I'm pregnant with my first child. I'm thinking about letting my baby sleep in bed with me and my husband. Is this OK?
It's not the safest option for your family. Experts recommend room-sharing without bed-sharing to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths in infants.
Bed-sharing — letting your baby sleep in the same bed with you — is one type of co-sleeping, which is when parents sleep near their baby so that their little one can detect their presence by seeing, smelling, or otherwise sensing that they're nearby.
Most experts agree that co-sleeping (sleeping near your baby) is a good thing to do, but people often disagree on bed-sharing. Fans of bed-sharing say it helps a baby fall asleep, is easier on nursing mothers, and promotes the bond between parent and child.
But besides making a baby dependent on being with his or her parents to fall asleep, bed-sharing can be dangerous. Adult beds can be unsafe for babies. Parents can roll over onto the baby, the baby can be suffocated in the bedding, or the baby could get trapped between the mattress and a wall or headboard. An infant could even fall off the bed entirely. Studies show that bed-sharing may increase the risk of SIDS, especially for babies whose mothers smoke.
Instead, enjoy the benefits of sleeping close to your baby by room-sharing, which means having your infant's sleep space near your bed, but not in your bed. You can keep your baby near you by having him or her sleep in a bassinet, crib, or play yard. And 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.
If you do choose to bed-share, be sure to:
- never bed-share during your infant's first 4 months of life, when the risk of SIDS is greatest
- always put your baby to sleep on his or her back
- never bed-share on a soft surface, such as a waterbed, couch, or armchair
- make sure the bed's headboard and footboard do not have openings or cutouts that could trap your baby's head
- check that the mattress fits snugly in the bed frame so that your baby will not become trapped
- use only minimal amounts of bedding and avoid pillows, blankets, bumper pads, and toys
- make sure your baby's head will not be covered by any bedding
- never bed-share with other children in the bed
Do not bed-share if you are a smoker or have taken any drugs, 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).
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: October 2014