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Co-Sleeping Safety Guidelines

Unsafe co-sleeping can kill your baby. But if you follow these safety guidelines, cosleeping can be a safe and lovely baby sleeping experience with great benefits.


You have probably heard the warnings about not taking baby into the family bed, because of the risk of SIDS. It is true that babies have died in the family bed, but no more than in the own crib. And, in most cases, the co-sleeping was done in unsafe conditions.

So whenever you take your baby in bed with you - even if it is just for a little while - please make sure it is safe for her!

On the other hand, research by Dr. McKenna (actual laboratory sleep studies of cosleeping![1]) shows that being near your baby when she sleeps, lets you respond much better to each other. This means you will feel when something is wrong, and your baby can warn you when necessary.

Top tip! Dr. James J. McKenna's book, Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Cosleeping, combines well researched facts with every day practical advice to help you make co-sleeping a wonderful and safe experience.

Co-Sleeping Safety Guidelines

  • Only cosleep with a healthy child: a baby who has any issue, whether it is motor skills, breathing problems, digestion problems, is premature or light-weight, ... may not react promptly enough when in trouble.
  • Standard crib safety guidelines apply: baby sleeps on a firm surface, without anything around her (no toys, cuddly animals, blankies, ...). Make sure she is never too hot and there is no smoking near her or the bedroom, ever. 
  • Make sure baby is safe in your bed: there is no crevice, wedge or other part of the bed where your baby could get stuck in or between. Don't cosleep in a water bed or on a very soft mattress baby sinks in.  Co-Sleeping Safety
  • Ideally baby sleeps between mom's side and a wall or bed rail/bumper that prevents her from falling out. Especially when breastfeeding, as a mom you instinctively react better to the baby.
  • Baby's head is waaaay above your covers. Prefer to wear a warm top for yourself, and a wearable blanket for your baby. Then you only need a blanket or duvet from your waist down.
  • NO smoking: do not co sleep when you or your partner smoke - that includes smoking outside of the house. Smoking and SIDS are too closely related.
  • Do NOT cosleep when
    • you are overtired or exhausted
    • you are ill
    • you drink alcohol in the hours before bedtime. Not even a small glass
    • you use drugs, ever
    • you are taking medicine. That includes 'harmless' painkillers
  • Never sleep with your baby anywhere else than in your safe bed. Sofa's or couches are not safe - it is too easy for baby to slide off, or get stuck in a crevice or gap, or get smothered.
I would like to repeat one of these guidelines  : do not cosleep when you are overtired.

This is exactly when so many parents start cosleeping, or end up cosleeping as I say. When you're so tired and desperate to get at least some sleep. But when you are exhausted, you are less likely to wake up when your baby is in trouble. So be extra careful then.

cosleeper bedside crib is a great safe cosleeping solution: you practically cosleep but your baby is safely in her own crib next to you.

[1] Parent-infant cosleeping: the appropriate context for the study of infant sleep and implications for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) research Sarah Mosko, James Mckenna, Lynn Hunt 2004 Journal of Behavioral Medicine 16 (6): 589–610