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Many people use the terms "bed-sharing" and "co-sleeping" to describe the same thing, but there are differences. Co-sleeping is when a parent and child sleep in close social or physical contact of each other, meaning that each can tell that the other is nearby. Room-sharing and bed-sharing are types of co-sleeping:
Room-sharing offers you the best of co-sleeping. When you room-share, you have lots of options and you avoid the risks of bed-sharing while enjoying the benefits of being close to your baby.
One of the biggest benefits of room-sharing is that it can reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
Another great benefit it that it makes breastfeeding easier because your baby is right there. You can simply move to a comfortable chair or rocker and feed your baby. When you're done, you can place the baby back on their sleep surface and return to your bed.
Having your baby close by, in your room, can help you feel less anxious, so you can rest easier.
Room-sharing also helps parents maintain their intmacy, which contributes to positive bonding with your baby, as well as each other.
So, how do you room-share? Here are some tips from our pediatricians:
Experts recommend that infants sleep in their parents' room until their first birthday. If parents prefer to move the baby to another bedroom, it's best to wait until their child is at least 6 months of age.
The practice of bed-sharing — parents sharing a bed with their infant — is a hot topic. As doctors and parents, our pediatricians share their expertise on the dangers of bed-sharing:
Bed-sharing puts babies at risk of suffocation, strangulation and SIDS. Studies have found that bed-sharing is the most common cause of deaths in babies, especially those 3 months and younger. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bed-sharing can increase the risk of SIDS.
An adult bed has many safety risks for a baby, including:
Among older infants (4 to 12 months old) who died due to bed-sharing, having an additional item (like a pillow or a blanket) on the bed increased the risk of death. Babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs on a firm mattress without any pillows, blankets, toys, stuffed animals or other items.
Because of the risks involved, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advise against bed-sharing. The AAP does recommend the practice of room-sharing without bed-sharing. Sleeping in the parents' room but on a separate surface lowers a baby's risk of SIDS.
Besides the potential safety risks, sharing a bed with a baby sometimes prevent parents from getting a good night's sleep. And infants who sleep with their parents learn to associate sleep with being close to a parent in the parent's bed, which can become a problem at nap time or when the baby needs to go to sleep before the parent is ready.
Bed-sharing increases the risk of SIDS, especially in preterm infants (preemies), babies with low birth weight and healthy full-term infants younger than 4 months old.
Other things that further increase the risk of death include:
*If you would like more detail or to see the scientific studies that led to these recommendations, read the full American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2018 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by Cook Children's, The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.