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Bedsharing safety tips

September 29, 1999
Web posted at: 4:03 p.m. EDT (2003 GMT)

By Laura Lane

(WebMD) -- Bedsharing, some researchers say, is a natural part of human life and development. Studies have shown that children who bedshare grow up to be more self-reliant and confident, handle stress well and do better in school than children who sleep in their own beds, says Jim McKenna, who has been at the forefront of bedsharing research for almost 20 years.

In addition, bedsharing promotes breast-feeding. In a study published in the journal Pediatrics in 1997, McKenna found that mothers who bedshared breast-fed twice as long as mothers who didn't. He also found that mothers reported having better-quality sleep because they didn't have to wake up to pick up a crying, hungry infant.

McKenna, a biological anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, offers the following tips for parents:

  • Avoid bedsharing if you smoke.
  • Avoid bedsharing if you or your sleeping partner is a heavy sleeper who could be unaware of the presence of an infant.
  • Never permit a toddler or young child to sleep in your bed next to an infant.
  • Both parents in the bed should agree to assume responsibility for the infant's presence.
  • Sleep on a mattress that is stiff or firm (not sagging or compressed or compressible).
  • Avoid using duvets.
  • Do not sleep on a water bed.
  • Make sure that the mattress fits the headboard and footboard tightly. Look for and eliminate any crevices or ledges into which infants might crawl, roll or fall.
  • Avoid bedsharing on a mattress pushed against a wall, because a baby could fall into or become wedged into the space between the wall and the mattress.
  • Don't bedshare on a night when either parent is overly fatigued.
  • Avoid bedsharing if you're obese.
  • Don't bedshare if one partner is drunk, medicated or in any way desensitized by drugs.
  • Tie waistlong hair together.
  • Use light, comfortable blankets. Don't use many blankets on the infant or overdress the infant.
  • Don't cover the baby's head.
  • Remove stuffed animals and pillows from around the infant.
  • Never lay the infant to sleep on a pillow.
  • Maintain good ventilation around the baby's head.
  • Always lay a baby on its back to sleep.
  • Never allow an infant to sleep with an adult on a couch.

Copyright 1999 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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