There are steps you can take to help ensure that your family bed is safe for you and your little one. There are situations where you should consider an alternate arrangement to having baby right in bed with you. And there are things you can do to your bed to make sure it is safe for baby.
Many people fear “overlying,” which means rolling on top of and smothering a child. However, this is exceedingly rare. Think about sleeping in bed at night? Do you roll out of bed? The same instincts that keep you in bed at night keep you from rolling onto your baby. The instincts to protect your baby are even stronger than those that keep you from rolling out of bed! Parents all over the world sleep with their babies every night and their babies are safe and secure.
If you are a heavy smoker, an extremely deep sleeper, or very overweight, it is safer to have your baby sleep in a sidecar arrangement or in a separate baby bed in your room. If you are using any kind of illegal drug, or a prescription drug that affects your sleep, it is also safer for your baby to be in a sidecar or separate bed in your room.
Of Bedding and Bedfellows
Choose a firm mattress for your bed. If you normally use a pillow-top mattress cover, you should remove it while you share sleep with your baby. Many adults find that sleeping on a firm mattress or a futon helps them have a more restful sleep, and it is safe for the baby. Don't put your baby on a waterbed. Some babies nap well on a lambskin, but remove the lambskin when you are ready to go to sleep.
Babies and toddlers don't need pillows. They will sleep just fine with their head on the mattress, and it is much safer for them. Also remove stuffed animals from around your baby. Keep your blankets below your baby's face. See making the family bed work for some tips on how you can stay warm in the family bed.
Don't allow your toddler to sleep next to your infant. Toddlers are not yet aware in sleep; they don't have the same instincts as adults (notice that your toddler may still roll out of bed) – making the family bed work has some ideas for accommodating both your infant and other children.(Hint: Would you like practical, no-nonsense, really-help-you-get-more sleep tips on handling nap time and bedtime with your little one? Check out the baby sleep crib sheet - no crib required - and get better sleep tonight. Get it here.)
Warm and Cozy
You will want to keep your baby warm at night, but remember that co sleeping babies do not need as much covering to stay warm as babies who are isolated in cribs. Your warmth helps to keep your baby warm. Avoid heavy blanket sleepers. Choose light pj's for your baby, and a light blanket in addition to yours. Keeping a hat on your baby will help to assure you that he stays warm (a pilot cap will stay on better at night than a normal baby cap.)
Check Out the Furniture
Gaps in furniture can be very dangerous for your baby. If you have a headboard or footboard, be sure your baby cannot fit into any gaps between them and your mattress. You may can stuff gaps with tightly rolled towels, or you might be able to put firm foam (such as a pool “noodle”) into the gap. Use the same caution if your bed is not flush with the wall, or if there is a gap between your bed rail and your bed. One option is to put your mattresses directly on your floor. Put your bed frame up for when your co-sleeping days are over (it will come all too quickly!)
Sofas and love seats are not safe places for babies to sleep alone, and they are unsafe for you to share sleep with your baby on. If you are not ready to go to bed when your baby is, it is safer for your baby to sleep in a bassinet, crib, or a play yard near you. An adult bed isn't safe for your baby unless you are in it.
Reports on infants being at risk in adult beds usually draw from a sample of unclear incidents. Some researchers even fear that many “overlying” incidents in adult beds are intentional infanticide. Traditionally sharing sleep has been the safest way for an infant to sleep, and far more babies die alone in their cribs than do babies sleeping with an adult.
Enjoy the time that you have snuggled up with your baby. It's completely natural, and it's normal in most parts of the world! It will also help you sleep better, and baby sleep better. And research is showing us that baby may even sleep more safely with you – she patterns her breathing after yours and you are right there with her, all through the night!(Hint: Would you like practical, no-nonsense, really-help-you-get-more sleep tips on handling nap time and bedtime with your little one? Check out the baby sleep crib sheet - no crib required - and get better sleep tonight. Get it here.)