Co-sleeping is frowned on by many health experts. [Photo: Rex]
Should you co-sleep with your baby? It’s one of the great parenting debates.
Numerous health experts would advise you not to and baby sleep safety charity The Lullaby Trust relentlessly works to spread awareness of the risks associated with it. Sharing a bed with a baby can increase the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which around 250-300 young children die of every year in the UK.
But not everyone deems it dangerous. Parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of “Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters”, wants more parents to be told how to correctly co-sleep with their baby – rather than being told they shouldn’t. And the results of a study she’s commissioned appear to support her views.
The poll of 600 parents found that 46 per cent of mums and dads shared a bed with their newborn, but don’t admit they do to their GP or health visitor – which Sarah thinks is because they’re scared of being judged.
“NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) don’t say, “Don’t bed share”. They say parents should be helped to make an informed choice,” Sarah told the Daily Mail. “Lots of health professionals are completely misinterpreting this and telling parents not to do it. I’m just really worried that by telling people not to do it they’re putting more babies at risk. Surely it makes more sense for parents to know how to do it correctly.
“It’s not just being judged the parents fear, but they think: ‘If I admit this am I going to be reported to social services?’ Many people won’t even tell their friends or family. It’s a taboo.”
If you do decide to co-sleep with your baby, there are some things you can do to ensure you little one stays safe.
“If you take all the risks into consideration, there is no evidence to say it is not safe,” said Sarah.
“You need to keep the duvet and pillows well away. The baby should be on the outside of the bed beside the mum and separate from dad or any other siblings. Common sense might seem to be to put the baby in the middle of the bed so they don’t fall out, but this increases the risk of being rolled on.
“If the mum has long hair she should tie that back, and make sure there’s no cords or anything dangling from her nightwear.”
Experts also advise that you should never bed share if you’re a smoker, you’ve been drinking alcohol, are very tired or take medicated that makes you especially drowsy.