The Family Bed – Part 4: Making the “Right” Choice

We’ve discussed the risk factors for co-sleeping, have explained SIDS and SUID, and now it’s time to make a choice. But what is the “right” choice?

We all want to do what is best for our children. As parents, this protective nature begins before the baby is born.

As a mother who co-slept with both of my babies, for different lengths of time, I advocate the concept of The Family Bed. For me, it provided a safe, comfortable haven for both my children and myself throughout their fragile first year of life. My daughter slept in our bed until four months of age. We then moved her into her crib in our room. My son slept with us off and on during the first year of life, and, as his nature is more dependent, he still comes into our bed from time to time, at the age of five.

The decision to co-sleep is a personal one. As with most parenting decisions, relying on your inner voice to tell you what to do is often a good indication of what you should do. If you feel safe and comfortable co-sleeping, it can be a wonderful experience. It can aid in easing the exhausting that comes with pulling your baby out of bed to breastfeed several times a night, and can give you peace of mind as you hear each breath your baby takes. On the other hand, if the thought of co-sleeping terrifies you even before you’ve begun, if you drink frequently or smoke, if you are sick and taking medicine, or if you have a waterbed, then co-sleeping is likely not for you.

Here are some tips on how to co-sleep safely for those of you who decide to do so:

1.Only place your baby on his/her back to sleep. Never place the baby on his/her side or stomach as the risk of SIDS increases.
2.Do not overheat your home or your baby. Dress them comfortably as you would dress yourself and keep your house around 72 degrees.
3.Avoid blankets, stuffed animals, or loose comforters in your baby’s sleep area. They pose a danger for suffocation.
4.Avoid situations where your baby can get trapped between the bed and the wall, causing suffocation.
5.Do not co-sleep if you’ve drunk alcohol, done drugs, are an unusually heavy sleeper, or smoke. Doing so increases the risk for both SIDS and SUID.
6.Avoid co-sleeping if you have a waterbed.

Note that if you choose not to co-sleep the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a close-proximate sleeping arrangement for your baby throughout the first year. This would include a crib placed in your bedroom.

Hopefully this series has given you the information you need to make an informed decision regarding this very personal topic. Contact your doctor with additional questions and concerns.