Throughout my pregnancy and even after my baby was born, I had no plan or intention of co-sleeping. In fact, my baby had two cribs to choose from and a variety of other cozy devices at his disposal.
But as his 4-month mark rolled around he started to get fussier and fussier. When I put him in his crib, he would wake after only an hour of sleep. But if I let him curl up with me in bed, he would sleep for 6 hours straight.
So….yeah….we became co-sleepers real quick. And I’ll tell you what, I’m so glad I did it. In fact, it’s one of the things I’m most grateful for when I look back at the past year.
But it was not an easy decision. Countless articles terrified me into thinking that he was going to die from co-sleeping. Instead of focusing on all of the methods that make co-sleeping safer (and ultimately decrease the risks), I was too distracted by horror stories. (And if your fear is having your child in your bed forever, rest assured, that won’t happen. Here’s how we transitioned our co-sleeping toddler to his own room: 10 Tips for Transitioning a Co-sleeping Toddler to Their Own Room)
So here it is. 12 ways to make co-sleeping safer. These are the things I WISH I had read.
Remove the Bed Frame
I know, I know, but your’s is so cute! You saved up for it and it brings the whole room together! Just like that adorable nursery that is now your storage locker.
Removing your bed frame is really important for a very obvious reason – if your baby rolls out of bed (which is a legitimate risk), you do not want him to get hurt. You can always put the bed frame back when your little one is grown. It’s such an easy accommodation with a huge upside, so don’t waste time on this one.
Co-sleeping and breastfeeding go hand-in-hand. Typically, co-sleeping is credited with promoting breastfeeding, but many don’t realize that breastfeeding also makes co-sleeping safer. When a baby is breastfeeding, they do not enter as deep of a sleep, so they are more likely to fuss if they get into an uncomfortable position or predicament. Breastfeeding mothers are also still assisted by the hormones and natural chemicals running through their system that keep them in tune with their baby. To make life easy, most breastfeeding babies will end up sleeping chest-level to their mom (as opposed to face-to-face) which is actually a much safer place for the baby.
Baby on Back
Just like in their crib, it’s a good idea to put them to sleep on their back. It’s likely that your bed is a little softer and fluffier than the crib mattress, so you don’t want them to accidentally cover their face.
Bed Next to Wall
I know, I know. First the bed frame, now this. Why, oh WHY, must I mess with your feng shui like this?
Because you want your little one sleeping safely beside you and this is as safe as it gets – bed flat on the floor smashed right up against the corner of the room.
Yes, you have to crawl over your husband to get into bed and yes, your water glass needs a new home. But you know what happened when we did this? Our bedroom AND bed somehow quadrupled in size. Now I actually have room to do the yoga sessions that I always planned to do everyday that I still never do ever on any day.
Baby Between Wall and Mom
There is lots of research that shows that the safest place for a baby is in between the mother and the wall. Moms have a 6th sense about their babies and end up being more aware of what’s going on at night – even while they’re fast asleep (or sleeping with one eye open…). Now, this is not supposed to be a knock on dads. If dad is the one with the 6th sense, then by all means, he should be the one next to the baby. But if not, mom’s in the middle!
It’s important to note here that this positioning ONLY works if the bed is pushed flat up against the wall – no space whatsoever for the baby to get caught in. The upside of this setup is that mom and dad get quality time every night – so co-sleeping doesn’t need to be the end of adult time.
Less is More
This is a biggie. You really need to give up any extra pillows and say goodbye to the days of pulling the comforter up to your chin. Babies can easily get tangled or worse – suffocate underneath a heavy comforter.
Here’s the good news – your little bundle is a built in heater that will keep you cozy all night. Trust me, it beats hugging a pillow.
No Strings or Cords
This one sounds crazy, yet every year there are babies that lose their lives because they got tangled in a cord while sleeping. Think about window blinds, long tassels, nightgown ties, etc. Basically anything long enough to fit around your little guy’s neck needs to find it’s way out of your bed.
This is a real toughie but it’s extremely important. There are lots of great suggestions out there about how to transition older co-sleepers, including ways to still keep them in your room. But you can not have two young children sleeping in bed together until they’re much older. If your older guy just won’t budge, then consider a co-sleeper next to the bed for the newborn until you have the situation figured out.
No Drugs or Alcohol
It’s like driving, only a billion times more important. You don’t want anything impairing your 6th sense and that means anything that will make you a heavy sleeper – no alcohol or drugs, including prescriptions or sleeping pills.
Look, this doesn’t mean you can’t ever relax with a drink. Just make sure it happens well before bedtime. You’re a co-sleeper now – so your Happy Hour gets to happen at 4.
It is ironic that we spend the first year of their life constantly concerned that they aren’t bundled up enough because the reality is that they are much more likely to overheat than to freeze. This is even more true for co-sleepers. They’ve got their Mama keeping them warm, so don’t overdress them for the occasion.
The younger the baby, the more you have to worry about accidental suffocation. So if you can keep them in a bassinet next to the bed for the first few months, you won’t have to worry as much. You can also consider a small co-sleeper that actually goes in the bed with the parents and provides added protection.
You still have to worry as they grow, however. Once your baby starts rolling you have to worry about the bed height and placement (unless you’ve listened to my earlier advice!).
Here’s the deal – co-sleeping is not for everyone. That goes for parents and babies. If it just doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you are meant to co-sleep, trust me, you will.
It’s also important to really think long and hard about your sleep habits to evaluate whether it’s a responsible decision. You may be gung-ho about co-sleeping, but if you’re a heavy sleeper with a pension for rolling over, it may not be a good idea. If that is you, consider using a co-sleeper or put a crib right next to the bed. You will still be able to wake up to that happy face without a worry in the world.
Related post: 10 Tips for Transitioning Your Co-Sleeping Toddler into Their Own Bed
Co-sleeping is a serious commitment – but so was having your baby in the first place. If you’re sure it’s the best decision for your family, then make the necessary steps to ensure it’s as safe as can be. You and your baby will both be breathing a sigh of relief.
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