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Bed-Sharing


The practice of bed-sharing — parents sharing a bed with their infant — is a hot topic. Supporters of bed-sharing believe that a parent's bed is just where a baby belongs. But others worry that bed-sharing is unsafe.

Co-Sleeping, Room-Sharing, and Bed-Sharing

Many people use the terms "bed-sharing" and "co-sleeping" to describe the same thing, but there are differences:

Why Some People Bed-Share

Bed-sharing supporters believe — and some studies support their beliefs — that bed-sharing:

But do the risks of bed-sharing outweigh the benefits?

Is Bed-Sharing Safe?

In some non-Western cultures, bed-sharing is common and the number of infant deaths related to it is lower than in the West. Differences in mattresses, bedding, and other cultural practices may account for the lower risk in these countries.

Despite the possible pros, various U.S. medical groups warn parents not to place their infants to sleep in adult beds due to serious safety risks. Bed-sharing puts babies at risk of suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS. Studies have found that bed-sharing is the most common cause of deaths in babies, especially those 3 months and younger.

An adult bed has many safety risks for a baby, including:

Among older infants (4 to 12 months old) who died due to bed-sharing, having an additional item (like a pillow or a blanket) on the bed increased the risk of death. Babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs on a firm mattress without any pillows, blankets, toys, stuffed animals, or other items.

Because of the risks involved, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advise against bed-sharing. The AAP does recommend the practice of room-sharing without bed-sharing. Sleeping in the parents' room but on a separate surface lowers a baby's risk of SIDS.

Besides the potential safety risks, sharing a bed with a baby sometimes prevent parents from getting a good night's sleep. And infants who sleep with their parents learn to associate sleep with being close to a parent in the parent's bed, which can become a problem at naptime or when the baby needs to go to sleep before the parent is ready.

Bed-Sharing & SIDS

Bed-sharing increases the risk of SIDS, especially in preterm infants (preemies), babies with low birth weight, and healthy full-term infants younger than 4 months old.

Other things that further increase this risk of death while bed-sharing include:

How to Room-Share Safely

To avoid the risks of bed sharing while enjoying the benefits of room-sharing, parents have lots of options. To keep your little one close by, but not in your bed, you could:

How to Bed-Share as Safely as Possible

Despite the risks of bed-sharing, some parents decide this sleeping arrangement is best for their family. If you do choose to share your bed with your baby, follow these precautions:

Moving Out of the Parents' Room

Experts recommend that infants sleep in their parents' room until their first birthday. If parents prefer to move the baby to another bedroom, it's best to wait until their child is at least 6 months of age.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: December 2016


Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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