Some parents choose to bed share with their babies. This means that their baby shares the same bed with an adult for most of the night, and not just to be comforted or fed. Some parents also choose to sleep with their baby in other places.
Our co-sleeping advice
Babies should be slept in a clear sleep space, which is easy to create in a cot or Moses basket. We know however that families also bed share, and so recommend making your bed a safer place for baby whether you doze off accidentally, or choose to bed share. Our advice on co-sleeping with your baby will tell you how. For safer co-sleeping:
- Keep pillows, sheets, blankets away from your baby or any other items that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat. A high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding.
- Follow all of our other safer sleep advice to reduce the risk of SIDS such as sleeping baby on their back
- Avoid letting pets or other children in the bed
- Make sure baby won’t fall out of bed or get trapped between the mattress and the wall
When not to co-sleep
It is important for you to know that there are some circumstances in which co-sleeping with your baby can be very dangerous:
- Either you or your partner smokes (even if you do not smoke in the bedroom)
- Either you or your partner has drunk alcohol or taken drugs (including medications that may make you drowsy)
- You are extremely tired
- Your baby was born premature (before 37 weeks)
- Your baby was born at a low weight (2.5kg or 5½ lbs or less)
- Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby, this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times
You should never sleep together with your baby if any of the above points apply to you or your partner.
Co-sleeping with your baby: FAQs
I am worried I might fall asleep while I breastfeed my baby at night, is this ok?
Breastfeeding reduces the chance of SIDS, so we would always try and help you work out a way to continue breastfeeding in the safest way possible. If you feel you might fall asleep we would recommend you prepare the bed as described above so it is safer for baby if this happens. Make sure you know the advice on when never to bed share so you know when to take particular care. It is really important that you do not accidentally fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair. If you think you might fall asleep on a sofa or armchair, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep.
Should I co-sleep with my baby?
It is very much a personal choice so we would just advise you to read all the information on safer co-sleeping so you can make an informed decision. That way even if you decide not to co-sleep you can make your bed a safer place for your baby if you doze off accidentally.
There are some circumstances where we would strongly recommend against co-sleeping such as on a sofa or armchair, if anyone in the bed smokes or has drunk alcohol or the baby was premature or a low birth weight.
Is it safer to co-sleep using a nest or pod than with a baby just lying on the adult bed?
No. We do not recommend that babies sleep on soft surfaces such as pods or nests. If you choose to co-sleep with your baby the safest place is a clear space on a firm flat mattress the same as we would advise with a cot.
What bedding should I use for my baby when we co-sleep?
To avoid loose bedding a sleeping bag would be advisable. You can choose different togs for different seasons to help keep your baby at the right temperature. You can also select different sizes depending on the age of your baby. It is important that the sleeping bag fits well around the shoulders so that your baby’s head does not slip down into the bag.
The Lullaby Trust has worked with Public Heath England, Unicef UK Baby Friendly and Basis on two publications to support families with safer sleep advice and advice on co-sleeping more safely. We have also collaborated on a guide for health professionals to have more open and productive discussions with families about safer sleep and co-sleeping. These can be downloaded below.
You might also be interested in reading the two Unicef Baby Friendly publications, which are both endorsed by The Lullaby Trust:
- Unicef’s leaflet on Caring for Your Baby at Night
- Unicef’s guide Co-sleeping and SIDS: A Guide for Health Professionals