How to Bedshare as Safely as Possible
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Safe sleep guidelines state that baby should always be on a flat surface, laid on their back to sleep, and not sharing a bed with parents. Many new parents plan to follow safe sleep guidelines to a T and tell me they won't be sleeping with baby in bed. However, reality often turns out a little different than we plan and I've yet to speak to a parent who hasn't had baby in bed with them at some point, even if just once. Why? Because sleep becomes paramount and bringing baby into bed is sometimes the only way they're able to grab any shuteye.
The silence around bedsharing causes a couple of things to happen that could be avoided by discussing it openly and knowing how to practice it more safely (kind of like safe sex is better to teach than teaching teens abstinence only).
First of all, a lot of guilt and worry is caused by the idea that parents who bedshare are doing something wrong or dangerous. Second, silence around it leads to unsafe bedsharing because people only know that they're not supposed to do it, but don't know any guidelines about how to do it more safely when it happens.
So, whether you plan to bedshare or hope to never bring baby into your bed, I'd like to share tips to make bedsharing safer so you're informed and prepared for it just in case you do eventually decide to do it (whether for one night or as your usual sleeping arrangement).
1. Baby is safest sleeping beside the breastfeeding parent. The breastfeeding parent is typically more aware of the baby's movements and will startle awake quicker if baby is moving around or making noises.
2. Parents should not have taken any substance or drug that alters their state of mind like alcohol, sleep aids, or other substances. These substances would limit parents' awareness of the baby in the bed and creates an unsafe sleep area.
3. Parents should not be smokers.
4. Keep the parents' blanket at the waist or below. Parents should dress in warm, form-fitting clothing on the top half of their bodies if it's cold in the room at night to avoid suffocation hazards.
5. Do not swaddle baby or use a blanket. Baby should be dressed as warmly as needed for the temperature in the room and not swaddled to avoid possibility of overheating. Keeping baby's arms free also allows them to use their arms and hands to move around if they are in distress and need to get a parent's attention.
6. Keep siblings out of the bed with a newborn. If you already bedshare with an older child and would like to bedshare with your newborn, consider having one parent sleep with the older child in a separate bed for safety. Young kids typically sleep deeply which is riskier for little babies.
I hope these tips help you feel less guilt about bedsharing and give you peace of mind that bedsharing can be done in a safer way when these guidelines are followed. The safest way for baby to sleep is always following safe sleep guidelines, but these tips are good to know if you do choose to bedshare for whatever reason.
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