It is generally agreed and recommended that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in his own bed, on a flat and stable surface, without pillows or padded sides, dolls or cloths, with blankets and sheets no wider than the area below the shoulders and always facing upwards.
The baby’s bed must be in the parents’ bedroom for at least the first six months of life and ideally during the first year of life, as a way of preventing sudden death in newborns and infants. The room must not be too warm (the ideal temperature is around 20ºC) and the baby must not wear too many clothes.
Bed sharing has been associated with an increased risk of sudden death. However, many of the studies that give us this data are not clear about other possible risk factors for the baby’s safety.
Sharing babies’ beds with their parents is, in addition to a cultural issue, a way to increase rest time for babies and parents and improve breastfeeding, and although it is not often assumed by families in consultation, most parents end up taking their babies to their own beds. More and more studies seem to conclude that bed-sharing, provided some safety rules are followed, does not seem to be associated by itself with an increased risk of sudden infant death nor with an increased risk of accidental death.
Studies carried out in sleep laboratories also show that when a baby sleeps next to its mother, there is a coordination of breathing in both and this seems to be protective. Sharing the bed safely makes it possible to breastfeed during the night, avoiding the danger of taking an exhausted mother who may fall asleep and drop her baby or accidentally suffocate her to a chair or sofa.
Having said this, sharing the bed must always be discussed in consultation with the Paediatrician as an issue in the life of families and parents must know the safest way of sharing the bed with their babies: the bed must have a barrier which prevents the baby from falling out, the baby must sleep between the mother and this barrier and not between the mother and the father, the mother must not use a pillow or blanket, avoiding surfaces which could cover the baby’s face and lead to suffocation, and the baby must always be placed to sleep face up, just like in his cot.
sharing seems to be safer in breastfeeding mothers than in those who feed their babies with formula milk. The room should always be well ventilated. Pay attention to the fact that sleeping next to their mothers can also make babies warmer, so baby’s clothes should be adjusted accordingly.
Smoking parents, parents under the effect of drugs, alcohol or medication, obese mothers and exhausted mothers who may not wake up to the baby’s signals or are less attentive to the presence of the baby’s body next to their own should not share a bed. Premature babies should always sleep in their own bed, with the option of a cot that is attached to the parents’ bed.
Talking about this issue openly with a health professional, to find out the risks and benefits of any practice, is essential to the proper clarification of families so that they can, safely and conscientiously, decide what best suits their family life.
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