We let our baby sleep in bed with us, but my mom thinks it's not a good idea. I think she's overreacting. What's the harm? - Liz and Eric
Whether to share your bed with your baby (what's sometimes referred to as "the family bed") is something that many people disagree on. Those who bed-share say it may help a baby fall asleep and make it easier on mothers who breastfeed. This may be true in certain cases, but overall, the benefits do not outweigh the risks. Multiple studies show that bed-sharing increases the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths in babies under a year old. This is especially true for babies of mothers who smoke.
Your bed can be unsafe for your baby. Parents have unintentionally rolled over onto their babies and suffocated them, and babies have gotten trapped between the mattress and a wall or headboard. Other times, babies roll off the bed onto the floor and are seriously injured.
To help keep your baby safe but also close, consider room-sharing (sometimes called "co-sleeping"). Room-sharing means having your infant's sleep space near your bed, but not in your bed. Many parents find that they get some of the benefits of bed-sharing without the risks by having the baby sleep in a bassinet, play yard, or crib in the same room near their bed. Also, products are available that attach to the side of the bed so that babies are within reach of their parents but still in their own safe space.
Despite warnings of the dangers of bed-sharing, some people still do it. Parents who decide to keep their baby in their bed should be sure to:
only bed-share with babies older than 4 months (younger babies are at the highest risk of SIDS)
always put babies to sleep on their back
never bed-share on soft surfaces, such as a waterbed, couch, or armchair
make sure the bed's headboard and footboard do not have openings or cutouts that could trap the baby's head
check that the mattress fits snugly in the bed frame so that the baby will not become trapped
use only minimal amounts of bedding and avoid big fluffy pillows and blankets
make sure the baby's head will not be covered or close to any bedding or pillows
Do not bed-share if you are a smoker or have taken any drugs or consumed alcohol or other substances that could make you groggy and less responsive to your baby (such as nighttime cough medicines, certain pain medications, antidepressants, or sleep aids). Bed-sharing also is more dangerous if multiple people, such as other children, are in the bed.