Bed-Sharing With Your Baby

You've brought your baby home from the hospital, put him in the gorgeous Moses basket you bought and... he doesn't like it. He likes you – and only you.

In fact, the only time he seems to settle down to sleep is on you, which makes things, shall we say, slightly exhausting.

So, rather than fall asleep in a chair or on a sofa with your newborn, which is known to be dangerous, you set up a co-sleeping or 'bed-sharing' arrangement, which is maybe not what you had in mind.

Don't worry – you're not alone. Many people find themselves bed-sharing with their new baby whether they plan to or not.

"The fact of the matter is parents will always sleep with their babies," Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of BabyCalm: A Guide for Calmer Babies and Happier Parents tells us. "Indeed research estimates that 60-80% will do so at least once."

However, there is a lot of confusion about whether it is safe. "There are conflicting studies which show bed-sharing significantly decreases risks to babies and others which show an increased risk", Rebecca Schiller, doula and co-chair of tells us.

"But research which shows an increased risk doesn't tend to distinguish between accidental bed-sharers and those parents who have planned to sleep with their newborns and known how to do it safely."

As it's often the only way to get some rest in the early weeks, it makes sense to know how to bed-share safely and what the benefits can be.

"Keeping babies close helps in shared breathing, touch, warmth, and awareness of any difficulties," Sarah Ockwell-Smith explains.

"Babies can benefit from the sensory exchanges including skin-to-skin contact and this can be achieved to varying degrees depending on the overall safety conditions including keeping the infant on a separate surface next to your bed, a behaviour called separate-surface co-sleeping.

"Many breastfeeding mothers find that intermittent bed-sharing helps them with their breastfeeding, especially if they work during the day. Bed-sharing not only increases sleep time both for mother and baby but has the effect of increasing the chances that mothers will breastfeed for a greater number of months than if they place their infant elsewhere for sleep. But close proximity usually means night feeds are much easier, there are more of them, and they are far less disruptive for parents and infants and thus can be more settling."

"If you do want to share your bed with your baby, be aware of the guidance (below) that is there for safer ways of doing it", says Lorraine Berry, midwife and natal hypnotherapist.

"The Isis Facebook page and website is also an excellent source of information, research and support on infant sleeping.

"And remember a baby's own cot is still recommended as being the safest way for them to sleep."

"For safe bed-sharing, ensure that"


Your baby is exclusively breastfed.

Neither parents smoke.

Neither have had alcohol.

Neither have had prescription, non-prescription or recreational drugs that might make them more drowsy than usual (this is important as some prescription drugs including antidepressants, analgesics may increase levels of drowsiness in some parents).

Your baby has their own sleep space and covers.

Your baby is well away from duvet and pillows.

Mum sleeps between her partner and the baby.

Mum adopts the 'safety c' shape for sleeping.

No siblings are sharing the bed.

Your baby is well (if you are concerned that baby is unwell you should seek advice from your GP).

The mattress should be firm, clean and there is also some suggestion that 'Tempur' type mattresses should be avoided as they can contribute to a higher temperature and may be more difficult for baby to move position.

"It's also vital that you don't bedshare if:"


Your baby was premature or very low birth weight.

You are obese.

You smoked during pregnancy (even if you don't smoke now).

You consider yourself to be 'exhausted' (some experts define this as less than 4 hours sleep in the last 24hrs).

"Alternatives to bed-sharing"


"If your newborn won't settle and you're not keen on bed-sharing, try swaddling", suggests Lorraine.

"Or use a warm hot water bottle to gently warm the mattress (remove before putting baby in the cot) or place a t-shirt or other item of clothing that you have been wearing close to your skin as a mattress cover.

"Some parents opt for a sidecar/bednest arrangement, so baby still has their own sleep surface, but are still closer to their mum."