Cot? Moses basket? Pah. Why bother with either when your baby could just snuggle down in bed with you? If only it were so simple.
In fact, you'll find (if you haven't already) that Mumsnetters (like most parents – and midwives) divide rather rigidly into two camps on the subject of co-sleeping.
NB: In this case we're talking specifically about sharing a bed with your baby, rather than sleeping in the same room which is sometimes also described as co-sleeping.
The case against co-sleeping
Those who keep their babies at cot's length point to the very real dangers in bed-sharing.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advice says there is an increased risk of infant death while sharing a bed, particularly when a baby is less than 11 weeks, if either parent smokes, is very tired, has drunk alcohol recently or is on medication or drugs that make them sleep heavily.
This is because, in your bed as opposed to a cot or crib, your baby could:
- Get trapped between the bed and the headboard
- Fall out
- Get dangerously overheated under a duvet next to two hot adult bodies
- Get accidentally suffocated if you're too tired or drunk or high that you unknowingly roll on him or her.
You should also be careful not to fall asleep on the sofa or in a chair with your baby. For the first six months, it's recommended that the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot or Moses basket in your room.
For more on the scientific evidence, see our Mumsnet webchat with expert Professor George Haycock.
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What's more, say the bed-sharing bashers, as your child gets older, he'll find he's unable to sleep without you, which means you're doomed either to being three (or four or five) in a bed for years to come or you're going to have some serious bedtime battles in the future.
The case for co-sleeping
But, counter the co-sleeping champions, bed-sharing not only makes your baby feel safer and sleep better, it also helps you feel more connected to your baby and less shattered by night-feeding.
And, according to recent studies, co-sleeping can actually make breastfeeding easier and more successful for you and your baby, and breastfeeding is known to cut a baby's risk of cot death.
What to do if you decide co-sleeping is for you
If you like the idea of snuggling up with your baby of a night (and do bear in mind that the snuggly newborn stage does morph into the akimbo-arms, thrashing-legs stage surprisingly quickly), you do need to:
- Make sure your partner agrees with you. There's no getting round the fact that a family bed does reduce your opportunities for intimacy as a couple – you'll have to get used to anywhere-but-bed sex if your love life isn't to disappear altogether. Be honest with each other about how that makes you feel. There's no point co-sleeping to bring you both closer to your children if it actually drives the two of you further apart.
- Know the 'no-way' facts. You should never bedshare if either you or your partner smoke (even if neither of you smoke in the bedroom). You shouldn't co-sleep if you've drunk alcohol, taken drugs or are on medication than makes you drowsy. You should also be cautious about bedsharing if your baby is at increased risk of cot death: born prematurely; born with a low birthweight; nursing a fever. You can read the official advice on this at the Lullaby Trust.
- Take safety precautions. Make sure your mattress is firm, that your bedcovers are light (ditch the duvet) and can't fall over your baby's head.
What Mumsnetters say about co-sleeping
- If you teach them early on to sleep in your bed, then nothing else will do afterwards and it seems to me you're consigning yourself to broken nights for a long time. Berta
- It felt like the right thing from the start. When he needed feeding, he was right by my side, so I didn't have get out of bed. And he seemed to sleep much better because he was lying next to me. Bon
- My son's slept with us from day one and I'm sure, when number two comes along, we'll just buy a bigger bed for all four of us. I love the closeness. Peanuts1
- Both my children slept with me for the first 10 months of their life and then transferred to a cot with no problems at all. Imps
- My lot slept with us until they were toddlers – then the lure of a having a bed of their own bed was actually far more exciting. It's nice to be able to stretch out a bit now but we kind of miss them, actually. JuliaB
- My mother-in-law was horrified - she thought it would 'ruin the baby'. She even sent me a letter about it! QD
- I hide the fact that we co-sleep. That's because I'm always made to feel like there's something wrong with it. I'd get comments such as, 'You'll regret it' or 'I know someone who rolled over and squashed their baby'. It does seem like a cultural thing: I was talking to an Indian lady and she said that they always co-sleep with their babies and think it is wrong to put a baby in a cot in another room. sweetkitty
- My daughter is 21 months now and only sleeps with us when she is poorly now or unusually clingy now. But I love waking up in the morning to a little girl looking me in the eyes with all the love in the world, and giving me big kisses to convince me I am awake and want to play. flamesparrow