Best place for my newborn to sleep

Where should my baby sleep?

In many cultures around the world, and for many centuries it has been a common practice for mothers to be in very close proximity with their babies night and day.

We also see this close contact in the animal kingdom – mothers and babies spending many hours around the clock in very close proximity.

Many studies show that this proximity helps to protect and support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is also protective of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

A German study in 2009 showed a 50% reduction in risk of SIDS if babies were breastfed, and they recommended exclusively breastfeeding for six months to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Several other studies have also shown that when babies are close to their parents for the first six months (i.e. in the same room as the parents), the risk of SIDS is reduced.

For quite some time now, health professionals have encouraged these close sleeping arrangements for the first six months in the everyday information given to new mothers.

If you care for your baby at night in the same room as yourself, you will find feeding easier, as you are more aware of your baby’s feeding cues. Your baby will cry less, which is good for both your baby and you! 

Breastfeeding and close proximity to your baby promotes the release of a hormone called oxytocin, which helps to develop your baby’s brain.

There will also be less release of a stress hormone called cortisol.

Keeping your baby close to you can also make night-time more manageable.

You may have heard the term co-sleeping or bed-sharing, and many people think these are interchangeable terms, but there is a difference.

Co-sleeping means that an adult and baby could be sleeping on any surface together such as a bed, a chair, or a sofa, where-as bed-sharing means sleeping in a bed with your baby.

It is a widespread practice for breastfeeding mothers, particularly, to bring their baby into the bed for some part of the night or a couple of nights a week.

A UK study showed that 50 percent of babies had bed-shared before they were three months old.

It’s also important to note that some research has shown that there are potential risk factors associated particularly with co-sleeping, but also with some types of bed-sharing.

For instance, the risk of SIDS increases if you or your partner smoke or if either you or your partner have consumed alcohol or taken drugs. 

If your baby has been born prematurely or low birth weight, then bed-sharing is not considered to be a safe practice. 

Also, falling asleep on a sofa with your baby is considered to be hazardous, and not recommended at all.

There has been much confusion around bed-sharing, and sometimes there has been a blanket statement suggesting that this practice should never happen.

However, the reality is that many of you will bring your baby into the bed at some stage.

With that in mind, it is essential to consider these issues in advance and make informed decisions and plans so that you can do this as safely as possible.

Many breastfeeding mothers who have been led to believe that a baby should never be brought into the bed, often go somewhere else to sit with their baby, such as the sofa.

Be careful, as it’s easy to drift off to sleep, which is a higher risk.

It’s also possible that if you’re breastfeeding your baby in bed, you may decide to sit up in bed and place your baby on top of you to breastfeed, but then end up falling asleep in this position.

That would be more unsafe than lying down next to your baby in a safe position.

It is worth reiterating that frequent feeding at night and day is normal. It’s normal in biology, but also that SIDS is a rare occurrence, about 0.03% of all births.

While it’s not possible to eliminate all the risks, bear in mind that 90% of those cases happen in hazardous situations.

This topic can be controversial and confusing, and you may get conflicting ideas, but to be informed on the subject is the most important thing you can do.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022

References

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