9 Safe Co-Sleeping Tips to Help You Stay Out of the News


Co-sleeping is dangerous if we look at the news. First this week was the teen who left her baby alone on the bed as she snuck out to party at 4 a.m. like all grown-ups do, and now a 5-month-old baby in Chicago drowned.

"But wait, Christie!" you say. "What does that have to do with co-sleeping?" So glad you asked.

It has to do with co-sleeping because the baby drowned in a bucket of water that he fell into when he rolled off a bed. Since, you know, everyone keeps buckets of water in the bedroom and all (what the hell?).

Just like how there are rules to making your crib safe, there are rules to making your bed safe for co-sleeping, too!

Rule #1: Don't leave dangerous crap on the floor.

No, seriously. Although your goal is that your baby never falls from your bed, it can happen. Babies can suffocate in a pile of your dirty laundry if they land face-down in it. Or drown if you happen to keep buckets by your bed. Ahem. If your baby DOES fall off your bed, let's hope you actually hear it (unlike the parents in that story). Which leads me to ...

Rule #2. Don't leave baby unattended without a monitor ON the bed.

Unlike crib-sleeping, you cannot leave a half-awake baby on your bed. You only leave once they're out, and the second they make a peep, you need to be with them. The best way to make sure you accomplish this is to put the monitor receiver ON your bed, near the baby. You'll be able to hear them breathe, move, and unfortunately, even poop.

Rule #3. Commit to co-sleeping. Or just don't do it.

One of the problems with co-sleeping is when it's only done sometimes. You need to choose. Parents who co-sleep "sometimes" are at much higher risk for problems because they're not used to it -- baby or parents. No bringing the baby in at 2 a.m. because you're exhausted -- start the night there with your husband's consent or deal with the crib struggles.

Rule #4. It's not co-sleeping if you're not on a bed.

While stupid studies will count a drunk father passing out on the couch with a baby as co-sleeping or mark a woman passing out on an airplane and smothering her baby with her boob as a co-sleeping death, I don't count it, and neither do some more credible, non-crib-and-formula-manufacturer-biased sources. (The main promoter and funding of the US's anti-cosleeping campaign is done by the JMPA -- makers of cribs.) Co-sleeping is both parents intentionally and knowingly taking a baby into their own bed with them at night, every night. Passing out elsewhere is risky, so get to bed when your eyelids start drooping. Included in "unsafe things to sleep on" is waterbeds, too ... sorry '70s lovers, they're just not safe for the wee beasties.

Rule #5. Be sober and don't co-sleep if you have sleep issues.

Excessively obese folk can struggle with sleep apnea, which in turn, can make it harder for them to be aware of goings-on during the night, so co-sleeping's not recommended. (Though on a personal note, I feel that you know if you're a light or heavy sleeper, regardless of your personal girth, but you're just statistically more likely to struggle to wake if you've got sleep apnea, which comes with being obese.) If you're a heavy smoker, drugged up on Ambien, or just drank a bottle of scotch, not only should you probably have someone who isn't messed up responsible for your children, but you certainly shouldn't pass out with a baby tucked under your arm.

Rule #6. Watch the fluff.

Make sure you're not putting warm blankets or your pillow on your baby's head. Wear a warm shirt so you're comfortable with your blanket being much closer to your waist, and if you've got one arm around the baby (as people who breastfeed while side-lying often do), train yourself to keep that arm on top of the blanket. Then you literally cannot pull the blanket over the baby. And on that note, if you're going to use a blanket, use something breathable, like a crocheted blanket. Unless it's winter and you have no heat, baby doesn't need a blanket really anyway -- footed jammies are pretty warm, and after the first week or so, babies need no more warmth than you do. Of course, keep your sheets pulled tight, don't put a million pillows or blankets on the bed, and make sure baby sleeps on her back. That's kind of obvious, but I figured I should say it just in case.

Rule #7. Keep it a one-kiddo affair.

Not to say you can't co-sleep with multiple children at once, but if you do, they need to be separated in the bed. Don't allow children to sleep next to each other, especially a much larger child with an itty bitty infant. Your fur-babies, too, need to know they can't lay with human-baby. Baby is best off being next to mom at all times (sorry Dad) because mothers have been shown to be uniquely aware of baby, even in the deepest sleep. Ask seasoned co-sleeping moms about the times they've caught their baby as they rolled toward the edge -- and THEN woke up and realized what happened.

Rule #8. When in doubt, skip it.

If you're not entirely comfortable with co-sleeping, don't do it! While numerous studies have shown that babies (especially in the SIDS risk time frame) are safest sleeping near their parents, this doesn't have to be in the same bed. Check out the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper ($99.97 at Wal-Mart), or if you have a crib, you can even side-car your crib.

Rule #9. Don't take flak.

If other people start telling you it's unsafe, correct them. Point out that just like cribs, there are rules to do it safely, and done safely, baby is better off near mother as it helps them regulate their breathing, and moms are more aware of silent changes in the baby's body -- such as bouts of apnea or other distress. When babies are breastfed and co-sleep, they have the lowest rate of SIDS of any other category. And don't believe people who insist that the longer your child sleeps with you, the harder it will be to get them out -- this is almost always said by people who have never co-slept, think it's dangerous, or know one person with a horror story about how their child snuck in and climbed in bed with them until they were 8 (which breaks rule #3 anyway). It's really easy to gently wean toddlers out of your bed (Rowan slept on my floor on his mattress for six months before he chose to move into his room), especially when once they're weaned from the breast. It just takes time and understanding.

Do you co-sleep? Do you follow these rules? 

