One of the most common questions my clients ask is about when they need to move their babies out of their room and out of their little cots. In a more hushed tone it sometimes follows, as if they’re sharing a dirty little secret: “In fact, when should they get out of my bed?”
While I am a sleep expert, you know your family and your child best and thus a decision about where your child needs to sleep is up to you. Or rather up to you and your partner… unless you are a single parent. Discuss the pros and cons of why you want to do it and why it might not be best for your family.
READ MORE: Setting the Page for A Good Night’s Sleep
It is common misconception that if you want your child to sleep, they need to sleep in their own room. As a sleep consultant I can tell you that sleep can happen either way, and all children are different. But if you choose to co-sleep you need to do it safely. There are studies that shows that co-sleeping with younger babies is associated with higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Here are some safety considerations if you want to co-sleep:
For newborns, the safest option is to use a bed or cot made for co-sleeping. But once baby starts sitting at around 5-6 months of age this may no longer be a safe option as the open sides of the cot are quite low and baby may topple out. This is also the reason why you should move your cot to a lower level at around the same time.
Once your baby can roll and move around more (between 5 and 8 months) he should no longer sleep on your bed as he may fall out which can lead to serious injury. It is then best for baby to sleep on a mattress or on a very low bed, or to make sure that your bed has a bedside barrier. Adult beds are not designed to ensure baby’s safety.
Make sure your mattress is firm and that there are no cracks or gaps between the headboard, footboard or sides where your baby can be wedged in. Never sleep with baby on a couch or a water bed, which is not really used in South Africa.
Babies should not co-sleep with pets and other children in the bed. Other children cannot take the responsibility of caring for an infant. Plus while your mother’s instinct will prevent you from rolling onto baby, a sibling may do so.
Never sneak a baby into your bed without your partner being aware of it. If you all co-sleep you must acknowledge and take responsibility and both should see themselves as primary caregivers.
If you have taken sedatives, medication, drugs, or alcohol you should not co-sleep with your baby.
These are just a few safety considerations. Of course there are other considerations as well, such as you and your partner’s space and time and the influence on each other’s sleep (either you waking up your baby, or your baby waking you or your partner unnecessarily). Choose what works best and is the safest for you all. Whichever way you choose, you and your child can sleep with good sleep habits.
ALSO READ: How to get your baby to sleep