Disclaimer: Unsafe co-sleeping can kill your baby. The author(s) of this article are not responsible for your child's safety: applying these guidelines properly and appropriately for your unique situation, and ensuring your baby's safety is your own responsibility (full disclaimer).
You've probably heard the warnings about not taking baby into the
because of the risk of SIDS. It's true that babies have died in the
family bed, though experts like Dr. McKenna say that those do not occur more than in the own crib. And, in most cases, the
co-sleeping was done in unsafe conditions.
I recommend you read the article Co-Sleeping, Room-Sharing, and Bed-Sharing on Kidshealth.org. It gives an excellent overview and recommends 'crib in room' or 'a safe sidecar crib cosleeper arrangement' as safe cosleeping options.
I know that regardless of which side of the experts are correct, there will be times and situations when babies are taken into the family bed. UNICEF data tell us that by the age of 3 months old, about half of all babies will have slept in their parents' bed, whether intended or not. We must make sure that IF that happens for you, it happens in the utmost awareness and with the best safety guidelines very carefully followed through.
So, whenever you take your baby in bed with you - even if it's just for a little while - or you know you might end up falling asleep: make sure it's 100% safe for your baby! If you're unsure about safety, don't co-sleep. Also, never doze off with your baby on the sofa or couch or similar, that is always unsafe.
These safety guidelines are in line with what's advised by the AAP and UNICEF.
with a healthy child: a baby who has any issue, whether it
is motor skills, breathing problems, digestion problems, is premature
or light-weight, etc. may not
react promptly enough when in trouble.
apply: baby sleeps on a firm surface (please be aware that most adult mattresses are not firm enough to meet the standards for safe baby mattresses so only allow you baby in your bed if your mattress is baby-mattress firm), 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.
Prefer a standalone crib in your room, or a (safe!) sidecar cosleeper crib attached to your bed, over in-bed cosleeping for increased safety.
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.
Ideally baby sleeps between
mom's side and a wall or
rail/bumper that prevents her from falling out. Especially
breastfeeding, as a mom you instinctively react better to the
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, that is tightly tucked in at your feet so it cannot come loose and move upward in bed.
do not co sleep when you or your partner smoke - that includes smoking
outside of the house. Smoking
and SIDS are too closely related.
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.
you are overtired or exhausted (more on that below!)
you are ill
you drink alcohol in the hours before bedtime. Not even a
you use drugs, ever
you are taking medicine. That includes those perceived as 'harmless'
painkillers like paracetamol
Important! I'd like to repeat one of these guidelines: do not cosleep
when you're overtired.
The thing is of course that 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
But unfortunately exactly when you are exhausted, you're less likely to wake up when
your baby is in trouble. So be extra careful then and use the techniques on this website to help overcome both your and your baby's over-tiredness before considering cosleeping again.
Remember: consider a cosleeper
bedside crib as the excellent safe cosleeping solution: you
practically cosleep but your baby is safely in her own crib next to
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 Medicine16 (6): 589–610.