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Co-sleeping: Delight or Danger?

Co-sleeping is the practice of parents sleeping with their babies or young children in their bed. With my first child I was very afraid of co-sleeping. I remembered a Bible story I had heard as a child where a woman accidentally smothered her son by laying on him (read the rest of the story in the Bible 1 Kings: 19-21). However, I did become a fan of breastfeeding while in bed when she was older, which meant that I would sometimes fall back to sleep with her still feeding.
With my second child, my husband was in hospital from when she was a few days old. She was a bit unsettled so co-sleeping was the easiest way for us both to get a decent night sleep. I become very confident that co-sleeping was a really beneficial practice for both mum and baby.
Recently I read an article which stated that co-sleeping placed babies at risk of SIDS and recommended that parents only feed in bed if needed but put the baby straight back into its bed/bassinet. While I knew that there was a slight risk, I had not heard such a negative report on co-sleeping. I had previously discussed co-sleeping with my midwives and they had assured me it was safe within certain guidelines.

While I agree that you need to be cautious and I would never tell anyone they should co-sleep with their child, I still think there are benefits to the baby. When our third child was born, co-sleeping was something we automatically did. Alicia does have a bassinet, however on the night after she was born my husband cuddled her to sleep as she wasn’t able to settle in the bassinet. She had only been out of the womb for around six hours when we went to bed and I imagine that it would be traumatic to be deprived of body contact that early in life.

While I enjoy having her in our bed, now that she is older I prefer to have her sleep in the bassinet. I am able to be more comfortable and sleep better without her next to me. However if she is unsettled co-sleeping means we get at least a bit of sleep. Some nights I think she just needs to be close to me to feel secure enough to sleep.


As there is always a risk of SIDS with a small baby I do make sure that I am mindful of the Safe Sleeping guidelines outlined on the SIDS and Kids website I generally sleep with her in the middle of us, with her laying in my upper arm which makes it impossible for me to roll onto her. In doing some research I have found that having her in the middle is not actually part of the recommendations.

Despite the report I read, I still think there are many benefits of co-sleeping. It is not new, and has been practiced safely for many years and in many cultures. I will continue to co-sleep with Alicia where I feel she needs it, and will do it with confidence that she is safe.
Do you co-sleep/have you co-slept with your babies?


Below are the Co-Sleeping recommendations from the SIDS and Kids website:

Do not share a sleep surface with a baby if:
• You are a smoker
• You are under the influence of alcohol or drugs that cause sedation
• You are excessively tired.
• Other children are sharing the bed with a baby
• The baby could slip under bedding e.g. pillows and duvets or doonas
• The bed is a waterbed or if the mattress is too soft
• The sleep surface is a sofa or chair
• Baby could become trapped between the bed and the wall or the bed rails
• Baby may fall off the bed
Using these guidelines:
• Put baby on the back to sleep (not on the tummy or side)
• Make sure the mattress is firm and flat (not tilted or elevated)
• Sleep baby in a baby sleeping bag to avoid bedclothes 
• Make sure that any bedding cannot cover the baby’s face. Keep pillows, doonas and any other soft bedding well away from the baby
• Do not wrap the baby
• Place the baby at the side of one parent – not in between two parents, as this would increase the likelihood of the baby becoming covered or slipping underneath adult bedding
• Ensure that the baby is not close to the edge of the bed where he/she can fall off. Do not place pillows at the side of the baby to prevent rolling off. A safer alternative is to place the adult mattress on the floor.
• Pushing the bed up against the wall can be hazardous as baby may become trapped.


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Comments

  1. I have always shared a bed with our little ones (and sometimes, not-so-little-ones), so I also agree about the benefits for both the bub and the parents (more sleep, security, lovely snuggle time).
    From what I understand, the times where co-sleeping has been dangerous, one or both of the parents were most likely to have been under the influence of something, or a smoker. Most mothers are very aware of their baby during the night, usually waking if something doesn't feel right.
    I wouldn't necessarily encourage parents to co-sleep either but I do think that parents should be able to choose it as an option(after doing the research) without fear of judgement from other families (we love our bandwagons). It's a personal choice.
    Thanks for sharing, Lisa. Love your blog xxx

  2. I co slept with my 1st and 3rd child until they were about 3 or 4 months old. Then I moved them to a bassinet next to my bed because I wasn't sleeping so well any more. My 2nd child wouldn't sleep when she was in bed with us. Even now, if one of the kids is sick I will stick them in bed with us so that at least we get some sleep and I can respond to their needs with out getting out of bed all the time.

