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Sharing Sleep with Your Baby

A Safe Family Bed

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Through out the years sleeping with a baby in your bed was the norm. In Western culture this changed and more and more newborns were placed in cribs to sleep away from their parents. Though the family bed, or co-sleeping, is still the cultural norm in other parts of the world, it is not something that is seen as a normal practice in the United States, despite the fact that many families choose some form of co-sleeping for themselves.

Proponents of the family bed point to the benefits. They say that they sleep longer and better when they sleep with their babies. Those mothers who breastfeed say that sharing their bed with their newborn or older baby makes breastfeeding much easier and in turn the get more sleep. There are also some physicians who say that sharing a bed with your baby can also protect him or her against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Recently a study done by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) claimed that many deaths of infants were caused by sleeping in bed with their parents. The study did not determine if safe bedding practices were kept or if the parents were under the influence of any form of drugs or alcohol. There are some parents who feel that this study was simply another way to encourage people to buy cribs, seeing as the CPSC supposedly stood to have more to gain if that were true.

The bottom line is that if you choose to sleep with your baby in your bed for any amount of time, you need to follow safe bedding practices. The first thing is where you sleep. You should never sleep on the couch or on a waterbed with your baby. Your bed mattress should be firm, flat and clean. You should avoid overheating for your baby, dress them lightly when they sleep with you and do not use huge blankets to cover them. Sheets and light blankets are usually sufficient to keep you and your baby warm. It is best to face your baby when you sleep with him or her, this prevent your baby from falling out of bed or falling between the bed and the wall. Be sure your partner knows that the baby is in your bed. It is probably better to not have pets also sharing your bed.

You should not sleep with your baby if you or anyone in your bed:

  • is taking medication or drugs that make you extra sleepy.
  • have drunk alcohol.
  • are a smoker, even if you do not smoke in bed.
  • are unusually tired.

Sleeping with your baby is a personal choice. It should be made with your family's needs in mind and not the opinions of others. Try what works for your family and alter the arrangements safely until you find where everyone gets the most sleep.

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