Bedsharing: Pros, Cons, and How to Do it Safely

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Depending on who you ask, bedsharing can be the perfect solution to a sleepless baby or a terrible, unnecessary risk.

Before we get too far, let’s recognize the distinction between bedsharing and co-sleeping:

Bedsharing is exactly what it sounds like – baby sleeps in the bed with their parents.
Co-sleeping is a broader term for when baby sleeps close to their parents, so this includes room-sharing and bedsharing.

While room-sharing is generally recommended and has been linked to lower risks of SIDS, bedsharing is pretty controversial in the US.

There are tons of strong opinions about bedsharing as well as lots of conflicting information. It can get really confusing for moms who are just desperately trying to get some sleep.

Of course here at The Moms At Odds we have differing opinions (and experiences!) on the subject. Jo bedshared with both of her babes but Rachel avoided it.

Today we want to discuss some of the pros/cons of bedsharing. Even more importantly, for those decide to bedshare we’re giving you 10 guidelines to help you do it as safely as possible. Lots of good info here, definitely pin this so you can easily reference it later:

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Transitioning From the Rock N Play

 

Jo Shares the Bedsharing Pros

Jo discussesI never intended to bedshare, in fact I was originally opposed to it.

But then one night when my first baby woke up for the 14975th time, in a fit of complete exhaustion I laid him down in bed with me and he slept peacefully for the rest of the night.

After that, I was hooked.

Admittedly I usually saved it for “bad nights”, but bringing my babies into bed was a surefire way to get them to sleep. When they did awake, I could adjust myself slightly and allow them to nurse while we both sailed off to dreamland.

Related  The Tired Mom’s Guide to the Pros & Cons of Sleep Training
Related  How to Cope With Sleep Deprivation when Baby Keeps You Up All Night

My husband and son catching a few extra zzzzz’s

Here Are Some Bedsharing Benefits:

-|- SLEEP
Babies sleep better when they’re next to a mom. It’s comforting for both baby and you. When they do stir, pacifying them is quick and easy because they can often be soothed before baby fully awakens or cries.

-|- Increases Bonding
Snuggling your baby all night long increases the love and feels all around. Baby can feel the comfort of your warmth, breathing, and heartbeat.

-|- Encourages Breastfeeding
Bedsharing allows mothers to breastfeed easier simply due to the close proximity with their babies. (If you bedshare, be sure to look up “side-lying position”, you’re welcome) Another bonus, this regular night-feeding is great for supply. Statistically, bedsharing mothers also breastfeed their children for longer.

-|- Ease Maternal Fears
New moms wake up roughly 574 times per night (half joking, half true) to check on their infants. When you bedshare, checking on baby is so simple. You can easily open your eyes, check if they’re breathing, and then drift back to sleep.

-|- Establishes Positive Vibes Surrounding Bedtime
Mothers who begin bedsharing at the start of the night (rather than during the night after baby awakens) report that their children learn to see bedtime as a reward (because of the close, undistracted time with mom) rather than a negative thing or punishment.

-|- Avoiding Bedsharing May Be More Risky
If you are exhausted but determined not to bedshare, you’ll likely attempt to nurse your baby in a recliner or on a couch. If moms doze off while holding their baby, this can increase the risk of baby injury by dropping. Another cool thing is that some studies have suggested that the carbon dioxide that mother exhales actually stimulates baby’s breathing when they are sleeping adjacent.

benefits of bedsharing newborn

 

Rachel Share the Cons of Bedsharing

Rachel discussesBedsharing just was not right for my family.

I am a natural worrier. Combine that with some tragic bedsharing tales and I just wasn’t comfortable with it.

I did try in desperation to get some precious sleep, but my fears made it anything but restful.

Related  Why I Didn’t Let My Baby Cry-It-Out
Related  Essentials for Peaceful Baby Sleep

Why you may not want to bedshare…

— Higher risk of SIDS
This is hotly debated, however, there are a few risk factors that have been strongly associated with higher risks while bedsharing:
     – If the parents are smoker, consumed alcohol, or used drugs (including medications that cause drowsiness)
     – If the infants is less than 3 months, premature, or low birth weight

— You Must be Home for Bedtime
If you have to travel or just like to go out in the evening, this can be a big problem. It may be very difficult to leave your little one with a babysitter if they won’t sleep without you.

— The Eventual Transition out of Your Bed
Depending on how long you bedshare, getting your child to eventually sleep in their own bed can be tricky. While, they most likely won’t want to still sleep with you when they’re in high school, they may not be ready to leave your bed when you are.

