How To Practice Safe Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

You may be putting your baby to sleep alone in the crib at night.

Then when your baby cries, you drag yourself out of bed, pick up your baby, sit down to nurse, put her back in the crib, and return to bed while hoping for a full night’s sleep.

It’s natural for babies to frequently wake up in the middle of the night.

Whether they’re hungry or want to be close to their mothers, this behavior has caused many families to consider sharing a bed and co-sleeping. This is especially true for breastfeeding mothers.

Although, co-sleeping may have its benefits it can be a safety risk, too. If you’re thinking of co-sleeping with your breastfed baby, learn more about general safety guidelines to ensure a safe sleeping space

Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

What is co-sleeping? Co-sleeping is when a mother and/or her partner sleep on the same cot as the baby.

Breastfeeding mothers frequently practice bed-sharing for all or part of the night. In fact, “80% of babies spent some time co-sleeping in the first 6 months of life”.

Smart bedsharing works well because breastfeeding during the night becomes easier when you bring your baby into the bed with you. Mothers are also able to get more sleep.

The Advantages of Co-Sleeping

Besides convenience and giving mothers and their babies a more restful night, there are plenty of other advantages to co-sleeping.

Sleep cycles align. The temperature, stress levels, and heart rates of babies are more stable when they’re close to their mothers. They also won’t  have to cry for their mother’s attention. Mothers, on the other hand, also feel less stress when their babies are nearby. She just lets the baby latch on and can go back to sleep.

According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, breastfeeding helps protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden and unexpected passing of a baby under a year of age. Most of the time, it occurs during sleep and the cause of the condition remains unexplained. With the baby in close proximity of the mother, she is able to closely observe her baby.

Breastfeeding also minimizes the risk of SIDs by giving babies important immune factors, like antibodies and white blood cells, which help protect them.

Mothers who co-sleep and breastfeed their babies usually breastfeed exclusively longer than those who don’t. Breastfeeding during nighttime helps maintain your milk supply.

Let’s not forget another advantage of co-sleeping: waking up next to a cute, smiling baby!

Co-Sleeping Safety

However, what are the potential risks of infants sleeping with their parents?

Make sure your baby is not overheating by keeping them lightly dressed. Avoid heavy bedding and swaddling.

Accidental injuries are also more likely. Some possible accidents include being wedged against a parent’s body, falling off the sleep surface, or suffocation by a pillow, blanket, or other item on the bed.

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Can I Co-Sleep with My Baby?

Studies say that there are certain factors that increase the risks of bed-sharing with your infant.

The ISIS Infant Sleep Information Source website says:

“The most recent studies have shown that most bed-sharing deaths happen when an adult sleeping with a baby has been smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs (illegal or over-the-counter medicines) that make them sleep deeply.

Sometimes people fall asleep with their babies accidentally or without meaning to. This can be very dangerous, especially if it happens on a couch/sofa where a baby can get wedged or trapped between the adult and the cushions.”

Check out which of the criteria you meet below to ensure safe co-sleeping:

  • You are a non-smoker.
  • You are sober.
  • You are breastfeeding.
  • Your baby is healthy and full-term.
  • You let the baby sleep on their back when not breastfeeding.
  • The baby is lightly clothed and unswaddled.

James J. McKenna, Ph.D., a world-recognized specialist in infant sleep, talks about some of the other risk factors:

“These include an infant being placed prone (on its stomach) and placed in an adult bed without supervision, or no breastfeeding, or other children in the bed, or infants being placed in an adult bed on top of a pillow…”

10 Sleep Safety Tips

Here are 10 ways baby can sleep safely and steer clear of any SIDs risk.

  • Keep your baby’s head and face free from obstruction.
  • Have your baby sleep on the back.
  • Avoid smoke-filled areas and smoking before birth.
  • Sleep with your baby on the same surface or nearby in the same room.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • Check for gaps on the cot that the baby might get trapped in.
  • Ensure their sleep area is safe and that they won’t fall off.
  • Let others know that your baby is sleeping on the bed.
  • Keep other children sleeping on the same bed at a distance from your baby.
  • Use a guard rail.

Take note: Have baby sleep on a firm surface. Pillows, sheepskin, beanbags, or other soft surfaces are not recommended.

Does Night Nursing Cause Ear Infections?

You’ve probably heard somewhere that breastfeeding your baby while lying down makes them prone to ear infections. Don’t worry, though, as research show that this is simply untrue.

Lying down is a common position for babies when feeding, whether you’re co-sleeping and breastfeeding or not.

Co-Sleepers, and More!

Whenever breastfeeding while lying down, use a cardigan that opens in the front. Your arms will stay warm and your baby’s head will be comfortable.

As the breastfeeding mother, you should stay close to your baby. Older children or siblings should keep from sleeping in the same bed as babies under a year of age.

If you are an extremely deep sleeper (or your partner is), it may be difficult for both of you to realize how close your baby is. As people tend to move during sleep, a separate sleep surface might be safer for baby. Consider having your infant sleep nearby in the same room or in a co-sleeper, instead.

Make sure you use a quality cot designed for bed-sharing and breastfeeding to always keep your baby safe and nearby. Check out our complete review of how to choose the best co-sleeper.

Did you find this article helpful? Comment down below and share with other co-sleeping and breastfeeding parents to keep baby healthy and safe.

Sarah Morgan

Chief editor of and striving mom-extraordinaire.Let me share and inspire you with my daily struggles to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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