Siblings Cosleeping and Bed Sharing {Part 1: Safety and Advantages}

by Mrs. BWF on December 6, 2012

We are huge fans of safe cosleeping here! It’s been done since the beginning of time and is normal and natural in most cultures.

“When my grandma was little she & her siblings & children that passed thru their home use to sleep in dresser drawers, hope chests & under their parents bed. That sounds scary & unsafe to most people, but in England during the war it was the safest place for children to sleep. It’s all about perspective! You can paint a scary picture about co sleeping when really it could be the safest spot, just like people advocate that cribs are safest yet can’t explain why babies pass in their sleep there too.” ~Janeen

Here are more pictures of BWF families enjoying safe cosleeping!

“I just had to share the sweetness I found in my bed this morning after getting ready for work.  Love watching my children’s sibling bond grow right before my eyes!” ~Jennifer C.

“My darling kids :) I handmade my co-sleeping baby bed to keep us from rolling onto him.” ~Jennifer O.

“We snapped these a couple of years ago, and let me say that this co-sleeping was supervised. We have a very “free” home when it comes to sleeping, as we live in a subtropical climate and it is warm most of the year. Our children don’t go to bed with pajams on a regular basis, mainly winter time, and they could sleep anywhere in the house, lounge, or each others bedrooms (ours too).”

There are great guidlines to follow to ensure safe cosleeping and bedsharing. Elizabeth Pantley has a great outline (as does Dr. Sears). Here are a few and to see more visit her website:

Your bed must be absolutely safe for your baby. The best choice is to place the mattress on the floor, making sure there are no crevices that your baby can become wedged in. Make certain your mattress is flat, firm, and smooth. Do not allow your baby to sleep on a soft surface such as a waterbed, sofa, pillowtop mattress, beanbag chair, or any other flexible and yielding structure.

Make certain that your fitted sheets stay secure and cannot be pulled loose.

If your bed is raised off the floor, use mesh guardrails to prevent baby from rolling off the bed, and be especially careful that there is no space between the mattress and headboard or footboard. If your bed is placed against a wall or against other furniture, check every night to be sure there is no space between the mattress and wall or furniture where baby could become stuck.

An infant should be placed between his mother and the wall or guardrail. Fathers, siblings, grandparents, and babysitters don’t have the same instinctual awareness of a baby’s location as do mothers. Mothers: Pay attention to your own sensitivity to baby. Your little one should be able to awaken you with a minimum of movement or noise — often even a sniff or snort is usually enough. If you find that you sleep so deeply that you only wake when your baby lets out a loud cry, seriously consider moving baby out of your bed, perhaps into a cradle or crib near your bedside.

Consider a “sidecar” arrangement in which baby’s crib or cradle sits directly beside the main bed.

Do not ever sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you have used any drugs or medications, if you are an especially sound sleeper, or if you are suffering from sleep deprivation and find it difficult to wake.

Do not sleep with your baby if you are a large person, as a parent’s excess weight poses a proven risk to baby in a co-sleeping situation. I cannot give you a specific weight-to-baby ratio; simply examine how you and baby settle in next to each other. If baby rolls towards you, if there is a large dip in the mattress, or if you suspect any other dangerous situations, play it safe and move baby to a bedside crib or cradle.

Remove all pillows and blankets during the early months. Use extreme caution when adding pillows or blankets as your baby gets older. Dress baby and yourselves warmly for sleep. (A tip for breastfeeding moms: wear an old turtleneck or t-shirt, cut up the middle to the neckline, as an undershirt for extra warmth.) Keep in mind that body heat will add warmth during the night. Make sure your baby doesn’t become overheated.

Do not wear nightclothes with strings or long ribbons. Don’t wear jewelry to bed, and if your hair is long, pin it up.

Never leave your baby alone in an adult bed unless that bed is perfectly safe for your baby, such as a firm mattress on the floor in a childproof room, and when you are nearby or listening in on baby with a reliable baby monitor.

