This week is Safer Sleep Week and I’d like to discuss co-sleeping, which can be a controversial topic. Lots of parents that I work with come to me because they co-sleep; whether unintentionally or intentionally - by choice or because they feel that they, and their children, won’t get any sleep otherwise.
So is co-sleeping safe and, if so, what are the safer ways to co-sleep?
The causes of SIDs are unknown, all that researchers know is that there are certain factors which can increase the risk of SIDS. One of these is co-sleeping. But why?
The key message from the Hampshire initiative ‘Every Sleep Counts’ is that there is an ‘association between co-sleeping and SIDS, whether the co-sleeping was intentional or unintentional and the place of sleep (sofa v bed).’ This is also present when alcohol and drugs are involved: ‘(there is an) association of co-sleeping and SIDS and parent/carer alcohol and drug use.’
As babies cannot regulate their own body temperature, co-sleeping can increase the risk of them over-heating. There is also increased risk of difficulty breathing by blankets and pillows becoming wrapped around them or parents rolling on top of them. In addition, the soporific effects of alcohol and some drugs on parent’s systems can make them less responsive to their babies.
‘Airbeds, sofa cushions, folded duvets or blankets, footstalls and pouffes are not safe for a baby to sleep on as they can move and are soft. Babies could fall or get wedged in a position that makes it hard for them to breath. A sofa is one of the most dangerous places to fall asleep with a baby and increases the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by up to 50 times. Babies could fall off the sofa, or become wedged at the back making it difficult for them to breath.’
The initiative insists that: ‘The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as parents/ carers for the first 6 months.’ (https://www.hampshirescp.org.uk/toolkits/every-sleep-counts-toolkit/every-sleep-counts-toolkit-landing-page/overview/)
The Lullaby Trust also discusses the possible effects of co-sleeping and has come up with some ways to partake in more safe co-sleeping methods (although they also recommend that babies sleep on their back in a cot or Moses Basket in the same room as parents/carers for the first 6 months). This includes removing all pillows and duvets, placing baby on their back and not leaving them alone; then the bed is safer for the baby if you do accidentally fall asleep. They also note that it is dangerous to co-sleep if: anyone in the bed has taken alcohol or drugs, smokes or if your baby was premature or born weighing less that 5.5lbs. In which case, they are safer sleeping on their backs in a separate cot or Moses Basket. (https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/co-sleeping/)
It’s important to plan for where your baby is going to sleep and to be aware of the risks of co-sleeping so that you can make an informed decision. However you decide to do it, you can start early steps to support your child’s natural ability to sleep and self soothe from Day 1 – why not invest in my ‘Dream a Little Dream’ package for only £100 to understand child sleep and how to get your child sleeping soundly, and safely, from the start. The package involves a series of goals to work towards and understand to avoid more formal sleep training (or sleep issues) later on. 😊