Where should my baby sleep?

Where should my baby sleep? - Transcript

In many cultures around the world and for many centuries it’s been a very common practice for mothers to be in very close proximity with their babies night and day. And we also see this really close contact in the animal kingdom – mothers and baby spending hours and hours and hours in that very close proximity.

We know that many studies show that this close proximity helps to protect and support breastfeeding, and in turn breastfeeding is also protective of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

A known German study in 2009 showed a reduction of 50 percent risk for babies that were breastfeeding, reducing that risk of sudden infant death syndrome, and they recommended exclusively breastfeeding for six months as part of their reduction of risk for SIDS.

A number of other studies have shown that when babies are in close proximity to the parents for the first six months (so that means- in the same room as the parents), then that risk of SIDS is much reduced too, and for quite some time now health professionals have encouraged this close sleeping arrangements for the first six months as everyday information to mothers.

If you care for your baby at night in the same room as yourself, you will find that you can feed your baby more easily. Your baby is going to cry less, and this is good for babies too – there will be less of the cortisol hormone which is the stress hormone released, and altogether it makes night-time more manageable.

You might have heard the term co-sleeping or bed sharing, and I do want to differentiate between the two. Co-sleeping means that an adult or a baby could be sleeping on any surface – so that could be a bed, a chair, or a sofa. Bed-sharing is just sleeping in a bed with your baby.

What we do know is that it’s really common practice for breastfeeding mothers, particularly, to bring their baby into the bed, maybe for some part of the night or a couple of nights a week, and so bed-sharing is a common practice. It was interesting to note that a UK study showed that 50 percent of babies have bed-shared before they are three months old.

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

We know that the risk of SIDS is increased if you or your partner smoke,or you’ve consumed alcohol or taken drugs. We also know that if your baby has been born prematurely or low birth weight, then bed- sharing is not considered to be particularly safe. We also know that falling asleep on a sofa with your baby is considered to be hazardous, and not recommended at all.

And I know there has been a lot of confusion about bed sharing, and sometimes there’s almost a blanket statement to say that it should never happen, but because we know that many of you will bring your baby into the bed it’s important that you look at these issues and make plans, so that you can do this as safely as possible.

What can happen is, if you believe that you should never bring your baby into the bed, then many of you breastfeeding mothers tend to then go somewhere else to sit with your baby – and it’s very easy to drift off to sleep in those circumstances, which we know is a higher risk.

And it’s also possible that if you were breastfeeding your baby in bed, you may decide to sit up in bed and place your baby on top of you and breastfeed in that way and fall asleep. In many ways that would be more unsafe than lying down next to your baby in a safe position.

I really want to reiterate that frequent feeding at night and day is normal. It’s normal in biology, but also that SIDS is a rare occurrence. We’re talking about 0.03% of all births. We know it’s not possible to eliminate all the risks, but bear in mind that 90% of those cases happened in hazardous situations.

I do understand that this topic can be really controversial and confusing and you may get conflicting ideas, but it really is important that you make an informed choice on this and look at all of the useful information available on this subject.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

V1 published June 2017. Next review date: April 2020

References

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