The practice of parents sharing a bed with their baby is a controversial topic. Those who are in favor consider that the parents’ bed is the place where the baby should be. But there are others who are concerned that this practice is not safe.
Sleeping together, sharing the room and sharing the bed
Many people use the expressions “sharing a bed” and “sleeping together” to describe the same thing, but they are not exactly the same:
- Sleeping together: means that a parent and child sleep close physically and socially, meaning that each knows that the other is by their side.
- Sharing a room and sharing a bed are two different ways of sleeping together:
- Room sharing: itis when parents have the baby’s crib in their room; a portable crib or bassinet placed next to the parents’ bed; or a side crib where the baby sleeps added to the side of the parents’ bed.
- Bed sharing:is when parents and baby sleep together in the same bed. This issue has raised concern because sharing a bed with an infant increases the risk of sleep-related death, including the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) .
Why do people share a bed with their baby?
Supporters of baby bed sharing believe, and there are some studies that support these beliefs, that bed sharing:
- favors breastfeeding by making nighttime breastfeeding more comfortable
- makes it easier for the mother to synchronize her sleep cycle with that of her baby
- helps babies fall asleep more easily, especially during the first few months and when they wake up in the middle of the night
- helps babies sleep longer at night (because they wake up more often when feedings are shorter)
- helps parents who are separated from their babies during the working day to regain closeness to their infants at night.
But do the risks of sharing a bed with your baby outweigh its benefits?
Despite its potential benefits, several US medical groups advise parents not to place infants in adult beds because of the serious risks to baby safety. Bed sharing exposes babies to the risk of suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS. Studies have found that bed sharing is the most common cause of death in babies, especially those less than three months old.
An adult bed is associated with many risks to the safety of a baby, including the following:
- Choking from a soft mattress, water, or loose or baggy bedding on pillows, sheets, blankets, or bedspreads
- getting trapped and suffocating by being trapped between the mattress and the head of the bed, wall, or other object
- strangling with the bed frame or box spring, which allows a part of the infant’s body to pass through while the head is trapped, or by the presence of loose springs
Among older infants (4 to 12 months) who have died from sharing a bed with their parents, having an added item (such as a pillow or blanket) in the bed increases the risk of death. Babies should always lie on their back (supported on their back) on a firm, stable mattress without any pillows, blankets, toys, stuffed animals, or other objects.
Aside from the potential risks related to the safety of the baby, the fact that parents share a bed with their baby can prevent them from resting and getting a good night’s sleep. Additionally, infants who sleep with their parents learn to relate sleeping to being near a parent and in their parent’s bed, which can become a problem at nap time or when the baby need to go to bed before your parents.