— Intimacy Issues
A baby in your bed can certainly put the brakes on your sex life. Some couples are cool with finding creative times and places, but that’s not everyone’s thing.

— Poor Sleep
Certainly a personal preference, but some moms report that they do not sleep well with a squirmy baby kicking them.

This is actually the biggest reason I avoided bedsharing. Having baby next to me made me super anxious and I barely slept at all. Even the tiniest movement would startle me fully awake.

benefits of bedsharing newborn

 

Bedsharing Guidelines

If you are considering bedsharing, there are 3 absolute requirements to check off for the safest possible sleep.  Make sure that:

  • Your child is a full-term and healthy baby
  • Both parents are non-smokers
  • Both parents are completely sober (meaning no drugs, alcohol, or even medications that can make you drowsy)

Also remember that adult beds are not designed for babies and do have some potential hazards. Here are 10 ideas to help minimize the bedsharing risks:

1 | Have the Safest Gear

Luckily for the modern mom, there are devices specifically designed for safe bedsharing.

The SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper provides your baby with a firm surface and allows them to sleep between parents in the middle of the bed. The frame is metal (so it prevents a parent from rolling onto the baby) and the sides are mesh (to allow for proper air circulation). Options include the basic or the deluxe version (which includes sound, lights, and vibration settings)

2 | Use a Firm Mattress with a Tight, Fitted Sheet

If baby is sleeping directly on the bed, you want to have a sleeping surface as firm as possible, so remove any pillow-top covers or padded mattress protectors. Make sure you fitted sheet is the right size for your mattress and is pulled taut. Another good idea is to invest in sheets that are hypoallergenic, cool, and breathable.

3 | Keep Pillows and Blankets Away from Baby  

If your baby is sleeping in the middle of the bed, each parent should have their own blanket/sheet so it is not accidentally pulled up and onto baby. You should also keep the number of blankets and pillows to a minimum.  

4 | Back to Sleep

While many moms find the side-lying breastfeeding position helpful when bedsharing, ensure baby is sleeping on their back at all times when they are not feeding.

5 | Unwrap the Baby

Even though we praise this amazing swaddle in our list of essential baby sleep items, when bedsharing you want to have the baby unswaddled to prevent overheating and suppression of the startle reflex.

6 | Position Baby Beside Mom

In the start of bedsharing, it’s a good idea to have just baby and mom sleep together. Studies have shown that moms (particularly breastfeeding moms) are more alert and aware of their babies when laying beside them. Sorry dads.

7 | Prevent Falls

When dad moves back to bed, position your baby on the side of the bed between mom and the wall/bedrail. If you don’t have a bedrail, one like the Regalo Swing Down is a good investment because you can use it again later when your child is older and you transition them to a “bid kid bed”.

8 | Mind the Gaps

Before laying your baby down, check for space between the headboard/wall/bedrail/bed frame and mattress

9 | Constant Vigilance

Never leave baby unattended in your bed.

10 | Breastfeed

Even though there are many formula-feeding moms choose to safely bedshare, we can’t ignore the studies that suggest breastfeeding moms are more attuned and easily awoken by their baby sleeping adjacent to them.

For additional help, check out Elizabeth Pantley’s great advice on bedsharing. She has even more wonderful info in her book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution.

Another great resource for more information on safe bedsharing is Dr. James McKenna’s book, Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping.


At the end of the day, remember that no matter the circumstances the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us that the ONLY safe sleeping position for baby is on their back, in their own flat crib/sleeping surface.

But hey, do your own research and make the decision that’s best for your family. Don’t be afraid to be a Mom At Odds!  Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more great information about the controversies of parenthood.

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About Author

Jo & Rachel

Jo and Rachel first had the idea for 'The Moms At Odds' in 2016 when our babies were turning 2 and we realized that we were very different parents.

As a mom, Rachel immediately felt this strong connection to her son and instantly decided she wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. Though Jo obviously loved her son as well, she counted the days until she could go back to work and interact with other adults.

They both struggled over getting their babies to sleep and while Jo believed in sleep training, Rachel looked for alternatives like dream feeding and no cry methods. As time passed and their children grew older the differences started to really add up – pacifier use, drinking during breastfeeding, organic foods, screen time, diaper brands, and on and on.

During this day and age, it’s so easy to look at our parenting differences as a bad thing. After all, we’ve all seen jokes and articles about “Mommy Wars” over one subject or another. Instead, we choose to embrace our differences and show you that in many areas there is no wrong answer. What works for one family may not work for another, and that’s perfectly fine. We can still all get along and raise perfectly healthy, beautiful children.