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.
When you should not co-sleep
It is important for you to know that there are some circumstances in which sharing a bed with your baby can be very dangerous.
Bed sharing increases the chance of SIDS and is particularly dangerous if:
- 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 (37 weeks or less)
- Your baby was born at a low weight (2.5kg or 5½ lbs or less)
You should never sleep together with your baby if any of the above points apply to you.
You must be especially careful when giving feeds that you are not in a position where you could both fall asleep in the bed together.
Never sleep on a sofa or on an armchair with your baby
Sleeping on a sofa or armchair with your baby can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times. Find out more here.
If you choose to bed-share
Parents may still choose to bed-share with their baby. If this is your choice, it is important that you are informed about how to minimise the risks.
If you choose to share a bed with your baby:
- Ensure there are no pillows, sheets, blankets or any other items in the bed with you 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.
The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you.
Co-sleeping with your baby: FAQs
I am worried I might fall asleep in bed 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 because you are lying down, it might be worth trying to feed in a sitting position or step outside of bed to breastfeed. Make sure you know the advice on when never to bed share so you know when to take particular care. However, it is really important that you do not accidentally fall asleep with your baby on a sofa. If you think you might fall asleep, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep. If you are breastfeeding, have your partner stay up with you, breastfeed in a different position where you are confident you might not fall asleep, or feed the baby somewhere else.
My baby won’t settle in their cot and only sleeps well in our bed, help!
Unfortunately there is no easy fix to a baby’s sleeping habits – but keep persevering! Babies can get used to different sleeping places but it can take a while. Try moving their cot close to your bed so you can still put your hand on them if needed and they know you are close by.
Do I need to bed share to breastfeed successfully?
There is no evidence to say that you need to bed share to breastfeed. For night feeds it is easy to bring your baby into bed to feed or settle, but they are safest then going back into their cot to sleep.
Do you advise against bed sharing?
We do not tell parents to never bed share. However, as a charity committed to reducing the number of babies dying from SIDS, we try to give parents the best advice we can, so they know
the things they should never do, and what are the safest ways to look after their baby so they can make informed choices. The Lullaby Trust and the NHS, and many professional and parenting
organisations all agree that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own cot or Moses basket in their parents’ bedroom until they are at least six months old.
Unicef baby friendly publications
The Lullaby Trust has worked with Unicef in the wording of two publications to support families and health professionals with the challenge of addressing co-sleeping, given the association with SIDS.
You might be interested in reading the two Unicef Baby Friendly publications, which are both endorsed by The Lullaby Trust: