The Co-Sleeping Conundrum - FamilyEducation

The Co-Sleeping Conundrum

November 15,2013

How many of you have seen the ad with the baby sleeping next to a meat cleaver, suggesting that co-sleeping is just as dangerous? Or how about the “Sleep Safe” campaign that depicted a tomb stone at the head of an adult bed, calling it a baby’s final resting place?

If you’re anything like me, you were more than a little disturbed and offended that anyone would ever suggest loving, well-meaning parents who co-sleep with their babies are comparable to putting a baby to sleep next to a weapon, or even more chillingly, in a grave.

For years we’ve been told co-sleeping is bad. The AAP’s stance has long been to advise against it, and, if ads like the “bed-sharing equals sleeping with a meat cleaver” poster are any indication, it’s safe to say that scare tactics have been the most popular way to tell parents they shouldn’t be doing it.

Except, parents are doing it. Several recent studies and polls have found that co-sleeping is extremely common. A study conducted in Los Angeles in 2007 found that 70-80 percent of mothers bed-shared with their babies, whether it was always or on occasion. Other studies have found up to 41 percent of new moms always co-sleep. And the general consensus is that these are underestimates (maybe because new parents are afraid of being compared to a grave digger?)

As the author of this article so aptly put it, claiming co-sleeping is only safe if you don’t do it is like telling teenagers that abstinence is the only form of birth control. People are going to do it anyway, so it makes no sense to simply sit back and say “well, we told you not to!”

Instead, how about teaching parents about co-sleeping safety? There’s no doubt about the fact that it can be dangerous — in 2010, around 15 percent of infant deaths in the U.S. were classified as Sudden Unexplained Infant Death, a portion of which was made up of babies who died while sleeping in an unsafe environment. Some of these risk factors associated with unsafe bed-sharing are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol, using prescription medications, and/or illegal drugs
  • Obesity
  • Sleeping on soft surfaces, such as couches
  • Using loose bedding and pillows

But, there are certain measures you can take to make co-sleeping safer. So, if you plan on bed-sharing (which it’s pretty clear that many parents are), then it’s important to at least be well-educated on the risk factors and safety precautions that should be taken. Follow these safe co-sleeping guidelines to help ensure your whole family gets a restful, healthy, and safe night’s sleep.

Did you co-sleep? What’s your stance on this very common practice?