“Co-sleeping doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. While I LOVE all the pictures posted about co-sleeping, I just wanted to say that you don’t have to sleep with your 3 year old, or several kids at once, to be a co-sleeping family. We happily sleep with our babies until they are around a year, then we spend a month or two gently transitioning them out of our bed and into their own. We are co-sleeping with baby #3 and it has been the biggest blessing. I can’t wait to get into bed and night to snuggle up with baby! We both sleep an awesome 9 hours or more together. Just wanted the mommies who are skeptic of co-sleep because they value their bed space and adult time to know that you can talior co-sleeping to fit your lifestyle. It’s all about what works best for YOUR family. Here is hubby co-sleeping with baby #3 when she is 2 weeks old.” ~Danielle

“Here’s a photo of my two gorgeous bubs (Samyel 16months old & Sean 5weeks old) – cosleeping while having their afternoon snooze together (with Mummy next to them). Love my gorgeous boys so much!!!”

“This is my 2 year and my 6 month old (3 months old at the time of photo).” ~Aleesha B.

Sleeping like a diva! Sent in by Elizabeth.

“These are my boys Avery and Gram! They are 17 months apart.” ~Jamie

What are some advantages of cosleeping and bed sharing? Here are some huge benefits as laid out by Dr. McKenna’s research (Notre Dame):

The baby will know that you are there, and can respond emotionally and physiologically in potentially beneficial ways.

Babies will breastfeed more often with less disruption to mothers sleep, and will receive more sleep as will the mother compared with solitary sleeping breast feeding babies – as recent studies show.

Babies arouse more frequently, but for shorter average durations than if the baby slept apart.

Babies cry significantly less in the cosleeping environment which means that more energy (at least theoretically) can be put into growth, maintenance and protective immune responses.

More breast feeding, which accompanies cosleeping, also can be translated into less disease and morbidly. Proximity of the infant potentially permits the parents to respond to changes in the baby’s status, such as if it were choking or struggling to breathe and, of course, proximity makes it more likely that if a baby was fighting to rid itself of blankets over it’s head, the parent might here the event and intercede.

Mothers who feel guilty of not having enough time to be with their babies during the day can feel better about nurturing and, hence, being in interaction with their baby during the night, and hence, further nurturing their relationships, as can Dad.

Given the right family culture, cosleeping can make mother, dad and baby feel very good, indeed.

“This is when Lex was days old, it’s nap time so he slept in the rocky. She crawled into bed with him and got behind him and wrapped her arms around him and fell asleep. My favorite! My babies at nap time. I was across the room sewing.” ~Kate

 

“My newborn and 19mo sleeping sweetly.” ~Nichola

Part 2 coming soon…TWINS Cosleeping!

For great support, ideas and info on sleep help with your children, check out The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kari December 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm

These pictures and small testimonials are so great! We are a bed-sharing family with one 17 month old. Traveling has made bed-sharing the most comfortable and most consistent option for our family. LO has slept in 12 or so different beds in the last year! I’m sure that it might drive some kids to crankiness, but our Miss K gets lots of sleep as long as we join her for some or all of the night. I’m glad to provide that peacefulness for her!

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Nadine December 8, 2012 at 9:52 am

I had read somewhere that safe cosleeping also includes the rule that you should not let your kids bed share together until the youngest child is at least 9 months. Just wondering if anyone had insights on this?

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Mrs. BWF December 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

In Elizabeth Pantley’s book she says to not let children cosleep alone until the youngest is 18 months, actually (if I remember correctly). Dr. Sears may have more info on this as well.

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Nadine December 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Thank you..that’s a lot older than I’d thought…

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Nicole December 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I only have one right now, my daughter Serenity, but she has been sleeping with us from the moment she was born! She knows that if she needs more room at night that all she has to do is kick her dad and then she gets, like, half the bed!
Serenity is four months old.

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Jennifer December 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Lactating mothers have altered sleep states that make them more arousable than males or siblings. This is not to say sibling co-sleeping or father-baby co-sleeping is unsafe with older babies, but in young babies especially babies under a month old co-sleeping with a lactating mother is safest. Deaths mislabeled as “co-sleeping deaths” are typically babies under one month of age who slip between couch cushions when “co-sleeping” with dad or grandma on a couch, never heard of this happening with a lactating mother. Other risky co-sleeping is medicated fathers (co-sleeping after a dental procedure is often overlooked as risky) as well inebriated parents obviously…I have only seen one documented case of a breastfeeding mother smothering her infant but she was obese and medicated post-partum.

