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Co-Sleep with an Infant

Many parents like the idea of co-sleeping – keeping their babies lying by their sides through the night. It may offer a comforting closeness. And, moms may feel it makes breast-feeding more convenient. However, some child experts believe co-sleeping has more risks than benefits. For that reason, be sure to talk with your child's doctor about it.

The risks of co-sleeping

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is one of the groups that warn of the dangers for babies sharing beds with adults compared to infants who sleep in cribs. This includes the higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The AAP and other experts point out that:

  • Babies may fall into or get trapped in a space between the bed and the wall.
  • Adults may roll on top of the infant.
  • Babies could suffocate in covers or soft bedding.
  • In fact, a study in the AAP's journal Pediatrics found that babies sleeping in adult beds were nearly 40 times more likely to suffocate than those who slept in cribs. One reason cited by the study is that cribs must meet safety standards created specifically for infants. The sides of a crib must be of a certain height. Slats can be only so far apart. And, the mattress must fit tightly.
  • Co-sleeping is risky. But, it may be especially so for some people. The risk of SIDS is higher for babies who co-sleep with people who smoke, for example. And, drinking or using certain medicines may keep people from waking up if they roll over onto their babies. Also:
    • Don't let other children sleep with an infant.
    • Remove pillows, comforters and other soft items from the baby's sleeping area.

Seeking safer slumber

For those who want to keep their babies close at night – without the risks of co-sleeping – there are other options. You can put the bassinet or crib next to your bed, for example. You may also consider a product called a co-sleeper, which attaches to the side of an adult bed. Then, the baby is near you but has his or her own sleeping space.

Source: Healthy Mind Healthy Body®, Michael Rosen, M.D., July 2010.

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