Sleep safety is hugely important. Every baby sleeps, even if it seems like it never happens. So all families need to think about where their baby will sleep, and how to make this as safe as possible. We have looked at the risks involved with bedsharing in the article Is bedsharing dangerous? Understanding risks. This article is about how to make your bed as safe as possible for your baby if you plan to bedshare.
Even if you don’t plan to bedshare it is worth thinking about the safety of your situation. Many parents never intend to bedshare, but over 50% of families in the UK bedshare at least once in the first 12 weeks. Many parents can fall into accidental bedsharing. This often happens when a parent brings the baby into their bed to feed them, but then both parent and baby fall asleep. This can mean that the baby slides under covers, or ends up near the pillows, both of which come with risks. Instead it may well be safer to create a safe bed and position baby in it safely, so that if you do fall asleep the risks are low.
If a parent wants to ensure that they bedshare in the safest way possible there are some guidelines that can help them to set up their bedsharing space to minimise common bedsharing risks.
Making the bed as safe as possible
- Keep their baby away from the pillows or avoid using pillows whilst bedsharing
- The sleeping surface must be firm.
- Sofas, bean bags, waterbeds and memory foam mattresses are soft and do not provide a firm, flat, supportive surface for a baby to sleep on.
- Falling risks
- Make sure that baby cannot fall out of bed or become trapped between the mattress and a wall.
- There are mesh bedguards that can help to ensure this.
- Many bedsharing families use a mattress on the floor to avoid fall risks.
- All sleep surfaces are at the same level.
- If using a side-car cot attached to a bed both should be at the same height. Ensure there is no ridge or lip that could cause a baby to roll.
- There should be no gaps between them into which a baby could become trapped.
- Make sure the bed clothes cannot cover their baby’s face or head, as this can result in smothering or overheating.
- Duvets can be particularly risky when bedsharing as they are bulky, warm and heavy.
- Layered breathable blankets and sheets may be less risky when bedsharing.
- Your baby can sleep under their own blankets outside the covers used on the parent. (However, avoid putting them on top of the duvet which is too soft a surface.)
- No stuffed animals, body pillows or other items in the sleeping space.
Sleeping positions and behaviours
- Do not leave baby alone in the bed. Even very young babies can wriggle into a dangerous position.
- If there’s more than one adult in the bed, the safest place for the baby is next to the edge of the bed.
- It is riskier for the baby to sleep between two adults. The risk of the baby being squashed increases if they are between two adults.
- All adults in the bed should be aware of the baby’s presence in the bed.
- Baby sleeps at breast height, not head height.
- When a baby sleeps at head height they are at risk of being smothered by the pillows
- Parents tie long hair back and do not wear nightclothes with long ties when bedsharing.
- Adults adopt safe sleeping positions. The safest position is for the adult to lay on their side and form a protective frame around baby. This prevents you from rolling towards your baby. Your arm prevents them from shuffling towards the pillows, your legs prevent them from shuffling below the covers.
The protective sleeping position
Your knees come up and your arm tucks under your head or pillow, or curls around your baby, creating a protected space. There’s no way for you to roll towards your baby because your bent legs won’t let you. And no one else can roll into the space because your knees and elbows are in the way.From Sweet Sleep
When bedsharing becomes more risky
There are some things that can make bedsharing higher risk. Consider whether it would be safer not to bed-share if the following apply:
- any of the bedsharing adult/s have drunk alcohol or taken drugs
- any of the bedsharing adult/s have taken medication that makes them drowsy
- the bedsharing adult/s are excessively tired
- any of the bedsharing adult/s smoke
Bedsharing with a low birth weight or premature baby
There are increased risks associated with bedsharing for premature babies and/or babies born weighing less than 2.5kg.
The Lullaby trust provides guidance on safe sleep for premature babies
The La Leche League article Bedsharing, Breastfeeding and the risk of SIDS also refers to prematurity.
Evolutionary parenting also has an interesting discussion article on the risks associated with bedsharing with a premature baby.
More bedsharing safety guides
BASIS: Baby Sleep Information Source: Parents’ bed
Lullaby trust: Co-sleeping with your baby
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