Though many cultures around the world practice co-sleeping, in the United States, it’s a topic of much debate. Some experts warn that co-sleeping can be dangerous, while others say it’s perfectly natural and a great way to bond with your little one. As new parents, you have enough to worry about without losing (more) sleep on the issue. Learn all you need to know about co-sleeping in order to make the best decision for your family.

What is Co-Sleeping?

Co-sleeping is the practice of putting your little one in the same bed as you. Parents who co-sleep feel it increases bonding and helps their little one sleep better at night, which means more sleep for parents.

How Common is Co-Sleeping?

Co-sleeping is more common than you may think. A 2013 study found that 13 percent of families in the United States co-sleep with their babies. This number is double what it was in 1993. Though it may be more common, the majority of families still don’t co-sleep with their babies.

If you are considering becoming one of the families who co-sleeps, here are five things you need to know before bringing your baby to bed:

Improves Breathing and Circulation

Many parents co-sleep with their little ones because it helps reassure them that their baby is safe and breathing well. There is some scientific evidence that babies who co-sleep may breathe better than those who sleep alone. Babies who sleep with their parents have been found to have more regular heartbeats and breathing throughout the night.

Increases the Risk of Accidents

Parents who co-sleep with their little ones have an increased risk of an accident occurring that could result in suffocation and death. This includes blankets that shift and block your little one from breathing, accidentally rolling over or squishing the baby and the baby slipping between the wall and the mattress.

May Boost Development

Babies develop their senses by responding to the sensory reactions of others. Movement, smells, touches, heat and sounds all help babies learn to respond to the world around them. Some experts say that babies who sleep by themselves aren’t as stimulated as babies who sleep with their parents, which may help co-sleeping babies develop their senses better.

Increased Risk of SIDS

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies sleep in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as the parents for the first six months of life and not in the same bed as their parents. When combined with other factors, such as smoking in the home, babies who were born prematurely, parents who are extremely tired and/or parents who drink alcohol or do drugs, co-sleeping presents an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Sharing a room with your little one, however, can decrease the risk of SIDS occurring by an estimated 50 percent.

Don’t Assume Co-Sleeping Somewhere Else Together is Safer

Instead of co-sleeping in bed, many parents believe sleeping with their little one on the couch or a chair is safer. This is not the case. Babies run a similar risk of accidents and suffocation on the couch or chair as the bed.

If You Choose to Co-Sleep…

No matter how light of a sleeper you are or how many precautions you take, there is no 100-percent safe way to co-sleep with your little one. If you do choose to co-sleep, minimize your risks by doing the following:

  • Remove bedding and fit the bed with a tight sheet only.
  • Use a blanket sleeper rather than blankets to warm your little one.
  • Never allow another child or pet in your bed with you while co-sleeping.
  • Never put the baby to sleep in between you and your partner.
  • Make sure there is no gap in-between the wall and the mattress.
  • If you are particularly exhausted or have been drinking, opt to put your little one in their own bed for the night.

If you are tempted to bring your little one to bed with you in order to feed him or her, consider using a breast pump. Pumping extra milk during the day can help you get a little more sleep at night by allowing your partner or another family member to take a nighttime feeding. Ameda Direct can help you get a breast pump at no cost to you through your insurance. Contact us today for more information.