When my baby and I were sent home from the hospital my very wise midwife shared a few safety tips in case I decided to co-sleep with my newborn. It was something I never imagined doing. As a Nurse I had been taught the ABCs of safe sleep. Alone. On their back. In the crib. A few weeks into being a new mom, I found myself staying up all night holding my baby. He was ‘colicky’ and would only sleep if I held him upright. One night I woke suddenly, as I felt him starting to slip out of my arms. Thankfully I woke up before anything bad happened. After this scare, I knew it would be safer for us to co-sleep.
Co-sleeping is something that a lot of families never intend to do. It’s something that ends up happening for many exhausted new parents in an effort to get just a little more rest. According to a Canadian Community Health Survey in 2015 over 60% of parents reported co-sleeping at some time.
Steps you can take to Reduce the Risks of Co-sleeping
- Don’t smoke inside or outside. Infants exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of SIDS. Even the smell of smoke on your clothes can be irritating for your baby’s airway.
- Don’t consume drugs or alcohol. You should also avoid any sedating medications.
- Don’t allow pets or older children into the bed. If you are co-sleeping with another child as well, consider putting your baby in a bedside bassinet.
- Do prepare a Safe Surface
A firm mattress that is on the floor or on a low bed frame is safest. No adult mattresses are designed or tested to be safe for infant sleep. The firmer the mattress the better. Avoid falling asleep with your baby in a recliner, a rocking chair or on the couch. Remove any extra blankets and pillows from the bed.
- Do place your baby on their back to sleep.
- Do Breastfeed. Research indicates that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS.
- Do pack any gaps between the mattress and the headboard or wall with rolled blankets to avoid entrapment risks.
- Do tie long hair back. Remove cords or anything dangling from the sleep area as well.
- Don’t swaddle your baby. Your baby will be warmer sleeping next to you, avoid overdressing them. We also want baby to be able to easily wake you up by freely moving their arms and legs.
- Don’t pull blankets up past your waist. Dress warmly so you will be comfortable. A button up flannel top works well in the cooler months. It’s safest to sleep with no blankets but if you do use a blanket, it should be made of a light and breathable material. Avoid having heavy comforters or duvets in the bed.
- Do sleep in the cuddle curl position. This is a protective position that helps keep you from rolling onto your baby, and keeps your baby away from your blankets and pillows.
Sleep is very personal and if co-sleeping is what feels right for your family then it’s not a problem. Many mothers find that they do get more rest this way and that it helps support extended breastfeeding.
If you are ready to stop co-sleeping and are looking for support to make changes, Reach out to your local Mama Coach.