Disclaimer: All advice and content posted is of my own opinion. I am not a professional. I recommend speaking with your doctor, and consulting regulations for safe sleep in your country.
My daughter was an impossible sleeper from birth. She was that baby that all the experienced mothers warned you about. The baby that came after the angel first born, the baby who cried all the time without any relief, the baby who constantly needed attention and couldn’t be put down. I learned quickly how to adjust my life to include this new major, sleep depriving responsibility.
There is a major difference between co-sleeping and bed sharing. Co-sleeping simply means sleeping in the same room as your infant. Health Canada recommends spending the first six months sharing a room with your infant. Bed sharing is the physical sharing of a single bed with an infant. Bed sharing is controversial, but it can be done safely if you follow the proper precautions.
The main concern for bed sharing is suffocation. Typically an adult bed is not firm enough, and its soft padding may become a trap for an infant if they were to roll onto their stomachs. Also a mother or father rolling onto the child is another cause for concern. Blankets, comforters and pillows around the baby are also a cause for concern because of the suffocation risk.
Sleeping in their own space is what is recommended by health officials Having a bassinet, pack and play or crib beside the bed allows for the infant to remain close but still have their own sleep surface free of suffocation risks. If your child is okay with this, fantastic. If you’re in the same boat that I was in, suffering with sleep deprivation and no end in sight, continue on.
Many countries practice bed sharing without reservation. In fact, some of the countries with the lowest rates of SIDS in the world are also the highest for practicing bed sharing. Keep in mind that the countries who typically bed share are sleeping on firm services, like straw beds or mats on the floor as opposed to fluffy queen size mattresses.
My husband and I tried an assortment of different sleeping arrangements for our little girl. We tried a bassinet, a pack and play, a swing, a bouncy chair and nothing worked. The only place my daughter wanted to be was in my bed, beside me. My husband and I agreed that if this was the only way she would get any sleep, then this is what was best for us and our family. You should only bed share if you are 100% comfortable with this arrangement, and you and your partner are completely on the same page.
My husband did not feel comfortable sleeping in the bed with our daughter because he is an extremely sound sleeper. He was afraid he would roll onto her and suffocate her, which is a totally rational fear. He did however agree that due to the extreme circumstances, that bed sharing was the right thing for my daughter and I. He packed up his favourite pillow and moved into the guest room. He needed to sleep because he had to work, I needed to sleep to be able to take care of our daughter and she needed to sleep to grow.
How to Bed Share Responsibly
- It’s better if you have a larger FIRM mattress. Soft mattresses are dangerous if the child were to roll and be unable to roll themselves back.
- Be a light sleeper. If you’ve been able to describe your sleep patterns as “able to sleep through a thunderstorm, a hurricane and a tornado” then bed sharing is probably not for you.
- Remove all soft pillows, blankets and plush animals. Remove any other suffocation hazards.
- Make sure there is a barrier in case your child spontaneously begins moving in the night. Have the bed tightly against a wall if possible with no gap between the wall and mattress.
- Bed sharing is easier if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a natural way for mom and baby to bond throughout the night, and it has been proven to decrease the risk of SIDS.
- Keep your child in a sleep sack or warm sleeper to keep them comfortable. Never use a blanket. Do not overheat your child.
- Do not smoke, consume alcohol or use drugs. This can make you sleep more soundly and pose a risk to your child.
- Place your child on their back. Back is best.
I hope these tips will be helpful in your decision to bed share or co-sleep. It is certainly not for everyone, and every child is different. Be sure to speak with your doctor about which options are best for you before making any decisions.