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Karen December 13, 2012 at 8:49 pm

You didn’t have to delete my comment, it was a serious question. I want to cosleep and it doesn’t help that you ignored me.

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Mrs. BWF December 13, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Karen, I found this comment in my spam folder (your other may have been in there and deleted as well). What is your question about cosleeping? :)

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Dr Sarah December 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I’m astonished that Pantley’s detailed advice doesn’t even mention the greatly increased risk of bedsharing with an adult who’s a smoker. Every study into the subject has shown that this vastly increases the risk, to the point where bedsharing with a smoker is considered highly inadvisable. Why is this so rarely mentioned in discussions of co-sleeping safety?

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Mrs. BWF December 24, 2012 at 9:36 am

Absolutely. Any drugs (many perscriptions too), alcohol and smoking is not safe when cosleeping!

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alison January 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm

This is absolutely not judgemental at all but I notice quite a few pictures that were sent in have “violations” of the safe cosleeping rules (ie pillows blankets) etc. I only wonder how many people follow the suggestions strictly and for how long. I already find my 8 month old daughter sleeps better when propped on my pillow from her waist up and I share the pillow. She always wakes before sliding off and it’s a firm pillow so her face doesn’t sink in plus she sleeps on her back. But I’m always super concerned that it is considered unsafe. I am also curious to know when people have felt safe to move a younger in with an older. The 18 month suggestion also seems conservative. I think I’d be comfortable when the youngest can safely crawl up onto and out of the mattress (estimating between 13-15 months for mine).

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Julia March 4, 2013 at 8:49 pm

This makes me so happy to read, cosleeping is such a beautiful thing. We did it from day one with our little boy, now 15 months old and the ruler of the bed (in a good way!). In the beginning, it was a little scary but like this article mentioned, any little noise or movement woke me up to check on him. Now, it isn’t an issue and we all sleep through the night with no problems! There is nothing better than turning in for the night and getting to cuddle with my favorite little person (the upside to not getting to cuddle up right next to my husband). The one thing I find to be different for us than what Dr. Sears mentioned was how fathers aren’t as attentive to baby’s movement and noises – my husband is super attentive, and he’s a deep sleeper.

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Jaclyn March 4, 2013 at 11:20 pm

I’ve co-slept with my daughter since birth, it’s been a blessing. It was never something I planned on doing but she just never left. Sadly for me my husband left the bed (he’s just in the other room!) but I do miss him.
Just this afternoon I set up a bed for her in her brothers room. I need my bed back, she is 20mths old, but we still breastfeed ALL night long so I don’t see the transition being an easy one. I need so much advice on this it’s not even funny!
Anybody have any advice on how to get her into her own bed, in her brother’s room, without totally traumatizing her and having to stop breastfeeding all together? Someone told me to cut out the day feeds, I feed on demand, and only nurse her at nap and bedtime. Help?!

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Suzannah November 20, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I did this with my 17mth old though admittedly it takes time to work.

Just set up the bed for her and make sure she knows its “hers” then whenever you go for a nap/bedtime instead of going to your bed go to hers and feed her off to sleep (or whatever bedtime routine you do, personally I fed mine off to sleep as that worked best with our family).
This part usually went off without a hitch especially after I shifted her bed to right next to her sisters so they could sleep cuddled up together (theres 16mths between them).

Now for nighttime feedings (I also fed all night) you basically have 2 choices for going gently.
Either when she wakes up go in to her and feed her, or teach her to come to your bed for her to feed. Either way I continued to feed as she was adamant on having her milkies and short of leaving her screaming (I wouldn’t and won’t do this!) there was no other way to go.
After her feed I either put her back to her bed (if she came to our bed) or left her sleeping in her bed. I must admit some nights I was too tired/lazy to go put her in her own bed but I don’t feel that has changed anything.
She’s now 26mths old and usually sleeps in her own bed with her sister next to her and has started sleeping through without wanting or needing feeds anymore. She still sometimes comes in and snuggles up with me and I’m happy for this to continue but she makes it clear she prefers to have her own bed.
I say just be consistent and gentle with where she is to sleep and keep feeding as normal and she will sort herself out.

