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Co-Sleeping Safely With Your Baby

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

Cosleeping Safely With Your Baby

Awhile back moms across the blogosphere became outraged by a campaign from the City of Milwaukee Health Department designed to convince parents that co-sleeping is not safe. Not only is co-sleeping not safe, it is comparable to letting your baby sleep next to a sharp knife, or so they want parents to think. Of course they do not bother to mention that it is riskier to drive your baby around in an automobile than to bring them into bed with you but that wouldn’t be staying true to their actual mission. The intent behind these posters is not public awareness against some real and true threat, it is all about convincing people they need to buy cribs.


Even Dr. Sears agrees:

Who is behind this new national campaign to warn parents not to sleep with their babies? In addition to the USCPSC, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is co-sponsoring this campaign. The JPMA? An association of crib manufacturers. This is a huge conflict of interest. Actually, this campaign is exactly in the interest of the JPMA.

We have seen these same tactics within the car seat industry for YEARS. Few people actually know studies have proven that past 2 years of age car seats provide no better protection from death in an auto accident than regular old seat belts. But no one makes money when you use the manufacturer seat belt so they skew studies and harp on one stat among many, so that they can get laws passed that require car seats and pad industry pockets. This Milwaukee campaign is no different. They are using a city government to spread their message… “Co-sleeping kills, buy a crib.”

Don’t fall for it and don’t let them get away with it. We need to be vocal about all the ways to make co-sleeping safer and of course be honest that it is not attached, attentive parents who lose a baby to co-sleeping. Rather it is typically inattentive parents who are under the influence of alcohol or other substances and then in their stupor roll over on their infant. When I co-slept with all three of my babies I felt even the tiniest flutter and movement, even while I was seemingly asleep. That is our mommy instinct… the one ingrained in us since the dawn of civilization, when people always slept with their babies!

But just to make sure, here are some tips for making co-sleeping safe.

  • Use a firm mattress for the family bed, no lumpy featherbeds or waterbeds.
  • Sheets and blankets should be tight and fitted.
  • Layer clothing rather than blankets if it is cold.
  • Remove extra pillows, including decorative ones. No stuffed animals.
  • Ideally place an infant between mom and a guard rail, sleeping pad (my recommendation), or wall. Make sure there are no gaps if you use a wall.
  • A large body pillow is a low cost way to fill in a gap.
  • Place baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Keep your bed low to the ground and place pillows just underneath so that if baby falls they have a soft place to land.

Another alternative is a bedside co-sleeper. Some parents choose to use these when their babies are really small and then when they reach infant and toddler sizes they move them into their own bed. Do what is best for your family and situation and don’t let fear mongers sway you away from the joys of co-sleeping with your little ones.

Where do you weigh in on this? Yay or nay for cosleeping?

Co-Sleeping Safely With Your Baby

  • Amanda Havens

    We co-sleep about 80% of the time but his crib is only about 5 feet away from my bed so I can still hear and see him when he’s in it. Honestly, I’d be thrilled if he were happy to sleep in his crib for more of the night. When he’s in the bed with us I don’t sleep nearly as well. I really miss my sleep!

  • On Green Carpet

    We have co-sleeped with Emily since she was born, it’s now almost 2,5years. We are expecting a baby coming into our family in June, and we intend to continue to co-sleep with both our children. It’s really essential way of quality night-time parenting to be a restful momma (cannot imagine getting up and out of bed during the night), and crucial for bonding. Thanks for promoting what’s good for us and our babies!

  • Brooke

    I am 27 years old and I remember co-sleeping with my mom and 2 younger sisters. We all loved it and I think that’s why we all have such a strong bond with each other to this day. I definitely plan on co-sleeping with my baby. My fiancee works third shift too so I would rather have the baby with me at night than in another room isolating both of us. But, even if my fiancee was first shift, I would still co-sleep :-)

    These crib manufacturers don’t understand what they are doing. They are trying to un-do a bond between mother and child that has evolved over thousands of years. Plus, people are waking up to the fear mongering all around us whether that’s from government, crib manufacturers, the medical establishment, etc.

