Co-Sleeping vs. Bed Sharing: Which is Safer for Your Baby?
While breastfeeding your baby at night, you may tend to feel sleepy and doze off.
This may have lead you to wonder whether co-sleeping is an option for you and your baby. Co-sleeping is a bit of a hot topic in parenting communities and many pediatricians warn of safety risks
However, there are many benefits to co-sleeping, too. It’s a great bonding experience for parents and their baby. It aids in restful sleep and makes it easier to comfort and feed baby during bedtime.
So, should you consider co-sleeping or bed sharing? What are the differences between the two?
We’ll discuss co-sleeping vs. bed sharing, the pros and cons, plus safety tips and myths to help you make the right decision for your family.
What Is Co-Sleeping?
According to the the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), co-sleeping is “sharing a room with your infant but lying on separate sleep surfaces. Bed-sharing is usually also called “co-sleeping”, however, “room sharing” is a more recognized term to describe co-sleeping arrangements.
Room sharing is when your baby sleeps in their own, separate and safe sleeping surface within your room. They could be sleeping in their play yard, crib, co-sleeper, or bassinet.
Co-sleeping is recommended by the AAP for the first six months of a baby’s life, but room-sharing with your baby can decrease the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS by 50%. If you haven’t heard of SIDS, it is the sudden unexplained death of an infant less than one year of age.
Co-Sleeping vs. Bed Sharing
You might be wondering, What are the main differences between co-sleeping and bed sharing?
You’re not alone. Co-sleeping is easily confused with bed sharing.
Bed sharing is when you baby sleeps in the same surface with you such as in a bed or couch.. Co-sleeping, on the other hand, means placing baby in the same room as you to sleep but in their own bed. As previously mentioned, it is co-sleeping that has the AAP’s seal of approval.
It might not seem to matter, but the “differences between these two sleeping arrangements can mean life or death for your baby”, says the Arnold Palmer Hospital.
The AAP recommends co-sleeping because it decreases the incidence of SIDS by half. However, bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS, suffocation injuries, and a parent potentially rolling over the baby during a heavy sleep.
Pros and Cons
If you have a newborn who is six months or younger, your baby should sleep on their back in a co-sleeper in the same room as you (as recommended by experts). This reduces the chances of SIDS aka cot death.
Many parents prefer bed sharing, though, because they’re baby is easier to reach during nighttime when they need to be fed or comforted. However there are advantages and disadvantages to bed sharing.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of co-sleeping vs. bed sharing to see which is right for you as parents and for your baby.
Besides decreasing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, co-sleeping has other advantages. For instance, it’s easier for you to respond to feeding cues and offer your baby a separate and safe sleeping area.
A disadvantage of bed sharing is that light sleepers may easily be woken by their baby. Hearing every tiny bit of sound or feeling all of their movements is much easier when you sleep right beside them. However, you may get used to this in time and you’ll be able to identify when your baby really requires your care and attention.
Bed sharing may seem cozier for baby as they will be held, sleeping in their mother’s or father’s arms. Some parents say it helps them sleep better.
Despite the benefits, you should consider whether these outweigh the risks. Plenty of babies succumb to SIDS yearly to suffocation from being placed next to their parents and sharing a sleeping surface.
Safety Tips for Co-Sleeping
The AAP is against bed sharing no matter what the situation. They advise that certain factors can increase the dangers of bed sharing, such as when an infant is younger that four months of age, a baby is born prematurely, or the parents are smokers, drinking alcohol, or taking prescription medication.
Both room sharing options carry certain safety risks. Take these safety precautions for co-sleeping and bed sharing to keep your baby as safe as possible.
- Always have your baby sleep on their back and never on their side or tummy.
- Keep your baby’s head uncovered during sleep.
- Use a firm mattress for your baby and avoid water beds or sleep surfaces made of lamb’s wool.
- Never use heavy quilts. Only tuck your baby into lightweight blankets.
- Your baby shouldn’t share adult bedding.
- Make sure the sleep environment is free from smoke.
Before we let you in on the verdict of the co-sleeping vs bed sharing debate, here are some co-sleeping myths that are making the rounds.
The following statements are simply untrue.
- Co-sleeping is dangerous 100% of the time.
- Bed-sharing is harmless if you’re a light sleeper.
- It will never happen to us.
It’s better to be safe than sorry and to maintain vigilance in ensuring the utmost safety of your baby. If given the choice, co-sleeping is the safer option. Co-sleeping statistics suggest that most of the sleep-related fatalities in babies can be due to bed-sharing. A 2014 study claims that 69% of infants were bed sharing at the time of their death.
What Is the Verdict?
If you aren’t convinced yet on the co-sleeping vs. bed sharing issue, majority of medical and sleep experts recommend co-sleeping in a separate sleep space over bed sharing.
Select a quality and comfortable co-sleeper to keep your baby safe and close beside your bed. More importantly, make sure that the co-sleeper your baby uses adheres to industry safety guidelines. To help you find the right one, check out our review of this year’s best co-sleepers.
Did you find this article helpful? Feel free to leave a comment down below! Share this with other parents who are considering co-sleeping.