Almost every parent has heard the warnings about co sleeping with your baby. Numerous reports have been released since the 90’s that link co sleeping with suffocation and SIDS. At the same time, there are other reports that claim that co sleeping is actually beneficial. Either way, 70% of parents are still co sleeping with their baby at least part of the night. There really has not been any concrete evidence that co sleeping is either completely dangerous or beneficial, but if you are part of the 70% who co sleep, there are precautions you can take to ensure the utmost safety.
Baby-Proof Your Bed
Just like the rest of your home, the bed must be absolutely safe for your baby before you even consider co sleeping. Look at the size of your tiny baby and determine what potential risks your bed could have. The height alone is a huge danger since even the tiniest babies could squirm their way off. If you are considering co sleeping as a long term arrangement, you may want to consider using a mattress on the floor. If that’s not an option, there are mesh guardrails available that you can attach to the side of the bed. These keep the baby from falling but do not pose a suffocation risk.
Other potential dangers to look out for are any spaces where your baby could get stuck. This may be between the mattress and frame or between the bed and the wall. Take extra precautions to make sure that these are completely blocked so that your baby does not roll into one of them and become trapped. It’s also always a good idea to remove pillows from the bed, and even blankets if possible. One of the major steps to reducing the risk of SIDS is to remove everything from the baby’s crib and swaddle him instead of using loose blankets; the same applies to co sleeping in an adult bed. Adjust temperature settings in the home and dress appropriately to allow for this.
Also make sure that your sheets (particularly the fitted one) are nice and tight. You don’t want the sheets to come loose and end up around baby’s face. A scary but sadly true fact is that a baby can suffocate in 3-5 minutes without even realizing that it’s happening. It also does not take more than a blanket covering a baby’s face to cause suffocation.
Now that you’ve completely baby-proofed your bed, it’s time to do the same to yourself. There are several things you wear on a regular basis that could pose a danger for your baby. Some things may sound ridiculous, but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?
Be sure that nothing you wear has long, loose strings or ribbons. It’s also a good idea not to wear any jewelry to bed. Things could end up wrapped around baby, in his mouth if he wakes up before you, or you could scratch or hurt him accidentally. If you have long hair, pull it back to keep it out of your baby’s face. Also avoid using anything with strong scents as these can really irritate a baby’s fragile senses.
Never, ever co sleep with baby if you have been drinking, are on a new medication, or have taken anything else that could impair your senses. Nothing would be worse than hurting your baby and having absolutely no recollection of having done it. Since we’re talking about you, you should also make sure that you are comfortable and sleeping well with baby in your bed. If you find that you aren’t getting any sleep, then it’s not doing either of you any good. Consider putting baby in his own bed on at least a couple of nights each week.
While co sleeping is considered a family affair, the safest place for baby is between mommy and the guardrail. Anyone else sleeping in the bed, even daddy, does not have the same instincts as mommy does. As soon as you bring that new baby home, mother’s become the lightest sleepers you will ever see. It doesn’t take crying to wake the baby’s mother; usually a sigh or a cough is plenty to rouse her from even the deepest sleep. Somehow, mothers are also more aware of the fact that their baby is next to them, even in sleep. While we have no control over what we do or how me move while we are asleep, mothers seem to be aware of their baby’s presence no matter how deeply they are sleeping.
While this is all true of most mothers, it does not apply to all. There are also times when you are so exhausted that you fall into a sound sleep and all awareness escapes you. If you are extremely tired or are someone who sleeps very soundly, it would be best to keep your baby in his own bed; for his safety. The last thing you want to do is roll over onto your baby in the middle of the night.
Consider Some Alternatives
If you want your baby right next to you, but are a little unsure about co sleeping, you can consider other alternatives that are available. There are plenty of ways to be able to check on your baby throughout the night without having to get up if having your baby in your bed is not something you are comfortable with.
A bassinet or other bed right next to yours allows you to have your baby right next to you whilst remaining in the safety of his own bed. This way, you can see him as soon as you hear him awake, and it makes it easy for you to pick him up to feed him. Many of these are adjustable so that you can make them align with the height of your bed if you wish. Others have mesh sides so that you can see your baby easily.
Nowadays there is also the “Co-Sleeper” by Arm’s Reach. This is a 3-sided alternative to a bassinet that fits right up alongside your bed. Baby is safe because he can’t roll out of it, and he is sleeping right next to you without actually being in your bed.