14 Co-Sleeping Safety Tips
While the AAP recommends families avoid sleeping with their babies due to the increased risk of SIDS, many find that co-sleeping is something that benefits their family. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind to make the experience safe for your baby.
1. Never put a baby in an adult bed alone.
“Even very young babies can squiggle up out of the position you’ve originally left them in and can either wedge themselves into a dangerous area of the bed or can roll off the side of the bed and fall onto the floor,” says Jill Spivack, co-founder of Sleepy Planet and co-author of The Sleepeasy Solution. “Leaving babies unattended on any high surface (including changing tables) is always dangerous.”
2. Put babies on firm, clean surfaces, under a light blanket.
“Soft surfaces have been linked to infant deaths, occurring in parent’s beds, couches, or crib mattresses that are not firm,” says Spivack. She recommends that children not have any blankets on them while sleeping—unless safety
swaddled—but use a
sleep sack or warm pajama that’s safety designed to keep babies warm without the potential hazard of their heads being covered.
3. Never cover a baby's head.
Be careful with small blankets, swaddle blankets, etc., says Spivack. “If your child is Houdini and can work his way out of a swaddle blanket, it can become very hazardous for him in terms of the blanket covering his face and limiting his ability to breathe,” she says.
4. Avoid waterbeds.
Because they are soft and not a firm surface, a waterbed poses suffocation risks. If you have a waterbed and want your baby next to you, consider putting a bassinet beside your bed.
5. Never place a baby on top of a pillow.
“Babies can easily roll off of a pillow, and the pillow—which is a soft surface—can cover or rest next to a baby’s face, obstructing his ability to breathe,” says Spivack. “This can create SIDS or suffocation risk.”
6. Avoid sheepskins or other fluffy material.
Blankets made of sheepskin and other fluffy material pose suffocation risks to your baby. Opt for lighter cotton blankets when needed.
7. Do not place stuffed animals or pillows around the baby.
“Be very careful to remove all soft objects from your bed if you decide to co-sleep,” says Spivack. Items like pillows, heavy blankets, sheepskins, comforters, stuffed animals, or quilts can put your baby at risk for his nose and mouth becoming completely covered by bedding, and put your child in great danger of infant death by suffocation or SIDS.
8. Make sure the mattress pushes up tightly against the bed frame.
“A snugly fitting mattress will fit into the bed frame and will prevent your baby from becoming entrapped between the frame and the mattress,” says Spivack.
9. Avoid couches.
Don’t put infants to sleep on a couch, with or without adults, as they can slip down (face first) into the crevice, or get wedged against the back.
10. Check spacing between the bed and walls.
Make sure there’s no space between the bed and adjoining wall where Baby can roll and become trapped. Also make sure mattress and bedding are tight fitting to the headboard.
11. Do not put a baby on his stomach to sleep.
Research has proven that placing Baby on his back to sleep greatly reduces the risk of SIDS. “Although there are many theories to why, the Back to Sleep campaign of 1992 has decreased the number of SIDS cases by 50 percent,” says Spivack. “A major theory around avoiding stomach sleep has to do with an infant ‘rebreathing’ his own exhaled air if a mattress or other soft object is right next to or below him.” Spivack explains that when the area around his face traps exhaled air, the baby is increasing his intake of carbon dioxide and reducing his oxygen level in his body. The lack of oxygen is hypothesized to contribute to SIDS. “If you are breastfeeding, make sure your baby is on her back when you complete the feeding,” she adds.
12. Don't put infants a year or less to bed with other children.
Putting a baby in bed with another child has been shown to be one of the most highly dangerous ways for a baby to sleep, says Spivack. “Siblings can easily roll on top of the baby or push against the baby because they are not conscious of Baby’s presence while sleeping,” she says. “Baby can easily suffocate in this situation.” Sleeping with a sibling is strongly unadvisable—even if Mom is nearby.
13. Avoid co-sleeping if you're on sedatives, medications, drugs, or have been drinking.
Parents who are on medication, drugs, or alcohol have a more difficult time with Baby’s presence in bed. “This can lead to rolling on top of Baby or allowing Baby to slip off the side of the bed or to become wedged between parents,” Spivack says.
14. Excessively long hair should be tied up.
Spivack suggests using a secure rubber band to put long hair up before going to bed with Baby. This will prevent Mom’s hair (or Dad’s) from covering Baby’s face or wrapping around his head or neck.
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