Image via Jennifer1983/CafeMom

baby sleep, bonding, newborns, safety


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Histo... HistoryMamaX3

I love it! I got a lot of crap for co-sleeping with my children... but did so happily for YEARS! Yes, they all transitioned to their own beds- none were a big problem- everyone sleeps wonderfully now and we're all happy. :-)

You hit the nail on the head there when you talk about stupid people making stupid decisions. You baby-proof for co-sleeping, just like to need to care for the crib or any other room your child will be in... you also have to CARE FOR YOUR CHILD. Stupid choices are not what is wrong with co-sleeping... they are just stupid choices, pure and simple.

Melan... MelanieLouise

Yes, we co-sleep. And we follow all the rules! My son moved out of our bed full time at about 2 years old, and we're getting ready to transition our daughter into her own bed (she's 19 months). When it's done safely and consciously, co-sleeping is such a wonderful practice!

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

Yes!  We've co-slept since the night Maddox was born.  It was a conscious decision that we made while I was pregnant.  Co-sleeping is safe if you follow common sense guidelines like the ones you've mentioned.

nonmember avatar bdogmama

OMG, thank you because I *was* starting to freak out. After hearing about these last week (albeit it, snippets where they left out important details, evidently), my mind went there. To the what ifs. To the beating myself up for what could've happened.

Thanks for being my own personal little cognitive behavioral therapist.

PS. please tell me more about how to transition my happy co-sleeper to his own bed? The gently weaning part? Really easy? You mentioned something about his mattress in your room? Do tell...

Sweet... SweetPieMama24

I only co-slept part time, and that was when the baby wouldn't sleep at all at night unless he was next to me. Now he's in his crib and LOVES it - he moves around all over the place. My stepdaughter co-slept (years prior to me being in the picture) and now that she's 9 - she still can't sleep alone. At her mother's house she still sleeps in the bed with her. I had to put a stop to it at our house. Every other weekend my hubby would have to sleep in her tiny bed or on the floor with her - and it was getting to a point that I got kicked outta my own bed at 8 months pregnant with my first, because my hubby fell asleep first and I was not sleeping on a twin bed with her. I ended up sleeping on the couch - and from there on I told her she needs to sleep in her bed alone while she's with us, or she can't sleep over at all. Now she has no problem when she's over. However, at her house, she still does...

Nathalie Arruda

This is seriously one of the best co-sleeping articles I've ever read. I LOVE it. Regarding #7, I was once sleeping with my oldest (now he's four, this happened when he was 6 months though) in a hotel bed, and he started actually rolling off the bed. I caught him in midair, and THEN woke up. I didn't fall back to sleep for another 2 hours because I had such a panic spell what I realized what had happened. Moms really are uniquely aware of their babies, it's such an amazing connection.

Nathalie Arruda

bdogmama, we did the same thing with our little boy. At 18 months he started having a lot of trouble in our bed, and as an experiment we put his crib mattress on the floor next to our bed. He slept like a log, so we realized it was time to start the transition - he was sleeping better out of our bed! He, like Christie's little boy, slept several months on the mattress on our floor. Then when he started asking to sleep in his own room, we had a little "room party" where we bought him exciting new sheets, decorated the walls, etc. And he happily moved into his own room.

Now at 4 he is again on a mattress in our room, but he's been through a lot of transitions lately and it's only natural for him to want to be closer to us. He has a new baby brother, we recently moved, etc. 

RanaA... RanaAurora

bdogmama, check out some of the things I linked to within the article, for one, especially the two in the last paragraph. As far as transitioning, it's just like anything else in AP, gentle parenting. Start offering their new bed or bedroom for them. Let them know they are welcome to nap or sleep there whenever they want.

Part of the benefit of a mattress on my floor was my son, in the first couple days, could SEE ME and hold my hand (which wasn't comfy for me but was short-lived, and only while he fell asleep, or for a couple minutes if he woke up and freaked. Since he'd been co-sleeping, the bribery of letting him choose sheets for his bed if he stayed there for the first night, and then again if he stayed there a week (we needed sheets since it was unused, haha) was good incentive for him. That was also the point we started letting him sleep with stuffed animals, since he obviously didn't have them in my bed, but having them to cuddle in his seemed to help him feel less lonely. After 6 months, we had put glow-in-the-dark stars all over the walls in his room, and I showed him how you could only see them in the dark and mentioned "in passing" (ahem) how cool it would be to sleep "under the stars", like being outside. He asked that night if we could put his mattress back on the convertible crib frame, and we said yes, and the night went uneventfully. He's slept by himself ever since. :)

RanaA... RanaAurora


Every child's experience will be different, but with gentle encouragement, support and helping them out on that branch while letting them know you're still there to catch them if they fall, they'll crawl way out on their own time.

Lynette Lynette

yes we follow all the cosleeping rules u posted & a few more.  No smoking, no alcohol, no night time medicine.  We now have a bed rail and we pushed the bed in a corner of the rm.  there is no gaps along the walls so this works(we don't have a head board).  Another GREAT option is to put the bed on the floor.  We breastfeed and I would NEVER recommend a formula feeding parent co-sleep.  Breastfeeding moms and babies sleep lighter.  Making mom more aware of baby in sleep.  And when it comes time to move our children out of our bed we use a crib mattress on the floor and slowly ease them away from the bed.  Also if baby goes to sleep before we are ready for bed I used a pack-n-play to start the night and then when they get to big for that we use that crib mattress on the floor for that too.  When baby/ toddler wakes in the night we bring them to our bed.

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