he wakes up in the middle of the night to be fed. The mother or father gets him out of the crib, takes him to the bed to be nursed, and while baby is nursing, mom, dad and eventually the little one all doze off together. Suddenly, a couple of months have gone by and youíve become a co-sleeping family whether you intended to or not.

Your parents or other family members may put subtle, or not-so-subtle, pressure on you to avoid sleeping with your new infant. Co-sleeping has not traditionally been as much a part of American culture as it is for many cultures around the world. But things have changed. Breast-feeding is much more common in this county than it was even one generation ago. Additionally, when both parents are working outside the home, they may feel that sleeping with their infant provides cuddling time that they miss during the day.

Aside from the personal preferences of you and the people around you, the real question is: is it safe for my baby to sleep with us?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is on record as being against co-sleeping, citing cases of infant suffocation reported during bed sharing. A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that most cases of sudden infant death syndrome occur when the infant is sleeping with bedding thatís improper for a baby.

Sometimes you have every intention of putting your baby back in the crib, but it doesnít always work out that way. If you find that there a lot of times when your baby ends up sleeping in your bed, at least share the bed safely. Follow the following recommendations, whether your baby sleeps alone or with you.

Tips for safe bedding
The AAP recommends that parents follow these suggestions to lower the risk of infant death while sleeping. The recommendations apply to babies sleeping alone or with their parents.

  • Place babies on their backs.
  • Do not put babies to sleep on waterbeds, sofas, soft mattresses or other soft surfaces.
  • Do not place pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskin or other soft materials under a sleeping infant.
  • Tuck blankets, sheets or other bedding around the infant so that these covers do not reach higher than the infantís chest.
  • Parents who share a bed with their infants should never be under the influence of alcohol or drugs that may impair awareness, and they should not smoke.

Whether to co-sleep or not is a personal decision. If you and your partner feel comfortable with the practice and believe it is beneficial for everyone involved, be sure to follow the AAP's recommendations. If you have any doubts at all, talk with your pediatrician to make sure youíre doing everything you can to keep your baby safe during the night.

American Academy of Pediatrics; Pediatrics, 3 September 2000; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

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