As you already know from one of the previous articles, we prefer co-sleeping with our daughters. Besides easier breastfeeding and wonderful cuddling times, we all enjoy better sleep. (You can read more about benefits of co-sleeping here.)
Co-sleeping is not for everyone. This article is for parents who have already decided to try the humankind’s oldest and most successful sleeping arrangement. Before you start bed-sharing with your baby, please read these basic safety rules.
Regardless of whether an infant sleeps on the same surface as his or her parents, in a bassinet, in a separate crib, in the same room as their parents or in a separate room, all infants should follow these same guidelines: infants should always sleep on their back, on firm and clean surfaces, in the absence of (secondhand) smoke, under light (comfortable) blanket and their head should never be covered.
SAFETY RULES FOR CO-SLEEPING
When co-sleeping, both parents should agree and feel comfortable with this decision.
1) No drugs, alcohol or medications
Alcohol, drugs and medications diminish your sensitivity to your baby’s presence and can cause that you won’t be able to arouse easily from sleep. Therefore avoid of co-sleeping on the same surface with the infant if you are under their influence.
2) Prefer mother’s side
Especially at the beginning of co-sleeping prefer placing your baby adjacent to the mother. Nature gave mothers one great gift – lighter sleep, that makes it easier for a mother and an infant to detect and respond to the presence of one another. We are very sensitive to our baby’s presence, and therefore it’s extremely unlikely (in normal conditions – no drugs, alcohol, medications, obesity, etc.) that we would roll over onto our babies. Therefore it is recommended to place baby on your side rather than between mother and father. After a few months of bed-sharing, most dads seem to develop a keen awareness of their baby’s presence.
Infants a year old or less should not sleep with other/older child siblings – but always with a person who can take responsibility for the infant being in bed.
3) Safe bed and its surroundings
You should also avoid beanbag mattresses or waterbeds. No matter the type of mattress, it should always tightly intersect the bed-frame to leave no gaps or space, so your baby could not get stuck in them.
Take precautions to prevent your baby rolling out of bed. You should place baby between mother and the wall or a guardrail. Be sure the guardrail is flush against the mattress so there is no crevice that baby could sink into.
For safe co-sleeping, be sure that everybody has enough space for comfortable sleep e.g. you can buy a large bed (preferably a queen-size or a king-size). Some parents and babies sleep better if the baby is still in touching and hearing distance, but not in the same bed. For them, a bedside co-sleeper is a safe option.
Babies co-sleeping with parents should not be over-bundled. The closeness of mother literally warms. Be sure that you don’t dress your baby too much and that the temperature in the room where baby sleeps is around 68–72°F (20–22.2°C).
5) Fewer pillows and other stuff in bed, more safety
If you like having many pillows in your bed, get rid of them. They can be very dangerous for infants and small babies. The bed should not have any stuffed animals or soft bedding because they can pose a suffocation hazard.
6) No perfumes, deodorants, jewelry
Co-sleeping parents should avoid pungent hair sprays, deodorants, perfumes or too aromatic soaps. All these scents will camouflage the natural maternal smells, that baby is used to and helps him/her to stay calm and sleep better. It’s the smell of Mom herself that newborns love the most.
7) Enough space
Be sure that all of the bed-sharers have enough space for comfortable sleep. Some parents solve this by leaving dad from the bedroom, but it is much easier (and for the quality of your future relationship beneficial) to buy a bigger bed. Even though it’s said that this will happen sooner or later:-)