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Co-sleeping with your infant—is it safe

Each year in the U.S., roughly 3,400 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly. These deaths usually occur when the infant is sleeping in an unsafe environment. In Pierce County, sharing a bed with a baby or co-sleeping causes most infant deaths.

Why does it matter where infants sleep?

You may already have strong beliefs about co-sleeping. But before you make the decision about where your infant will sleep, take time to learn about why some environments are not as safe as others.

Evidence shows certain factors significantly increase the risk of SIDS, like smoking and drinking. Breastfeeding, known as a protective factor, can decrease the risk of SIDS.

But if you share a bed with your baby—even if you breastfeed and don’t drink or smoke—your baby can still be at risk for SIDS.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the ABCs of safe infant sleep. Infants sleep safest:

  • Alone.
  • On their Back.
  • In a safe Crib.

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Infants sleep safest alone in an area free of items, people or animals.

While asleep, your baby can roll into extra bedding or items and might not be able to roll back. If baby is stuck against a surface and inhales his or her own carbon dioxide, the baby can die. This is because the infant brain hasn’t developed the warning system that wakes the body up during this danger.

If something covers your infant’s nose or mouth, his or her airway can become blocked and lead to suffocation. When you share a bed with your baby, you can roll into or onto your baby, which can also lead to suffocation.

Infants sleep safest in a safe crib, bassinet, portable crib or play yard.

Safe sleep surfaces are firm and flat. Adult mattresses are softer than safety-approved crib mattresses. When your baby sleeps on a soft sit can conform to the shape of the infant’s head. This can alter the position of baby’s small airway and increase the chances of the infant inhaling  carbon dioxide.

Stay close, but not too close.

Your baby should have his or her own safe sleep area. When your baby’s sleep area is in the same room you sleep in (room sharing), the risk of SIDS decreases. Breastfeeding also decreases the risk of SIDS.


For more information, including Safe Sleep 101 classes, contact MaryBridge Center for Childhood Safety and Northwest Infant Survival & SIDS Alliance.

Learn more about safe infant sleep.