Co-sleeping from birth: what do parents REALLY do?

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Most of you probably know that the general guidance on safe sleeping recommends that, until your baby is 6 months old, it’s best for them to sleep in their own space, rather than in bed with you.

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But when we shared a story on Facebook about Australian Sky TV presenter Jacinta Tynan, who talked about how she had co-slept with all 3 of her kids on and off from birth, we got a HUGE response from you, many of whom said they had done the same.

“I co-slept since birth, even in hospital, and the midwives were lovely and supportive about it,” says Lauren S. “He’s 1 now and he’s just started sleeping in a cot but our 4-year-old is still co-sleeping!”

“I openly tell people we co-sleep, and have since birth,” says Gabby E. “They judge and tell me it’s a rod for my own back and I just say if you see cuddles all night with your child as a rod for your own back, then that’s a shame for you. My family have finally stopped asking if my daughter’s in her own bed yet!”

And Embling T agrees: “I’ve been open about it and that’s made other new parents open up too without feeling awkward/lying about their sleeping arrangements.

“We shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed or awkward. We should do more to normalise it and educate new parents about how useful it can be.”

But, we have to say, that there are also plenty of mums who don’t feel co-sleeping from birth is right for them at all.

Like Laura M, who says, “I don’t think it’s a good idea when they are not able to roll over and move themselves. [It] only takes a second to roll over onto them.”

And Kathryn G, who says: “I was too terrified to even try co-sleeping until my son could roll over. He uses a Sleepyhead in his cot but if he has a really unsettled night I will bring him and the pod in beside me. But I’m still wary and barely sleep.

“That’s just me. But I wouldn’t be bothered what anyone else did – as long as they weren’t drunk or on heavy medication – each their own.”

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What do the experts say?

The Lullaby Trust is one of the leading UK charities offering advice on safe sleeping for babies in an attempt to reduce the risk of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (formerly known as cot death).

While their standard advice is, as we’ve mentioned above, that babies under 6 months should sleep in a separate cot, crib, baby box or Moses basket, when we approached them to let them know a number of our mums are choosing to co-sleep from birth, their Director of Services, Jenny Ward, told us this:

“We understand that co-sleeping with babies does happen, and can be for deliberate reasons such as to facilitate breastfeeding, or it can be accidental, due to tiredness.

“The main thing The Lullaby Trust wants to ensure is that parents know the correct advice before they choose to co-sleep. There are things you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS occurring.”

Indeed, as of March 2019, the Lullaby Trust has made a point of re-issuing guidelines on bed-sharing safely – both to parents and to midwives and health visitors, so that they can “effectively convey safer sleep information to parents”.

These guidelines, they say, “emphasise the vital importance of having open, non-judgemental conversations with parents about safer sleep, including bed sharing.”

How to reduce the risk of SIDS if you choose to co-sleep

Here are the basic safety rules for bedsharing with a baby…

DON’T share a bed with your baby if:

  • Your baby was premature or had a low birthweight
  • You or your partner have had alcohol
  • You or your partner have taken drugs or medication that causes drowsiness
  • You or your partner smoke, even if you don’t smoke in the bedroom
  • You or your partner feel extremely tired

DO ALWAYS take steps to:

  • Keep the space around your baby clear of pillows and duvets
  • Make sure sheets and blankets (and anything else that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause him or her to overheat) are kept well clear of your baby’s head
  • Make sure your baby cannot fall out of bed or get trapped between the bed or mattress and the wall
  • Position your baby so they’re sleeping on their back
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bed
  • Avoid letting other children or pets into the bed

In short, if you are going to co-sleep with your baby before they’re 6 months old, it’s worth making sure you’re doing it as safely as you possibly can.

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