Bedsharing Myths and Truths
1. Bedsharing is Always Dangerous
Bedsharing can be very dangerous, so can most things in life. Sleeping with a baby on a sofa, sharing a bed with a baby if you formula feed, smoke (or smoked during pregnancy), if you have drunk alcohol, if you have taken prescription medication or recreational drugs can all be incredibly dangerous.
Sharing a bed with your baby following some simple rules (see our article here) has not been shown to be dangerous in any research. Sadly there have been no studies done to date that include all of the variable contained in sensible bedsharing advice. The research is always missing important variables.
2. Two Thirds of all SIDS Cases Occur When the Baby Was Sleeping With a Parent.
As mentioned above research that categorically states that bedsharing is far more risky than a baby sleeping alone is sadly deeply flawed. It misses so many important variables and while these studies have provided a good opportunity for scientists to clear up the issue of bedsharing safety sadly all they have done to date is confused the issue. It is naive at best and deceiving at worse to use these studies to tell parents not to sleep with their babies. Many are concerned that anti-bedsharing research may actually put some babies at more risk as their parents may fall asleep with them in bed accidentally, having not been made aware of what the risks are or how to reduce them.
3. It’s Not Good for the Baby, They Need to Learn Independence
Before independence first comes dependence. When a baby is born they need us, they cannot survive without us, indeed they do not even realise they are a separate entity to us until they are 3mths old. So much research speaks about the importance of infant attachment, baby-carer bond, and how if an infant is allowed to be as attached to their parent as they need then we can help to create a confident toddler, child and adult. Separating an infant from it’s parent before he or she is ready to separate does not make him autonomous or independent, it deprives him of a basic need.
4. Bedsharing Kills Marriages
Stress & exhaustion with a non sleeping crying baby is more likely to affect a marriage than a small person in the bed. In fact most marriages break down because of a lack of communication or simply growing apart. Babies are small for such a short time, if parents agree on a parenting strategy and communicate well with each other this clearly isn’t an issue.
What about sex? is really the undercurrent here though, for most new mothers sex is the furthest thing from their minds. After the birth hormones are haywire, bodies are sore and tender, where the baby sleeps is almost irrelevant in this respect. This also presumes that it is only possible to have sex in bed at night, which is clearly not true.
1. Bedsharing Can be Safe
In many countries bedsharing is the cultural norm. During the 1990s, in Japan the SIDs rate was only one tenth of that of the West and in Hong Kong, it was only 3%. Interestingly bedsharing is normal, and very common, in Japan and Hong Kong. All around the world parents sleep with their infants in their beds, bedsharing rates are as high as 60-70% in some societies, the SIDS rates do not correlate with this.
To quote William Sears, MD:
“Until a legitimate survey is done to determine how many babies sleep with their parents, and this is factored into the rate of SIDS in a bed versus a crib, it is unwarranted to state that sleeping in a crib is safer than a bed. If the incidence of SIDS is dramatically higher in crib versus a parent’s bed, and because the cases of accidental smothering and entrapment are only 1.5% of the total SIDS cases, then sleeping with a baby in your bed would be far safer than putting baby in a crib. The answer is not to tell parents they shouldn’t sleep with their baby, but rather to educate them on how to sleep with their infants safely.”
2. Bedsharing May Save Lives
There are many reasons where it may be safer for a baby to be in close proximity to its parent(s) including the concept of limbic regulation and gaseous exchange, decreased levels of infant apnoea, and the increased arousability in breastfeeding mums (resulting in heightened awareness to their infants). Research has found infant apnoea decreased by up to 60% in studies when babies are near to someone else breathing whilst sleeping.
3. Bedsharing Can Mean More Sleep For Everyone.
Many parents spend hours fighting their babies, returning them to their cribs and moses baskets as soon as they fall asleep, where they awaken and cry. Conversely many comment that their babies will snooze for hours in their arms. Babies are likely to wake more regularly and feed more regularly during the night when in their parent’s bed, however the awakenings are shorter and often parents aren’t fully aware of all of them.
4. Bedsharing Helps Breastfeeding & Milk Supply
Bedsharing and breastfeeding go hand in hand, indeed we know the research says it is only breastfeeding mothers who should co-sleep with their babies (due to their heightened states of arousal to their infant), we know that the close physical contact – oftentimes skin to skin – that comes with bedsharing can make the breastfeeding experience easier. We also know that breastfeeding alone can decrease SIDs risk – imagine what a powerful combination we have in terms of decreasing SIDs risks when we combine safe bedsharing and breastfeeding.
Click Here for More on Safer Bedsharing.
By Sarah Ockwell-Smith – Our resident Baby and Toddler Expert.