My personal view is that for the first six months, the safest place for baby to sleep is in a cot in the parents’ room. However, the purpose of this blog is to give parents all the necessary information for both sides of the argument and allow them to make an informed decision about what’s best for their family. Therefore, I will try to objectively weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of sharing a bed with your baby.
Not only is it far more convenient for breast-feeding mothers but research has shown that babies and mothers sleep much better when they share a bed, with solo baby sleepers being shown to spend four times longer crying each night (McKenna, J., et al 1994). It has also been shown that bed sharing babies have more stable temperatures (C. Richard et al 1996), regular heart rhythms, and fewer long pauses in breathing compared to babies who sleep alone (T. Field 1995). This means baby sleeps physiologically safer.
The results from several studies have suggested that co-sleeping babies grow up with higher self-esteem, less anxiety, become independent sooner, are better behaved in school (P. Heron 1994) and are more comfortable with affection (M. Crawford 1994). They also have been shown to have fewer psychiatric problems (J. F. Forbes et al 1992).
There has actually been research to show that co-sleeping is safer than crib sleeping, despite the media scare stories (Blair et al 1999). The Consumer Product Safety Commission published data that described infant fatalities in adult beds. This data, however, showed more than 3 times as many crib related infant fatalities compared to adult bed accidents (D. A. Drago and A. L. Dannenberg 1999). Another recent large study concluded that bed sharing did NOT increase the risk of SIDS, unless the mum was a smoker or abused alcohol (R. G. Carpenter et al., 2004).
Tragic accidents, although rare, do occur and you can’t ignore the possibility that:
• you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby
• your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed
• your baby could roll out of your bed and be injured
In the absence of conclusive evidence it’s up to you to decide what works best for your situation. The important thing for you to do is to make your informed decision and then stick by it. Spending hours fretting that you may have made the wrong decision and placed your baby at an elevated risk is only damaging to yourself and your family.
Whichever sleeping arrangement you choose, there are steps you can take to make it as safe as possible which I will discuss in my next post.