Data suggests that co-sleeping with babies is on the increase, with a survey in 2015 revealing that more than 61% of babies co-sleep with their parents some of the time.
The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents share a room with their babies for at least the first six months of life. Most preferably, they should continue with this for the first year of the baby's life.
This creates a gap between what parents should do and what they do as far as co-sleeping with their babies is concerned. Consequently, most are afraid to let their pediatrician know they bed-share for fear of being reported to child protection services.
After the first six months of life, your baby’s physiology is more settled, and you can make a solid decision about co-sleeping with your baby. However, ensure you make bed-sharing as safe as possible for your baby by following these parenting guidelines:
- Always placing the baby on their back to protect them from the risk of SIDS
- Dressing your baby minimally to prevent overheating
- Not putting your baby in an adult bed to sleep alone
- Not putting the baby in soft places like a waterbed, soft mattress, or sofa to sleep
- Ensuring your bed’s headboard and footboard don’t have openings to avoid having your baby trapped
- Not covering your baby’s head while they sleep
- Not having pillows, quilts, comforters, and other soft items in the bed
- Not placing your bed near binds or draperies where they can get caught and strangled
- Not falling asleep with the baby on your chest
- Not sleeping on rockers, couches, or recliners with your baby
- Not smoking or drinking alcohol when co-sleeping with your baby
The practice of co-sleeping or sharing a bed with an infant is a hotly debated parenting topic. Supporters of bed-sharing believe that your baby belongs in your bed. Others worry that sharing a bed with your baby is unsafe and exposes them to danger.
FAQs About Baby Bed
For many parents, co-sleeping means sharing the same bed as their baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC both advise against sharing a bed with children under a year old because bed-sharing increases the risk of suffocation, strangulation and SIDS in babies younger than 12 months of age.
The safe way to co-sleep with your baby is to share a room — where your baby sleeps in your bedroom, in her crib, bassinet or playard. The AAP recommends room-sharing with your baby until at least six months old and possibly until her first birthday.
Some toddlers go straight into a single bed, whereas others make a move into a toddler bed that's smaller and usually closer to the floor. Toddler beds often have guard rails attached. If your toddler is moving into a single bed, you can attach a separate guardrail to prevent them from falling out.
In short, and as mentioned above, cosleeping (whether on the same surface or not) facilitates positive clinical changes, including more infant sleep and seems to make, well, babies happy. In other words, unless practised dangerously, sleeping next to the mother is good for infants.
Because of the risks involved, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warn against bed-sharing. The AAP does recommend the practise of room-sharing without bed-sharing. Sleeping in the parents' room but on a different surface lowers a baby's risk of SIDS.
Is Co-Sleeping with Toddlers OK? Safety, Benefits, and Drawbacks
Toddlers are confounding creatures. In the daylight hours, they’re busy bees — unstoppable in their pursuit to discover, play, and assert their independence. But the sassy attitudes and constant need for activity succumb to sweet sleepy snuggles and heavy-eyed affection once bedtime rolls around.
Given the option, a tired tot would sleep next to their parents every night. And who could resist those tiny warm bodies?
Co-sleeping is when parents share a bed with their child for all or part of the night. It’s not for every family, but those who choose to sleep with a toddler tucked into an arm nook know that you take the soft snores with the accidental elbow jabs.
Co-sleeping has its fair share of positives and negatives, as well as potential risks, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly — and hopefully, one you’re not forced to make at 3 a.m.
Thinking about embracing the concept of a family bed? Here is everything you need to know about co-sleeping with a toddler.
Beginning at the age of 1, co-sleeping is generally considered safe. The older a child gets, the less risky it becomes, as they are more readily able to move, rollover, and free themselves from restraint.
Co-sleeping with an infant under 12 months of age, on the other hand, is potentially dangerous. Babies may not be able to extract themselves from heavy bedding or adult bodies, thus increasing the risk of entrapment, suffocation, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Regardless of age, there are certain situations when co-sleeping is ill-advised and dangerous. A parent should avoid co-sleeping with a child if they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs that can hamper their ability to stir.
There is limited research examining the long-term effects of co-sleeping on toddlers. A 2017 study analysed 944 low-income families and initially found that toddlers who shared a bed with their parents were negatively impacted in social behaviour and cognitive abilities.