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Samantha Ueno May 1, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I have one 9 month old, but I have been in situations where I needed to have a friend’s 2 or 3 year old stay overnight. The thing is, we don’t have the luxury of having baby in a crib, or someone sleep on a sofa…..we live in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment, one room has a queen size mattress on the floor, the other room has toys and computers with one desk and chair, the rest on low tables and we sit on the floor and eat at a low table at mealtimes. My daughter also has a booster seat with a tray that she sits and eats her meals on. So we did simply have the other child co-sleep with us, and we have had no problems. I have the older child sleep close to the wall, and I put baby to sleep on a washable chux pad on the other side of the bed, when it is time for me to go to sleep I sleep between the children and move baby close to me so Daddy has some room. Everyone seemed happy and it was perfectly safe, neither child moved in their sleep, even if they did, I was either in the next room peeking in whenever I had to go to the kitchen or bathroom or whenever my mommy sense told me to, and then I was in between them. In the mornings, when I woke up, I would usually find my baby up and smiling at the older child! It was adorable!

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Angie January 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Hello Mrs. BWF! I LOVE LOVE LOVE following you on Instagram so I decided to check out your full blog and I can honestly say I love it. All the stories and photos are just what a mama needs. This story about bed-sharing is especially nice to read because when my daughter was born I was firm on her sleeping with me even though my parents thought setting up a crib down the hall IN THE LIVING ROOM was a good idea. (um, no thanks.) I will probably end up scouring your entire website for inspiring stories like this one and relish in the knowledge and love that I feel flowing through the words of other moms. THANK YOU! <3

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Laura January 19, 2014 at 3:43 am

My eldest child is now 37 and she and her brother and sister slept mostly in our bed when young. I was 19 when the first was born and tried the bassinet in the nursery as this was standard practice. This quickly became unsupportable as I was feeding on demand and sometimes she would only go an hour between feedings, so we quickly started to take her into our bed. This then became the norm with the other 2, baby 3 came into our bed the day we came home from hospital when she was 3 days old. My husband was the one to encourage this, he said that you don’t see a cow have a calf and then put it in another paddock. At times we ended up with 2 children in the bed and on the odd occasion all 3 as they are close in age, first and 2nd, 22months apart, 19 months between 2nd and 3rd. There were never any times that I was concerned about them being in bed as I woke easily if they moved or made any sounds. It is still discouraged strongly here in Australia but we found everyone slept better with the baby in the bed. We would often wake to find one of them in our bed when they were older and in their own beds, they would just come in and climb into our bed without waking us….so cute and it definitely made breastfeeding easier.

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Kate February 12, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I currently co-sleep with my 9 month old son. It works well for us now, the problem is that I am 4 months pregnant with our second child. I am worried that as I get farther along in my pregnancy, and larger, it will be more difficult to continue to co-sleep. My son moves around in his sleep, I worry about him kicking my pregnant belly. Do I need to start putting my son to sleep in his crib? Will it be safe to co-sleep with both babies after the second is born? If anyone has been in a similar situation please advise me!!!!

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Madeline March 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Hi Kate,
I was in the same position. Towards the end it was not very comfortable but I just kept my back to my daughter. When my son came I co slept with him while my husband co slept with my daughter in another bed. Now my sons 5 months and we all share the same bed. Everyone sleeps! Just need a king size bed. My babes are 15 months apart and waking up with them and watching them interact together is priceless. And we’re all on the same schedule this way too which really helps!

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Luly May 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm

We’ve co-slept with our twin girls since day one. Now they’ll be 2 in June and I’m starting to get a little apprehensive about moving them to their own sleeping space. Do I put them together in a bigger bed? Or use the toddler cribs? We’ve been sleeping through the night forever but I’m still breastfeeding at night here and there.

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J June 10, 2014 at 12:32 am

I have a 3.5-year-old DS and 18-month-old DD. We bed-shared on and off after DD turned three months. We kept running into the problem of DS and DD keeping each other up by keep on wanting to play during bed time. They are both very energetic and active kiddos. I tried teaching DS to sleep on his own. He was ok for a month then he would cry hysterically. I waited three months and then started bed sharing with him again. DD is still breastfeeding. DS has been going to school and I am thinking about going back to work. Any tips on how to make bed-sharing with them easier and healthier (e.g. have them stop playing during bed time)?

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