According to a new survey almost half of mums who sleep with their babies have lied to a midwife, heath visitor or GP about co-sleeping. Of the hundreds of British women who were asked, 46 percent admitted lying about their sleeping habits for fear of being judged for taking their baby into bed with them.
The new survey was carried out by Gentle Parenting whose owner Sarah Ockwell-Smith told The Sunday Times, “In this country we don’t like co-sleeping because we think it will create clingy children. But all the research supports that both mums and babies get more sleep when they bed-share. And at five, children who co-slept are no more likely to be in their parents’ beds than those who slept in a cot.”
Ockwell-Smith’s new book, Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters, claims that sharing a bed can be better than using a cot for babies because “everyone gets more sleep and the habit is safe if done correctly” — a view that is sure to reignite the long-running argument over the safety of co-sleeping.
Both of my children slept in my bed as babies and my daughter — now 5 — still does most nights. It began as a practical solution for night-time breastfeeding, ensured everyone got the best possible night’s sleep and it was also a fantastic bonding experience.
I’ve never lied about our choice but I can definitely see why lots of mums do. I’ve had my fair share of disapproving looks when I’ve spoken about my co-sleeping family. One parent even went as far as to tell me I was putting my child in danger.
Official advice doesn’t tell mothers not to take their babies into bed with them. However it says the safest place for a baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot in their parents’ room.
In England and Wales more than 200 babies a year die unexpectedly in their sleep and some experts believe that co-sleeping, combined with other factors, might have a role in the deaths.
Mark Baker, director of the NICE Centre for Clinical Practice, said: “We don’t know what causes these babies to die suddenly but we do know that if a parent smokes, drinks alcohol or takes drugs then SIDS is potentially more likely to occur if they then co-sleep with their infant.”
This is the key point: co-sleeping can be safe if done correctly. And the risk with lying about co-sleeping to healthcare professionals is that new parents don’t receive the important advice they need about how to sleep safely beside their infant.
For starters you should never sleep beside your baby if you or your partner are smokers (no matter where or when you smoke and even if you never smoke in bed), have recently drunk alcohol or have taken medication or drugs that make you sleep more heavily, warns the NHS.
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) offers the following guidelines for co-sleeping safely with your baby:
- Make sure your baby can’t fall out of the bed or become trapped between the mattress and the wall.
- Keep your baby cool by using sheets and blankets rather than a duvet.
- Ensure bedding does not cover your baby’s face or head.
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back rather than their front or side.
- Never use a pillow — babies don’t need a pillow until they are at least a year old. They should also be kept away from parents’ pillows.
- Never risk falling asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.