Where is Your Baby Sleeping? Part 2: Safe Co-Sleeping

As a complement to our last blog post, I wanted to share some tips in which to maximize your baby's safety while co-sleep.  James McKenna, Ph.D., is Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at the University of Notre Dame and has been conducting research on safe co-sleeping since 1984.  He is definitely my go-to when friends and clients ask how they can safely co-sleep, or bed-share, with their babies, infants, and toddlers.  While there is never a no-risk place for your baby to sleep (whether in bed with you, in a crib, etc.), there are a few steps you can take to ensure that you are providing the safest co-sleeping environment.  I have included some resources at the end of the article to help you make the best possible informed decision about whether co-sleeping is for you and your family. 

These guidelines are a summary from James McKenna’s Web site.


Guidelines for a Safe Sleeping Environment (regardless of where the baby sleeps):

  • Firm, clean surface (no water beds)
  • No smoke
  • No stuffed animals or pillows around the baby
  • Mattress should be directly and tightly up against a bed-frame
  • Don’t sleep on the sofa or couch

Guidelines for Safe Co-Sleeping (Bed-Sharing):

  • All of the guidelines listed above for a safe sleeping environment
  • Both parents should be in agreement about bed-sharing
  • Infants should not sleep with siblings
  • Persons on sedatives, medications or drugs, or intoxicated should not sleep on the same surface as the infant
  • Excessively long hair should be tied up
  • Extremely obese persons may wish to sleep on a separate surface


Resources about Safe Co-Sleeping/Bed-Sharing:

James McKenna – Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab

The Natural Child Project