The Risks of Co-Sleeping With Your Baby

For some mothers, bedtime with baby is arguably one of the most sought-after moments of the day. But this seemingly harmless time presents many dangers.

Traci Watkins, MD, of ProMedica Physicians, says co-sleeping, also known as bed-sharing, is unsafe for babies and can be fatal.

“If parents choose to share their bed with their baby, there is a high risk their baby could suffer from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS),” Dr. Watkins says.

SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby during the infant stages. A 2014 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that 69 percent of infants who died from SIDS were bed-sharing at the time of their death.

Suffocation is another cause of death related to bed-sharing. When parents sleep next to their baby, there is a chance they could unconsciously roll onto their little one and suffocate them without knowing. A baby could also suffocate in a pillow.

These causes of death seem unimaginable, but unlike us, infants lack the ability to rescue themselves from dangerous situations. Dr. Watkins says there are other fatal outcomes that could occur as a result of bed sharing. “A baby could get trapped by the bed frame, headboard or foot board, get strangled by a blanket, or fall off the bed,” she warns.

Dr. Watkins is not the only one who is cautious about co-sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says sharing a room with an infant, without sharing a bed, is safer for babies. The AAP also offers these recommendations for safe sleeping:

  • A newborn should be in their own bassinet within arm’s reach of their parents bed.
  • The mattress in the bassinet should be firm with a fitted sheet.
  • Newborns should be placed on their back to sleep.
  • There should not be any soft objects or loose bedding in the bassinet with the baby. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.

With a baby sleeping in a bassinet close to the bed, this decreases the risk of SIDS, suffocation, and other sleep-related deaths. Parents can also easily feed and check on their baby during the night until they are old enough to sleep in their own room.

“I recommend babies share a room with their parents for the first 6-12 months of life,” Dr. Watkins says. “After this stage, babies are better able to protect their airways.”