However, once socioeconomic variables were removed, researchers determined that it was life circumstances rather than co-sleeping that created these social and cognitive consequences.
Are there benefits to co-sleeping with toddlers?
Co-sleeping might not be viewed as the norm in the United States, but elsewhere in the world, it’s a common and encouraged practice. Many cultures value the practicality and physical togetherness of sharing a bed.
When you stop to think about it, sleeping next to a loved one feels completely natural and innate for most human beings. It’s not something we need to do in solitude or privacy, and young kids may long for the comfort of a parent’s arms throughout the long hours of the night.
There are other benefits to co-sleeping, too:
Reality check: The days are long, but the years are short, and these sweet snuggles are fleeting. As kids get older, they’ll claim their independence and want more physical space.
Co-sleeping, while children are in the toddler stage enables you to make the most of this time.
Additionally, parents who have unusual work schedules and cannot be present at all hours may choose to co-sleep to have more precious time with their growing children.
Either way, co-sleeping can help you bond deeper and give your child a sense of safety and security. You get to see their chest rise and fall and watch their eyelids flutter.
Co-sleeping can help nursing parents more readily feed their babies in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning. Nearby, you can keep this activity calm and peaceful — fostering a sense of restful relaxation. Co-sleeping may even encourage extended breastfeeding.
While traditional bed-sharing is not advised with infants, you can find other creative ways to foster successful night-time nursing. Room sharing helps; you can try a co-sleeper that pulls up to the side of your bed or get a traditional bassinet that keeps the baby safely at arm’s reach.
Less bedtime stress
Some toddlers have a serious case of bedtime FOMO (fear of missing out). They don’t want to be relegated to their room and separated from the comforting proximity of their parents.
As an adult with limited time, you may have other ideas about how you want to spend your evening hours. This can lead to a war of wills, and, spoiler alert: your toddler may win.
The sleep drama can be exhausting, especially in the middle of the night, and many parents would rather keep the peace than spend hours in hostile negotiations with a tantrum toddler.
Bed-sharing can cut down on the time, energy, and effort it takes to get a little one off to snoozeville. As with all parenting decisions, you have to pick your battles.
Are there drawbacks to co-sleeping with toddlers?
While co-sleeping is a blessing for some, other parents view it as an unfortunate habit they fell into rather than a choice they actively made.
You may feel exasperated when a toddler who started sleeping in their bed comes padding into your room at 1 a.m. Whether it’s due to recurring nightmares, sleep regression, or plain old habits, these disruptions can impede everyone’s ability to sleep.
Even if you decide to co-sleep, it’s important to realise that it does come with a few potential drawbacks.
Poor quality sleep
Cute as it may sound, co-sleeping can also be majorly disruptive. Suffice to say that while toddlers look angelic in slumber, their little limbs like to flail around, and your quality of sleep may suffer due to this veritable dream dancing.
A 2015 study found that mothers with infant co-sleepers reported more night wakings and poorer sleep than their counterparts with infants sleeping on their own. If you’ve ever watched a toddler’s sleep acrobatics, you can guess that trying to nap through that doesn’t get any easier.
Sleep deprivation and well-being go hand in hand. Parents are notoriously starved of rest and downtime; many moms and dads need mental and physical space to reset and refresh their bodies and minds before the start of another hectic morning.
A 2018 study found that moms who co-slept with toddlers that perpetually woke or disruptively moved around lost an average of 51 minutes of sleep per night and had higher reported levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.
Lack of kid-free time
Sharing a bed as a family may limit your ability to have quality 1:1 time with your partner. You might not be able to catch up after a long day, snuggle, or watch a movie together.
And bedtime sex is, of course, also off the table when you have a toddler smushed between you and your other half (although many parents find ways to get creative in solving this issue).
Even without the concerns of how co-sleeping affects your relationship with your partner, you may desire some time during which you can rest and recharge without feeling touched out and on-duty. There’s nothing wrong with needing some time. That isn’t about meeting someone else’s needs.
Co-sleeping shouldn’t come at the expense of your relationship or your personal needs, so it can be helpful to make sure you and your partner are on the same page if and when you decide to share a bed with your toddler.
Social judgment concerns
As parents, we often feel pressured to conform to societal norms and expectations. Choosing to co-sleep with a toddler can feel like the “wrong” choice — especially by Western standards.
