Expert Advice

How to safely co-sleep with your baby to reduce the chances of SIDS

Understanding the risks and benefits of co-sleeping is essential for all new parents wanting to make an informed decision.

Co-sleeping with your baby can be a wonderful bonding experience that helps you and your baby get some much-needed rest. But co-sleeping also has some serious risks.

Mother & Baby is careful not to recommend that babies sleep in an environment that could cause them harm, and under some circumstances co-sleeping can be risky for your baby's safety.

So how can you co-sleep without risking your baby's health and safety? Let us explain some important details.

Risks of co-sleeping

SIDS and Kids Australia explain that co-sleeping or bed-sharing with a baby can increase the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleep accidents.

SIDS and Kids remind parents that co-sleeping with your baby is risky under the following circumstances:

Is it possible to co-sleep without risking your baby's health and safety?

What types of co-sleeping are not safe?

- Sofa sharing

Sleeping with your baby on a sofa or couch is not recommended as a safe sleeping environment for your baby and has been found in studies to carry a high risk of death or accident.

"The baby may become wedged into cushions or the back of the sofa," explains SIDS and Kids.

- Sleeping on a parent's chest

While babies can be easily settled on their parents' chests it is not recommended for parents to fall asleep while their babies rest in this position.

This is due to a baby's airway being at risk of becoming obstructed by clothing, their parent's body, or by their chin resting on their own chest.

- Sleeping in an adult's bed

SIDS and Kids are quick to point out that adult beds and bedding are not designed for the needs of a baby.

According to multiple case studies, a baby sleeping in bed with their parent puts them at an increased risk of being rolled on to, being wedged between the mattress and another object (e.g. a wall), being entrapped in bed railings, or being suffocated by pillows or blankets.

Research has found that there are some benefits to co-sleeping.

Are there any benefits of co-sleeping?

While SIDS and Kids eagerly remind parents of the high risks of sharing their sleep environment with their babies, they also acknowledge that many studies have found that co-sleeping has some benefits.

These benefits include:

SIDS and Kids recommends that you ask yourself what you think is best for you and your baby.

So should I co-sleep with my baby?

With considerable risks for sleeping with your baby, but also benefits, it can be confusing to know what choice to make.

SIDS and Kids recommends that you ask yourself what you think is best for you and your baby.

"Before you share a sleep surface with your baby, consider whether you are happy it is safe for YOUR baby," says the experts in safe sleeping.

They also recommend a risk-minimisation approach to co-sleeping, to make sure your co-sleeping environment is as safe as possible.

How to reduce the risks when co-sleeping

SIDS and Kids suggest the follow strategies to improve your sleep environment when co-sleeping with your baby:

DO'S

DON'TS

For more information on co-sleeping and safe sleeping for babies visit SIDS and Kids to read their guidelines for sharing a sleep surface with a baby.