Before we get to the good stuff, we want to note that sleep support is only intended for full-term healthy babies. Medical diagnoses or prematurity can greatly impact sleep and change what you can reasonably expect from your little one. Sleep is a highly individual process, and we encourage you to reach out to your pediatric provider or a sleep professional for support as needed.
Finding ways to get your new family more sleep is probably one of your top priorities these days. It can feel so exhausting to get up multiple times a night to soothe or feed your baby. For many people, this may lead to considering surface sharing (also known as bed sharing or co-sleeping) or room-sharing.
When room-sharing, parents keep a crib, bassinet, or other sleep surface in their room, often near their bed. Room-sharing is fairly common and recommended by the AAP, especially for the first 6 months to reduce the risk of SIDS. It is also convenient for some parents during the first months or first year when night-time feedings need to be frequent.
When surface sharing, on the other hand, parents share their bed with their baby. It’s important to know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against surface sharing, since there are major concerns about accidental injury to the baby when parents are asleep, including suffocation and death. That said, bed-sharing is common in many non-Western cultures, where infant death rates, especially from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), are low, though other cultural differences could have an impact on these results.
Surface sharing (co-sleeping) is a topic with many points of view, and it has risks and benefits. Ultimately you and your family should decide what sleep style is best for you and your little one.
Pros of co-sleeping
- Helps some babies sleep more easily
- May strengthen the bond between parent and child
- Makes nighttime breastfeeding easier
- Lengthens babies’ nighttime sleep
- Syncs parents’ sleep cycles with their babies’ patterns
Cons of co-sleeping
- For babies who surface share, there’s an increased risk of suffocation, strangulation and SIDS
- Increased risk for falls and skull fractures
- Decreased chances for intimacy with your partner
- Increased separation anxiety when it’s time to move to their own sleep space
Again, a variety of U.S. medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, warn against placing infants in adult beds and surface sharing. Doctors do, however, recommend room-sharing, as this reduces the risk of SIDS in infants, so long as they are safely in their own space.
If you need more information on risk reduction and bed-sharing, please check out https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/co-sleeping/ or https://cosleeping.nd.edu/safe-co-sleeping-guidelines/.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Bed-Sharing.” March of Dimes. March of Dimes, October 2016. Web.
- “Bed Sharing Remains Greatest Risk Factor for Sleep-Related Infant Death.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, July 14 2014. Web.
- “Co-Sleeping: What’s best for you and your child?” Zero to Three. ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, February 29 2016. Web.
- “Co-Sleeping: Yes, No, Sometimes?” AskDrSears. AskDrSears.com. Web.
- “Safe Cosleeping Guidelines.” Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, University of Notre Dame. University of Notre Dame. Web.
- “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment.” Pediatrics. 128(5). Web. November 2011.