This is one of those hot-point questions, and I’m not going to give you a definitive answer, because there isn’t a right answer.
If you’re nursing, chances are you will co-sleep sometimes. In general, western doctors recommend against babies sleeping in the bed with adults. There are risks to co-sleeping, but they are somewhat mitigated by the fact that the risk of SID S is lower.
If you co-sleep:
- Remove extra bedding and pillows from the bed.
- Verify that the mattress is firm enough that the baby can breathe easily when lying facedown.
- Do not leave the baby on the bed alone even if they haven’t started turning over yet. There’s always a first time.
- Make sure that baby isn’t close to an ‘open’ edge. Either have baby between you and your partner, between you and the wall, or in a co-sleeper.
- Do not co-sleep when you are drunk or have taken any drugs, including any prescription or over-the-counter drugs that can cause drowsiness. A simple Benadryl could be enough to make you lose your awareness of the baby.
- Likewise, if your partner is impaired in any way, do not put the baby next to your partner.
- Co-sleeping appears to be safer for breastfed babies than for formula-fed babies. Nursing mothers seem to be more aware of their baby while sleeping.
If the baby is in a crib:
- Make sure that the mattress is firm enough that the baby can breathe easily when lying facedown.
- Do not use bumpers, as babies can suffocate in them.
- Do not use a crib with a mechanism that lowers the side. These have been banned in the United States, because they have caused suffocation in infants.
- Make sure that a baby who can’t crawl is in a crib with sides higher than their full height in a crawl position. As soon as your baby can crawl, lower the crib so that the child’s head is fully in the crib when standing up. (You will wake up one morning and find your baby standing.)
- Follow the instructions that come with your crib.
- Do not use adult blankets to cover baby. Babies should sleep in clothing that is sized for them, and should only use blankets specifically made for babies. For infants who don’t turn over yet, it’s best to avoid blankets except for swaddling.
- Do not use adult clothes or coats to cover a baby unless you are holding the baby at the time. The baby’s head can be caught in the sleeve.
- Leave the doors open or use a baby monitor. You don’t have to hear every little sigh, but if the baby is crying, you should hear the cries immediately. Many parents prefer to have the baby in a bassinet in the parents’ room until they get a better feel for the baby’s sleeping and waking patterns.