    • I coslept with my folks and remember it still. Fond memories. :)

  • James Paulson

    Great sleeping tips! I might have to try some of these out! My wife is a very light sleeper, so she moves around quite a bit and I’m always worried about our two-year old!

  • Michelle AthriftyDiva Cantu

    I have three boys who all co-slept with my husband and I. It’s definitely not for everyone. For me it’s the only way, my two year old is still a co-sleeper with us. I love all of your tips. We use safety first and having a snug fitted sheet is extremely important.

  • Terri Lynn Grothe

    I did co sleeping for 18 months… yes it was a long time

    • My youngest co-slept until he was seven. :)

  • Heather

    I co-slept with all three of my kids and had no trouble whatsoever.

  • Betsy (Eco-novice)

    I saw a fabulous response to this campaign by anthropologist and mother-baby pair sleeping expert Jim McKenna. He challenged news investigators to look at the actual death reports. What did they all have in common? Intoxication? No. Sleeping on sofas? No. It was that the babies were ALL formula fed. McKenna thinks breastfeeding should be a prerequisite to bed sharing b/c breastfeeding mamas don’t sleep as deeply and are more in tune with babies:

    In addition to being offensive to people who want to practice attachment parenting, this campaign was hugely insensitive to many cultures who use the family bed as the default mode (and who, incidentally, come from countries with much lower rates of SIDS than the US). We don’t advocate getting rid of cribs b/c babies die in cribs! We should focus on making sleep safer for babies whether they sleep in the family bed or sleep elsewhere.

    • Thanks for sharing Betsy!!

  • Joyce Brewer

    We only co-sleep on nights when our son has been sick. It’s not for everyone. Although my friends who do co-sleep ay their whole family gets more rest that way.

    • It was certainly true for us…getting more rest.


    My BF just had a baby and we were just discussing this very topic! Thanks for the tips I will be sharing with her!

    Kari Ann

  • Heather HippyHomesteader

    I remember bringing our babies back to bed with us when they were little, but my hubby never slept. He was always worried about rolling over on them, even when I explained that it was unlikely to happen. We wound up moving their cribs into our room as a compromise ;)

    • We did that too, especially when we had multiple babes in the room. One slept with us and other slept in their own bed but in our room.

  • happymothering

    I never planned on co-sleeping, but it naturally happened for us! I really loved co-sleeping and felt so much safer with my babies in my bed. Plus I got so much more sleep when I accepted co-sleeping was right for us because I could breastfeed in bed.

    • I never set out to cosleep either. My first baby just refused to sleep anywhere but with me! :)

  • Camie

    I currently co-sleep with my baby and plan to for awhile. I also did with my first daughter, it makes breastfeeding at night so much easier. It is also a great way for working moms to bond and make up the missed time with their child. This time around my hubby is working 3rd shift so we get the bed all to ourselves!

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  • Trisha Eldridge Gilkerson

    This info is SO important to get out to moms. I’ll be pinning and sharing :)

  • Kylie Worthington

    Thanks for sharing this. We have coslept with all three of our children and I’m sick of the scare tactics!

  • hania

    i loved your post…….

  • Jennifer

    Co sleeping, or more accurately bed sharing is not safe, UNLESS it is done safely….you’ve proven that point numerous times in your blog most telling, with the list of things to do to make co sleeping safe. The issue remains that too many parents do not take these recommendations for “consciously co sleeping” (as Dr. McKenna calls it) and therefore, inadvertently smother their child while sleeping. In the State of Georgia alone, we average 3 babies a week dying due to sleep related causes. That’s not a scare tactic. It’s the sad truth. Perhaps instead of hating on advice that warns people to be aware of the
    dangers of bed sharing and co sleeping, we could encourage each other to have an open
    and honest discussion about how we can help each other protect our
    precious babies.