Sleeping With Baby Not Best Idea

Ask The Expert Terry Nguyen Greater Baltimore Medical Center

April 20, 2009|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,

Allowing babies to sleep with their parents is a bad idea, say the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which note that the arrangement poses a risk of suffocation and strangulation.

Still, sleep-deprived parents who can't get their babies to sleep in a crib often ask Dr. Terry Nguyen, a pediatrician at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, for her advice on co-sleeping.

Nguyen discourages the practice and says this is what parents need to know:


The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not recommend co-sleeping with children younger than 2 years old.


While co-sleeping is common in other cultures, the environment is different. For example, the bed may be a mat on a hard surface, such as the floor, and there is typically less bedding (comforters, blankets, pillows). These conditions lower the risk of accidental injury.


The risks associated with co-sleeping include suffocation when a baby is face down on a soft mattress or bedding; strangulation and/or entrapment of the baby's head through a cut-out in the bed frame; accidental injury from rolling off the bed; increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for those whose parents smoke; and injury from parents rolling onto the child.


Beyond safety concerns, co-sleeping often results in poor sleep for parents and children. Children often are very active during sleep, which can disturb light-sleeping parents. Also, children who sleep with their parents form a sleep association that requires being physically close to a parent and in their bed to sleep. This can make nap times a challenge and can lead to fatigue that can contribute to behavioral problems.


If parents let babies sleep with them, they should have a firm mattress that fits snugly into the bed. There should be no soft bedding, pillows or stuffed animals. Parents should not drink alcohol or use medications that might decrease their alertness, and they should always place their baby to sleep on her back to reduce the risk of SIDS.

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