AS A NEW PARENT, it's tempting to bring the baby into your bed with you to sleep, but it's really not a good idea. While some pediatricians feel that co-sleeping may help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, the risks of putting an infant in a bed that was designed with adult comfort in mind are simply too high.
Cushiony mattresses, pillow-tops and extra-soft pillows are all items that should be kept far away from infants as these soft items can obstruct their breathing since newborns are incapable of rolling over or lifting their heads. Top sheets, blankets and throws should also be avoided.
You may rationalize that you'll be right there watching over baby as he or she sleeps, but the truth is – sooner or later, you're going to fall asleep too. And once you're down for the count, who's watching baby?
Arguments Against Co-Sleeping
Placing your child in a well-designed crib or bassinet while you both sleep is a much safer option. These beds have been constructed to meet numerous safety standards targeted directly to infants. If you feel the need to listen to baby breathe throughout the night, pull the crib close your own bed or invest in a baby monitor that alerts you if breathing stops.
Another sound argument against co-sleeping deals with your own comfort. Newborns require constant care, and if you're busy trying to watch over yours even in your sleep, you're going to wear yourself out in a hurry. A restful night's sleep beats the alternative of nodding off while driving, cooking or caring for your baby.
When You Don't Have Access to a Crib
Cribs can be pricey, it's true. But this is one piece of furniture that you probably don't want to purchase second-hand. Manufacturers recall baby furniture regularly, often to tweak the design after a child becomes compromised or injured. Unless you're the original owner who registered the item, you're not going to get the recall notice. If you are tempted to purchase a used crib or bassinet at a yard sale or second-hand store, be sure to research it online first by visiting recalls.gov.
Even if there's no crib available to you and your infant, you have another option that's much safer than co-sleeping: Purchase a separate co-sleeping unit that either attaches to your bed or that's designed as an individual unit that's placed directly in your bed. These have been manufactured with firm padding and allow for limited movement -- both factors that help keep baby safe. Co-sleepers can be purchased for as little as $40.
Rules for Co-Sleeping With Infants
If you feel you absolutely must sleep with your infant in the same bed with you, it's imperative to follow certain rules for co-sleeping with baby:
- Make sure both you and your spouse are aware that the baby is present.
- Never take medication before bed that could make you too sleepy to be aware of the baby.
- Invest in a firm mattress.
- Never allow pillows, stuffed animals or heavy blankets near the baby.
- After baby feeds, place him or her on his back to sleep.
- Never sleep with long ties, cords or cables in the bed. This includes phone chargers, long necklaces, pull toys with strings attached and even extremely long hair. Baby could become entangled and choke.
As a new parent, you'll have plenty of time to bond with your infant. But when it's time to rest, make sure you both get the hours you need by placing baby safely in a bed designed specifically for infants.