The 12-Step Guide to Safe Co-sleeping

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Disclaimer: You should always seek the advice of your own health professionals before acting on something that I have published or recommended. See my full disclaimer here.

Let me start by saying: cosleeping is not for everyone. This is a hotly debated topic and there’s a lot of information for and against.  Each family must do their research and decide what's safe and right for them. Speaking of research, I've listed some great links from all sides of the issue to give you a head start at the bottom of this post. 

So why a co-sleeping post? Because let’s be real- in the exhaustion of new parenting, sometimes sleep happens without any formal decision as to how or where. As a result, it’s important to be prepared for all scenarios. This is your ultimate guide to cosleeping safely, whether it happens accidentally or is the choice your family makes intentionally. Take it to heart, and for those nights when you don’t even know what’s happening or where the nursery is- you’ll still be taking care of your people.

1.     Always in Bed.

And a large enough bed at that- King or Queen sized is best.

2.     Always a firm mattress.

No waterbeds, beanbags, sheepkins, memory foam, pillow get the point.

3.     Tight fitting bedding.

Keep all pillows and blankets to a minimum and away from that wee child.

4.     No cracks or crevices. 

Keep the spaces between headboards, footboards, between mattress and guardrail, etc. as tight as possible. Babies- newborns included-tend to scooch around a lot; keep that baby from getting wedged by pushing the mattress flush against a wall or putting up a guardrail.

5.     No Smoking.

Like, at all. If you smoke, don’t cosleep.  Additionally, if you tend to be on the extreme end of your weight category (severely obese), some sources cite safety risks involved with cosleeping.

6.     No other bodies.

No kids, no pets. Just mom, only mom. Keep the baby between mom and the wall or guardrail; don’t put the baby between mom and another person. Moms are sensitive to their babies in ways that other people are not, so as a general rule, people who are not mom should not cosleep.

7.     Speaking of sensitivity, keep it high.

Never cosleep under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or extreme exhaustion. Anything that would diminish sensitivity to the baby means that co-sleeping is off limits. 

8.     Back is best.

Baby should lie on the firm mattress, on his or her back.

9.     Keep the bed clear.

Remove extra objects, blankets, and pillows from the bed. Keep bedding that remains lite and far away from baby.

10.  Cut the sexy.

No lingerie with long strings, no jewelry, no perfumes, strong deodarents, or anything else that could mask mothers natural scent or irritate and clog baby’s tiny nasal passages.

11.  Don’t overbundle your bundle.

Baby should be kept warm, but remember that your body is a heat source, and baby shouldn’t be overdressed.

12.  Both parents should be in agreement about any cosleeping arrangements.

Unless husband can’t be roused and you’ve made all the appropriate safety arrangements and trying to navigate back to the nursery with a newborn in your arms is basically like walking a tightrope from the Empire State Building to Top of the Rock while blindfolded and carrying an infant, which probably shouldn't be attempted while sleepwalking. The struggle is real.

A few more things to think about...

These are rules for safe cosleeping that some researchers say are necessary but others omit. Here again, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of doing your own research on the topic. As for me, I agree with the necessity of these precautions- these are non-negotiables for co-sleeping safely:  

Breastfeeding mommas only

The argument has been made that the sensitivity to a child while breastfeeding adds a layer of protection that is not quite the same when bottle feeding. 

No extra adipose tissue

In situations of obesity, it's best to keep the baby in a separate sleeping space.


Some research, to start you off:

The argument for cosleeping

A listing of numerous studies on the issue. A note here: the author of the blog who compiled these studies has a very strong stance on the issue. Her view is definitely worth reading but I encourage you to read the studies for yourself and gather your information from the data. 

The official position of the American Academy of Pediatrics

The argument against cosleeping. *One note about this study: This is an analysis of five studies, which I always take into consideration since the researchers can include and exclude specific studies based on their desired outcomes. In the Background section of this study it describes how they were unable to reach conclusive data as a result of the variables of each study and therefore the outcomes the achieved in this study are estimates after trying to control for other factors.  As a result of these issues, I much prefer individual studies, but had a hard time finding individual studies that prove cosleeping to contribute substantially to infant mortality after controlling for safe co-sleeping factors. If you know of any, please link them in the comments below, I’d love to read!

May the sleep fairies grant you and your small people many nights of not having to worry about it~