Parent and infant bed-sharing

There has been quite a bit of controversy in the media recently about sharing a bed with your baby.  However, NHS advice has not changed and the information below follows the national recommendations.   


Sharing a bed with your baby in your own home 

Keeping your baby close to you helps you get to know your baby and to recognise when he or she is hungry and needing to feed. In hospital you are encouraged to have your baby with you by your bed at all times. research has shown that keeping your baby in the same room as you, especially at night, helps to protect babies against cot death.

The Department of Health's reducing the 'risk of cot death' leaflet recommends that babies under the age of six months sleep in their own cot in the same room as their parents.

Babies are almost two times more likely to die from cot death if they sleep in a separate room.

Babies who are bottle-fed

If you are bottle feeding your baby, it is safest to put your baby back in his cot before you go to sleep. This is because research suggests that bottle-feeding mothers do not always sleep facing their baby and may accidentally smother their baby.

Babies who are breastfed

Some mothers who are breastfeeding find it easier to start and continue breastfeeding if their baby shares their bed at night. If you want to have your baby in bed with you, you must consider the risk factors outlined below, before you do so. Breastfed babies may feed more frequently at night than bottle-fed babies of the same age, so if you choose to share your bed with your baby, your baby can feed whenever he/she wants without disturbing you or the baby's sleep too much.

Fathers and others

It is not advisable for you to share the bed with your baby on your own. Research has shown that it is only breastfeeding mothers who respond in a safe way to their babies while sleeping.

Factors to consider

To stay safe please consider these points before you think about having your baby in bed with you.  A checklist is included on the page which covers some of these factors, but the most important points are highlighted below;

In order to reduce the risk of cot death, it is not recommended that you share a bed with your baby if you or any other person sharing the bed:

  • Is a smoker (no matter what, where or how much you smoke) Smoking increases the risk by between 14-27 times
  • Has drunk alcohol- the risk is increased by 14 times if you had more than 2 units of alcohol
  • Has taken drugs or medication which could make you extra sleepy.
  • Are otherwise unusually tired to a point where you would find it difficult to respond to your baby.
  • If you or your partner are too large for a small bed (please discuss with your health visitor or midwife if yoy are unsure). There must be enough space for the baby in your bed.

Also you should:

  • NEVER sleep with your baby on a sofa as the risk is increased by 50 times
  • NEVER let your baby sleep alone in any adult bed or waterbed, bean bag, or sagging mattress
  • NEVER sleep with your baby on a bean bag, waterbed or a sagging mattress.

The risks of bed sharing are also increased if

  • Your baby was born before 37 weeks
  • weighed less than 2.5kgs at birth
If you are considering sharing a bed with your baby, the checklist has some questions you need to consider before you decide to have your baby in bed with you.

If ANY answer to the above questions is YES you should NOT take your baby into your bed.


Advice on sharing a bed with your baby safely

If yo have answered 'NO' to all the questions on the checklist and decide to share a bed with your baby, the following advice will help minimise the risk to your baby.

Most mothers who are breastfeeding automatically sleep facing their baby with their body in a position which stops the bay from going under the covers or into the pillow. This will make breastfeeding easier. Your baby will usually lie on their side to breastfeed. When not actually feeding, you should put your baby on their back to sleep, never on their front or side. It is also important to make sure that your baby cannot go under the covers or into a pillow.

  • The mattress should be firm, flat and clean
  • Babies do NOT need hot rooms. The room in which parents are sleeping only needs to be at a temperature they feel comfortable in, regardless of the season. the best room temperature for baby is 16-18C
  • If you are ill or have any condition which might make it difficult to respond to your baby, it might be advisable not to sleep together (e.g. insulin dependent diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or paralysis)
  • Sheets and blankets should be used rather than duvets or quilts. Keep pillows away from your baby's head and face.
  • Babies who bed share do not need lots of clothes or their heads covered; they should not wear any more layers than you would wear yourself. They do not need a baby sleeping bag as well as being under your covers. Its probably best not to swaddle your baby so he/she does'not get too warm. many mothers find that skin to skin contact with their with breastfeeding and to settle baby.

You also need to think about protecting your baby against accidents

  • Make sure that your baby cannot fall out of bed or get stuck between the mattress and the wall.
  • If bedtime varies for you and your partner make sure your partner knows the baby is in your bed.
  • If any older child is also sharing your bed, it is best if you or your partner sleep between the child and the baby.
  • Do not allow pets to share the bed with your baby.


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