Precautions for Sharing a Bed With an Infant

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Precautions for Sharing a Bed With an Infant

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Bedsharing (also called co-sleeping or the family bed) is common in many cultures. This arrangement can make breast-feeding easier and can help the mother rest. But there is controversy about whether bed sharing decreases or increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Other safety issues, such as accidental entrapment or suffocation, may be more likely to occur in an adult bed.

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) recommends that you do not sleep with your baby in the same bed for the first year.1 The CPS states that the best place for a baby to sleep until at least 6 months of age is in a crib (or bassinet or cradle) that is placed in the parents' room, close to their bed. (Baby beds that attach to the side of the parents' bed have not yet been tested enough to have set safety standards.)

If you decide to share a bed with your baby, the following suggestions may help make it safer:

  • Do not sleep with your baby if you smoke. Smoke clings to skin and clothing, exposing your baby to even more potentially harmful substances.
  • Make sure the mattress is firm. Unlike cribs, adult mattresses are not designed with a baby's safety in mind. Never use a water bed or any other sleeping surface that is not firm and smooth. Do not sleep with a baby on a sofa or chair.
  • Keep the baby on his or her back.
  • Do not drink alcohol, use medicines that make you sleep very soundly (sedatives), or use illegal drugs before sharing a bed with a baby.
  • Do not allow comforters, pillows, or other soft bedding under the baby or near the baby's face.
  • Do not place the bed next to a wall or other furniture, where a baby could slip between the mattress and the wall (or furniture) and become trapped. Make sure the mattress fits snugly against the headboard or the wall at the head of the bed, with no room for the baby to become trapped between the mattress and anything else.
  • Prevent the baby from falling from the bed by placing the baby between two adults or by using some firm barrier that fits snugly to the bedside (such as a bed rail approved for this purpose). Avoid any barrier that could allow the baby's face to become wedged in a corner without air circulating around it. Do not use pillows as barriers to prevent the baby from falling from the bed.
  • Do not allow anyone other than parents (no other adults or children, including siblings) to sleep with the baby.

Do not ever sleep with your baby on a couch or armchair. These areas are particularly dangerous for babies.

References

Citations

  1. Community Paediatrics Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society (2004, reaffirmed 2010). Recommendations for safe sleeping environments for infants and children. Paediatrics and Child Health, 9(9): 659–663. Also available online: http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/cp/cp04-02.htm.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised October 18, 2010

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