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Growth and Development

Is Cosleeping a Good Idea?

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We let our baby sleep with us in our bed. Is this a good idea?
- Liz and Eric

Cosleeping — sharing your bed with your baby — is an issue that people often disagree on. Proponents say it helps a baby fall asleep, is easier on nursing mothers, and promotes the bond between parent and child.

Opponents of cosleeping say that in addition to making the baby dependent on the parents to fall asleep, it can be dangerous. Studies have suggested that the adult bed can be unsafe — parents could roll over onto the baby, the baby could be suffocated in the bedding or could get trapped between the mattress and a wall or headboard. Cosleeping may increase the risk of SIDS, especially in babies of mothers who smoke. Because of these studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend cosleeping.

Many parents find that they can get some of the benefits of cosleeping without the risks by having the baby sleep in a bassinet, play yard, or crib in the same room, near their bed. 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.

However, parents who do choose to cosleep should be sure to:

  • always put babies to sleep on their back
  • never cosleep on a couch
  • 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 by any bedding

Also make sure that you haven't taken any drugs, alcohol, or other substances that could make you groggy and less responsive to your child (such as nighttime cough medicines or sleep aids). Cosleeping is also more dangerous when there are multiple children in the bed.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: March 2010

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

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