Should I co-sleep with my baby
When you’re a first time expectant parent attending ante-natal classes, there’s a lot to be worried about.
One of which is the fear of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Even its name sounds terrifyingly vague and scarily out of your control as a parent. To an expectant parent that word ‘Sudden’ sounds like you can’t do anything about it, but should simultaneously be equally paranoid about it happening.
This is all made much worse when the baby does arrive home with you.
In those first nights as a new parent you can’t quite believe you’ve been entrusted with this little life without some kind of supervision or handbook. It’s a uniquely challenging experience with nights spent waking up because the baby is crying, or spent waking up to check why the baby isn’t crying – holding your finger under the baby’s nose as they sleep to make sure they’re still breathing.
What is SIDS and what is it caused by?
There is plenty the medical profession does know about SIDS and there’s enough research to make a list of Do’s and Don’ts to help hugely mitigate the risk. For example
- Make sure the baby is not put to sleep on their front. This is a brilliant explanation of the science behind why babies should sleep on their back to minimise the risk of SIDS.
- Sleep in the same room as your baby for their first 6 months of life. This is the best way to keep an eye on them and an ear out for them.
- Keep your baby’s head uncovered and free of blankets. Tuck them in up to shoulders only or use a baby sleeping bag like this from Gro.
- Smoking during pregnancy, when breastfeeding or just in a room where your baby is, all increase the risk of SIDS
- Sleeping on an armchair or sofa with your baby rather than in their own cot or crib increases the risk of SIDS
- Co-sleeping or sharing a bed with your baby in the first 6 months of life is also not recommended. It’s safer for them to sleep in their own crib or cot.
What’s wrong with co-sleeping with your baby?
That last point about the risk of co-sleeping or bed sharing can be particularly challenging. Most of the other Do’s and Don’ts you can make consciously, but even with the best intention, a sleep deprived parent will struggle to avoid letting their baby sleep in the bed. If you are breastfeeding in particular, co-sleeping can be much simpler, more comforting for the baby and far less disruptive.
Not all co-sleeping is the same. While it’s recommended that a baby sleeps in their own bed in the same room as you for the first 6 months, it’s particularly important to avoid co-sleeping if you’ve been smoking, drinking or taking drugs or medication. These substances can increase the risk of SIDS, but also increase the risk of suffocating baby if you’re co-sleeping.
A baby sleeping in a Moses basket, crib or cot is just plain safer. If you want to eliminate the risk of co-sleeping entirely, not doing it at all is the best option.
Can I make co-sleeping safe for my baby?
But co-sleeping, or bed-sharing, often just becomes a feature of life as the sleeplessness sets in. And so the question is, if it’s going to happen and it’s hard to avoid at 4am after having gotten up a handful of times already that night, how can you reduce the risks associated with co-sleeping.
As above, you can reduce the risk of SIDS or suffocation by making sure you absolutely avoid co-sleeping if either parent has been drinking, smoking or taking drugs or medicine that might induce drowsiness. You should also avoid it if your baby was born prematurely or had a low birthweight.
Removing pillows or loose bedding from around the baby is another way to reduce the risks of co-sleeping. Keep a clear space around the baby for them to lay as they would in their own bed.
We should also note that co-sleeping becomes safer as your baby gets older. By the time your baby is 1 year's old, co-sleeping is not a problem so safe arrangements can be made for this if you want.
What other sleeping arrangements can I make for my baby?
It’s possible to find a middle way between co-sleeping and total separation from your baby that might not be comforting for you or your baby.
The sidecar crib arrangement is a great way to create space and safety for baby without losing the closeness of connection.
It meets the criteria of baby not being near pillows and loose bedding and gives the baby more protection from any adults sharing the bed that might roll over on them. If you’re breastfeeding it allows easy access and gives you the benefit of not disrupting sleep too much for you or the baby when you pick them up to feed and put them back to bed.
The traditional Moses basket is a classic newborn staple. While it doesn’t give you the close intimacy with your baby, it has other benefits.
First there’s the closeness of the sides that helps baby feel ‘held’ and reduces separation anxiety. Starting a baby straight in a cot can be a huge spatial adjustment after leaving the comfort of the womb, so this is a great intermediary step. Of course it doesn’t last forever so you might find that after 3 months (depending on the size of your baby) you’re going to need to rethink your baby’s sleeping arrangement. It also doesn’t make the picking up and putting baby back down challenge. But Moses basket definitely wins for cuteness and if you're trying to avoid co-sleeping, this might be the best early choice for your baby.
Cribs and cots
As your baby grows it does become safer for them to co-sleep but by this stage you might find your baby is waking less and you’re looking forward to having some space back in your own bed. If you have been using a Moses basket from the newborn stage or are simply looking to stop co-sleeping, finding the right crib or cot is key.
It depends how many stages you want to break your baby’s sleep development into, but if you can afford to, and don’t mind the chopping and changing, a transition from Moses basket to crib to baby and toddler cot is a great way to help smooth the adjustment to independent sleeping. As your baby grows they need more space, but putting a little baby in a large, open cot space can disrupt their sleep. Hence managing the transitions carefully is important.
GRASP sleeping recommendation for your baby as they grow up
We anticipate that if you’re breastfeeding, some amount of bed-sharing, even with small newborns is inevitable. However, it’s not something to rely on and where possible, having a comfortable space for the baby to sleep that’s appropriate for their size is important. Relying on co-sleeping also creates challenges down the road when you’re looking for your little one to sleep independently.
We suggest finding an appropriate size crib that is compact enough for your baby from newborn through to 5-6 months and then transition to a cot bed. When you first move the baby into a cot bed, finding the right bumpers, blankets or sleeping bag to make the space feel less cavernous is key, but as they grow these can be removed as you transition your toddler into independent sleeping.
Our other top tip for the best cribs, cots or Moses baskets is to check the heights. Parent back-ache is a real problem and a crib or cot with a base that’s very low when you’re baby is little means a lot of awkward bending and lifting throughout the night. Opt for a sleeping arrangement for your baby that minimises the amount of bending over you’ll have to do to pick them up.
5 of the best cribs and cots to buy for your baby
Cutest baby crib
This very cute and compact Moses basket for those early months from The Little Green Shop combines basket weave and knitted inner quilting for a comfortable and cute space for your little one. It comes with a foldable wooden stand as well so you can move your baby easily to sleep in the room wherever you are in the house.
Best convertible baby crib
This convertible cot bed from The White Company is a great full transition cot bed that will carry your baby from less than 1 year old all the way through pre-school age. While the starting price is high, it saves money in the long run, minimises waste and will give your little
Best lightweight baby crib
This bedside crib from Snuz is super popular. Lightweight, easy to reach baby and to rock them.
Best smart baby crib
This smart crib from The Happiest Baby Company is a very premium option but could be a baby soothing game changer. The Snoo automatically detects fussing and increases sound and motion to soothe your baby and get them back to sleep. While maybe not a long term solution, the results sound very enticing
Best adjustable baby cot bed
This adjustable cot bed from Obaby covers all the bases for transitioning your little one from baby to toddler with a compact design and adjustable height mattress.