Co-sleeping vs. bed sharing

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  July 27, 2009 06:00 AM

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First of all, let's get our terms straight.


Question: Is it ok to sleep in the same bed as your newborn? I've heard of many recent deaths including South Boston and Dorchester and Weymouth of infants that were smothered. I also heard that this helps the baby to adjust and is good for the baby.

From: Mary Ellen, of Quincy

Hi Mary Ellen,

Bed-sharing is when baby and adult sleep in the same bed. Co-sleeping is when baby and adult sleep in the same room but not in the same bed. For instance, the baby may be in a bassinet next to the bed or in an infant-sleeper that attaches to the adult bed.

Here’s an excerpt from the American Academy of Pediatrics current policy statement on SIDS:

"Bed sharing between an infant and adult(s) is a
highly controversial topic. Although electrophysiologic
and behavioral studies offer a strong case for
its effect in facilitating breastfeeding and the enhancement
of maternal-infant bonding,... epidemiologic
studies of bed sharing have shown that it can
be hazardous under certain conditions."

What makes conditions hazardous? If there's more than one adult in the bed; if the bedding is soft. If the baby is 11 weeks or younger. If the adult has consumed alcohol or other substances.

“Finally,” the statement reads, “the risk of bed sharing is higher the longer the duration of bed sharing during the night.” Meaning that having baby in bed with you for 20 minutes is less dangerous than having her there for one hour, one hour is less dangerous than 2 hours, and so on.

The Academy recommends co-sleeping, not bed-sharing. Specifically, it says: (The boldface is my emphasis)

"Although bed-sharing rates are increasing in
the United States for a number of reasons, including
facilitation of breastfeeding, the task
force concludes that the evidence is growing that
bed sharing, as practiced in the United States and
other Western countries, is more hazardous than
the infant sleeping on a separate sleep surface
and, therefore, recommends that infants not bed
share during sleep
. Infants may be brought into
bed for nursing or comforting but
should be
returned to their own crib or bassinet when the
parent is ready to return to sleep.
The infant
should not be brought into bed when the parent
is excessively tired or using medications or substances
that could impair his or her alertness."

Click here to see the entire AAP policy statement.


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1 comments so far...
  1. There is a dragon sized fly in the soup. The total number of infant deaths has not gone up with increased bed sharing.
    The infant deaths are being classified differently but there are no more of them. SIDS is real; co-sleeping is not a substantial cause.

    Posted by PJean October 1, 13 12:48 PM
 
1 comments so far...
  1. There is a dragon sized fly in the soup. The total number of infant deaths has not gone up with increased bed sharing.
    The infant deaths are being classified differently but there are no more of them. SIDS is real; co-sleeping is not a substantial cause.

    Posted by PJean October 1, 13 12:48 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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