The Risks & Realities of Co-Sleeping

by |  March 4th, 2014

Five babies died in the last two months here in Austin. Health officials blame co-sleeping.

Sleeping newborn babyThe news breaks my heart. These are good parents, good people and now they will suffer a lifetime of sorrow.

When it comes to best sleeping practices, the right answer is what works for all of you…as long as the baby is in a safe sleep space.

As a new parent who will do just about anything to get a good night’s sleep, I know the temptation is there to have your child share your bed. It’s certainly easier to nurse a baby in the middle of the night when the mom and baby are next to each other. And some newborns have trouble falling asleep in a bassinet and settle nicely when they are cozy, warm, and lying on a parent’s chest.

But here’s the problem: Co-sleeping or bed sharing carries a higher the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and sleep advocates, including the American Academy of Pediatrics—warn against it.

Why does this happen? Babies can smother in parents’ pillows, blankets and comforters. Sleeping parents can accidentally roll over and suffocate babies. And, babies can end up entrapped between the mattress and the headboard.

These risks are not worth the benefits of sharing the family bed.

Remember your ABCs.  The APP recommends the ABCs of safe sleep: make sure your baby is Alone, on its Back, in a Crib.

Room-sharing, not bed-sharing. Having your baby in your bedroom, but in his own sleep space, ensures that your baby is nearby for frequent night-feedings and for consoling your little one when he needs you. This is not an affront to those who choose attachment parenting at all. It is just a matter of preventing what’s preventable…and what could become a parent’s worst nightmare.

Once your baby becomes a toddler, it is perfectly fine to have him sleep with you from a safety standpoint…just make sure that everyone who shares the family bed agrees with this plan. It isn’t a family bed when one parent sleeps with the toddler and the other ends up sleeping on the couch every night!

Ari Brown, MD

411 Pediatrics


Dr. Ari Brown founded 411 Pediatrics and After Hours Care in Austin after two decades of education and experience in child development, behavioral pediatrics and pediatric healthcare. Our pediatric associates, consisting of pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and lactation consultants, share a common goal. We partner with parents to help children grow up healthy, happy, and resilient!

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