When infants sleep in the same bed as their parent, sibling, or another caregiver, this is called bed-sharing.
Bed-sharing is dangerous for babies. Sleeping in the same bed as a baby increases the likelihood of suffocation and other sleep-related deaths. Bed-sharing can happen to anyone. You do not have to be under the influence of medication, drugs, or alcohol to roll on top of your baby. However, using drugs or consuming alcohol can increase the chances of death.
Additionally, an adult bed is not an appropriate sleep environment for babies, even without another person in it. When thinking about bed-sharing ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have pillows in my bed?
- Do I have blankets in my bed?
- Is my bed softer than a crib mattress?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, your bed is an unsafe sleeping environment. And it becomes even more unsafe when you or another person sleep in the same bed as your baby.
Above: You can see a bed-sharing reenactment done with a baby doll. In the first photo, we see a mother sleeping with her baby in the crook of her elbow. When she shifts, the baby is now lying face down in the pillow and the mother’s arm is now resting across the baby’s back. The weight of a human arm is enough to suffocate a baby!
Below: You can see that in the same reenactment, the baby is placed between mom and dad, but when dad shifts, the baby is now trapped beneath dad. Bed-sharing can become even more dangerous when a baby is sleeping in bed with multiple people or between two people.
The safest alternative to bed-sharing is room-sharing. Room-sharing is when infants sleep in the same room but on a different sleep surface as a parent, sibling, or another caregiver. The room-sharing arrangement prevents suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation that can happen when the infant sleeps in an adult bed.
With room-sharing, mom can quickly respond to the infant’s needs while also keeping their baby safe. It also still allows for bonding, if mom is breastfeeding, she can bring the infant into bed with her and then return the infant to their own sleep area once the baby is finished. It also allows for mom or dad to comfort the baby by talking to him/her or by placing their hand in the crib to let the infant know they are close by.
Room-sharing has been shown to reduce the risk of death by up to 50%. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing for up to 1 year of age.
We’ve all seen the cute pictures of caregivers sleeping with their infants on the couch everywhere on social media. But did you know that sleeping with infants on the couch is one of the most dangerous ways for babies to sleep?
Couch sleeping places a baby at an extremely high risk of death. Babies in this situation are at an increased risk of suffocation because they may become wedged or trapped between couch cushions, or may be rolled on top of if sleeping with another person. Below you can see pictures of the dangers of couch sleeping.