Is Co-sleeping with Your Baby Dangerous?

Parents making the choice to co-sleep with their infant (having their babies sleep in bed with them) has lead to a number of infant deaths in Canada. Parents are now strongly advised by doctors not to co-sleep with their infants. However, just because other parents have smothered their infants by rolling on top of them or moving their pillow on top of them doesn't mean you will! Use common sense. Ask yourself "do I wake up in the same position as when I went to sleep?" If you sleep with your partner ask this question of them as well. If you do not move around in your sleep you are not going to roll over or move the bedding on top of your infant.

Tip: When you choose a duvet or comforter hold it over your mouth and try to breath through it. If air passes through it easily you do not have to worry about it suffocating your child. You should do this with all of the bedding you use in your child's crib as well.

I want to address this issue of the dangers of co-sleeping because it can happen accidentally. If you breastfeed then it may have happened to you. When breastfeeding the body releases hormones (oxytocin and prolactin) that make you relax which can also cause you to fall asleep. I had this problem when I was breastfeeding my daughter. I felt it was safer to breast feed her in bed so that if I did fall asleep I did not have to worry about her falling. Rocking chairs are wonderful for breastfeeding but if you fall asleep your baby could fall on the floor. I had my daughter sleep in her crib whenever possible, but we ended up co-sleeping a lot, especially when she was growing quickly and was breastfeeding an average of six times in one night.

That said if you or your partner move around a lot in your sleep do not co-sleep. Because breastfeeding can cause you to fall asleep do not breastfeed lying down. If you feel that you are on the verge of falling asleep when you breastfeed listen to music with headphones to keep yourself awake without disturbing your baby.

My doctor told me strictly not to co-sleep and I respect my doctor greatly but I did not listen to this particular advise. I knew that my daughter would be safe and that sometimes co-sleeping allowed both her and I to get more sleep. Sometimes I would fall asleep in the night with her breastfeeding in bed and she would still be latched on in the morning!

It is important to take the potential risk of co-sleeping seriously. Assess your sleeping habits and make the choice that is right for your family.

There are also co-sleeping cribs that attach to your bed and have three walls. They allow your baby to stay in their own space while breastfeeding. If you have a tendency to toss and turn in your sleep these products are a fantastic solution. Even if you do not intend to co-sleep with your child there is always the risk of falling asleep with them in bed on the rare occasion, and all it takes is once.

Do not allow your fear of the risks associated with cosleeping stop you from breastfeeding your child. It is one of the best gifts you can give them. If you do not want to breast feed suck it up and do it for the first 4 weeks at least. When you first begin to breast feed your baby gets colostrum before your milk comes down. Colostrum basically passes on immunity to illnesses. During the early stages of breastfeeding your child recieves all of the immunities to illnesses that you have built up over time. These immunities help prevent your baby from getting sick. Even if you do not want to breastfeed, "putting up with it" temporarily is far easier than having a sick baby on a regular basis.


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