Following on from my post about the benefits, I thought it was best to make a post about how to safely practice co-sleeping with your baby. Although co-sleeping is defined as sharing sleeping-space with your child, in this article the words ‘co-sleeping’ will refer to sharing a bed with them.
How to Make Your Bed Safe
Now, this is dependant on how you intend to co-sleep with your babe. A lot of parents choose to ‘side-car’ a cot to the side of the bed (taking one side of the cot down, so it’s like a bed extension), therefore creating a separate sleeping space for their baby but still having them in the bed. For the purposes of this list, I will be just talking about making your bed safe for your baby and this goes for whether they are going to be side-carred in a cot, or actually in the bed with you.
- Duvets and pillows are not suitable for young infants. A thick duvet or pillow can easily slide onto and suffocate a little baby, or cause them to overheat. It is best to stick to just wearing thick pyjamas and socks, or even sleeping in a sleeping-bag to keep your legs warm. If you are going to put a blanket over baby, make sure it is tucked in securely and cannot rise over their face during the night. Remember, though, that baby will be warmer snuggled up with you, so extra layers of blanket and clothing won’t be necessary unless it’s a very chilly night.
- If your baby is going straight into the family bed with you, it is best to have them between you and the wall (or a bed rail, whichever you prefer) rather than in between mum and dad, as fathers usually don’t have the same awareness of tiny babies at night time. However, as baby grows, it’s hard not to have awareness of them when you end up with their adorable little feet in your face!
- Make sure there are no gaps into which your baby could slide into during the night. If you are side-carring, it’s worth having a sheet tucked into the far side of their cot, stretching all the way across to daddy’s side of the bed, to eliminate any chance of them slipping into the gap. If you have your bed pushed up to the wall or are using a rail, make sure the mattress is very, very tight to the edge. If you have any doubts about any tiny gap there may be, roll up a sheet to wad it with. Check the gaps between the mattress and the headboard/footboard, too.
- Make sure your mattress is firm and on a sturdy base. A lot of co-sleeping families choose to abandon the bed-base altogether and just put the mattress on the floor. This certainly makes life easier when baby gets a little more mobile!
When You Shouldn’t Co-Sleep
There are a few situations in which bed-sharing with your baby isn’t the best choice. However, you can still enjoy the closeness of sharing a sleeping space with your baby by having them next to your bed in a moses basket, crib or cot, so don’t be disheartened if you fit into one of these categories.
- If you are on medication that makes you drowsy
- If you smoke (regardless of whether or not you smoke in the bedroom)
- If you are very overweight (the idea of this one is that if you make a significant dent in the mattress as you lie on it, your baby could roll into it and therefore onto their face. This one should be judged as you see fit, and even if you are overweight, you may find a firm mattress placed directly on the floor is plenty supportive enough anyway)
- If you have been drinking or taking drugs
All in all, co-sleeping is a very safe option for you and your baby, provided that you are conscientious about it. Assess your own situation for what it is, and make an informed decision using the facts at hand. There are plenty of wonderful books available on the subject, so a trip to the library may not be a bad idea!