    • I agree about it being a personal choice and I think we judge each other too easily when we think we are doing something right. The longer I am a mum the more I realise the only "right" is loving our kids. However that plays out is up to individual families. Thanks for your comments.

    • Opps I will try to delete the reply above. Nice to hear that others have found co-sleeping a great option. I also bring the kids in when they are sick. It saves getting up but I also like being able to check that they are still breathing and not having to worry that they are in their room and are very unwell. I am a bit paranoid I think as a high temp generally won't kill them but it helps me sleep better.

  3. our first baby slept in a bassinet next to me. that was great. 2nd baby was soo unsettled with reflux i tried co sleeping and woke up with him in the crook of my arm. i nearly died and never had him sleep near me again. we moved the cot in our room. 3rd bub tried co sleep again but i was too scared. she didn't like sleeping in our room either. so i camped on her floor on a mattress with her in the cot. once she was older i put a bed rail up on our bed and co slept. now she is 2 i more often than not sleep in her bed lol

  4. We had the cot in our room until they were both 14 months old.

  5. I wouldn't ever co-sleep with a little one, but that's my personal choice. I thought that even if it was a tiny increased risk of harm ("Are excessively tired" in the guidelines seem to be a state of being for me in the first 12 weeks) then I wouldn't do it. My friends had a bassinette that was tall had a collapsible side so it could be right up against the bed which I would have used for a non-rolling bubba in the first instance, but in the end for me if the bubba wasn't in my room I had a much better sleep for the snatches I did have rather than the half sleep I'd have listening to them breathe if they were in the room with me.

  6. Lovely post and nice to read such a positive account of co-sleeping. We have had both our girls sleep in our bed on and off. Like you didn't set out to but found was best way to get a little extra sleep x

  7. I never did, and never would. Purely because I watched my sister have so trouble getting her son out of her bed, at 4 he still refused to sleep in his own bed. However it is each to their own, and a very personal choice. I have slept in my son's bed with him just the once when he was sick and I was exhausted. Do what works for you. I don't think there's much you can do these days without it being some kind of risk.

    • I did always worry about having that problem so our goal has always been to co-sleep more when they are little but even from birth we have them in their own bed where possible. My older girls are only ever in our bed when they are sick (and like you we have slept in their beds with them at times). You are so right about everything having a risk. It comes down to what works for your family. Thanks for your comments :)

  8. I'm a co-sleeper. We follow safe sleeping guidelines and as a result everyone in the house has a better nights sleep. A baby spends 9 months in the womb, it seems kind of cruel to then put him or her on their own & expect them to sleep soundly. Having said that, I transition them to the cot when they're ready. My 4 1/2 month old already spends most of the time in her cot.

    • It is lovely to co-sleep but I do prefer her to be in her own cot/bassinet. It sounds like we do the same thing. Ali is mainly in her bassinet and maybe 1-2 nights a week sleeps for a small time in our bed. She pretty much sleeps the hours we do now so only comes in if she wakes super early or during the night. Thanks for stopping by

  9. It sounds like you've hit on the right topic to bring readers to share their views too. I believe that parents need to do what is both right for them, and safe for the child.
    Denyse from #TeamIbot

  10. That would have been a frightening experience. I still have little fears that something might happen while she is in bed with us but I guess there is risks in everything. If I had a fright like you did I am sure it would turn me off it as well. Thanks for your comments :)

  11. I agree that if in your mind you have any doubt that doing it isn't right then it is best not to do it. It is a very personal choice but I am enjoying hearing all the different views on co-sleeping. I like the idea of the bassinet joining up to the bed it sounds like a safer option. Thanks for adding your comments :)

  12. And all we want when bubs are new is that little bit of extra sleep :)

  13. Thanks Denyse. I agree, there are no rules for parenting and we just do the best we can. As long as we are loving our kids and keeping them safe they will turn out just fine. Thanks for stopping by

  14. I never intended to co-sleep but it was soooo cold for those feeds in the wee hours of the morning that soon I was bringing bub into bed and feeding there … and yes both of us fell asleep! Sooner or later though I would put baby back into their own bed. It helped me survive through a very sleep-deprived time!

    BUT sometimes I *would* wake up in a panic in the middle of the night, fearful of squashing bub – only to find they were safe and sound in their own bed LOL …

  15. Haha, yes I have had those moments too. My hubby even sometimes asks where the baby is after I have put her back in bed..I guess he has those half asleep moments too.

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