Many parents feel like they’ll be judged or perceived as a failure for allowing their kids to sleep in their beds for all or part of the night — even if it’s a decision they have willingly and happily made.
How do you stop co-sleeping with toddlers?
Co-sleeping is a good choice. If it works for you and your family, there’s no reason to stop.
However, if you are eager to take back your mattress real estate and enforce independence, it may be time to make the big transition.
It won’t be easy, but with a few steps, you can switch from co-sleeping to solo sleeping. Here are a few tips to help make it a smooth process:
Try room sharing
Toddlers want to know that a parent is close by at night — especially if they’re accustomed to co-sleeping. This change doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you are open to a happy medium, consider room sharing.
You can add a crib, a small mattress, or other separate sleeping space to your bedroom. You can take back your personal space but still provide your comforting presence.
This is a marathon, not a sprint, so have patience in the process. A transition should be gradual, so start your toddler in their room or bed, knowing that they might find their way to you in the middle of the night.
Feel free to walk them back to their room when this happens. Show kindness and give verbal reassurance. Just keep at it, and don’t give up. In time, the change will stick.
Focus on a positive bedtime routine
Bedtime can be an instant fight. Instead of going head-to-head with an adamant 3-year-old, try to make your nightly bedtime routine a positive and enjoyable experience.
Read stories, sing songs, have a ritual of 10 hugs and kisses, and then say goodnight. There may be crying and pleading, but they'll come to know what to expect and eventually accept this new normal.
Work with a professional
If you’re at your wits’ end, consider seeking help. Your pediatrician can help you make a sleep plan for your toddler.
Sleep consultants or coaches can be immensely helpful, too. They have seen it all, heard it all, and have incredible specialised insight about routines, patterns, and disruptions.
Sometimes you need an outside opinion and a gentle push to get to the sleep situation you’ve been dreaming about.
Bed-sharing with baby: the risks and benefits
A question to all parents out there: would you share your bed with your infant? This
question is likely to encourage a diverse range of answers, as it is certainly a controversial topic.
Some studies say bed-sharing with babies is beneficial, while others have linked the practice to serious health risks. So, what are new parents to do?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission strongly recommend against bed-sharing with an infant – defined as sleeping on the same surface as an infant, such as a chair, sofa or bed.
But according to a 2013 study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the percentage of infants who share a bed with a parent, another caregiver or a child more than doubled between 1993 and 2010, from 6.5% to 13.5%.
Some of you may be surprised by this increase, given the well-documented health risks that have been linked to infant bed-sharing.
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported a study from the AAP citing bed-sharing as the primary cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – the leading cause of death among infants aged 1-12 months.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that among 8,207 infant deaths from 24 US states occurring between 2004-2012, 69% of infants were bed-sharing at the time of death.
“Bed-sharing may increase the risk of overheating, rebreathing or airway obstruction, head covering and exposure to tobacco smoke. All of these are risk factors for SIDS,” Dr Michael Goodstein, clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Pennsylvania State University and a member of the AAP Task Force for SIDS, told MNT, adding:
More recently, another study from the AAP found that even sleeping with an infant on a sofa significantly increases the risk of SIDS. Of 9,073 sleep-related infant deaths, researchers found that 12.9% occurred on sofas. The majority of these infants shared the sofa with another individual when they died.
Aside from the study statistics, some reports have shown that the risks of infant death due to bed-sharing are very real.
In 2012, the UK newspaper The Daily Mail reported on the deaths of 3-week-old twin babies in Idaho, who died after their mother accidentally suffocated them while they were sleeping in her bed. A few months later, the newspaper reported on another incident in which a mother accidentally suffocated her baby while rolling over him in her sleep.
Most recently, a report from WQAD.com revealed that a man and woman had been charged for the death of their 4-month-old baby after sleeping beside the baby while under the influence and rolling on top of him.
According to the AAP, bed-sharing is particularly risky if a parent is very tired, has been smoking, using alcohol or has taken drugs.
No golden rule’ for bed-sharing
Despite the ongoing debate surrounding bed-sharing, it seems child health organisations and health care professionals agree about one thing: the decision to bed-share with infants is solely down to the parents.
“There is no golden rule,” Crown told us. “It’s about what suits you and your family more than anything. But Mumsnet users find that talking to those who’ve been there and done that, and sharing wisdom and support on the often vexed question of sleeping in the early days, is invaluable.”