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Bed-Sharing While Breastfeeding: What You Need to Be Aware Of

The first time you wake up in the middle of the night and shuffle over to the space you love to breastfeed your baby, you may be wishing you could have just rolled over and let her feed right in your bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other breastfeeding resources warn against bed-sharing because of the increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the lack of control mom may have over baby while they are both asleep. On the contrary, there are mothers who swear by this technique and resources that advocate co-sleeping as a good way for mom to bond with her baby and to keep both of them calm and comfortable during nighttime feedings. Before you make your decision about bed sharing, weigh the pros and cons and learn about the breastfeeding resources that can help you share your bed with your baby safely.

Pro: More quality night’s sleep for mom and baby.

When you share your bed with your baby, the emotional benefits of breastfeeding are enhanced. Breastfeeding [interlink to article ’20 facts about breastfeeding you didn’t know] forms a close bond between you and your newborn and your stress levels are connected. Sleep is a vulnerable time for both of you and being close to each other during that time helps mom and baby sleep more soundly.

Con: The bed can be a dangerous place for the baby.

All of the pillow soft surfaces, blankets, and mom’s positioning are all unpredictable factors that can contribute to the risk of SIDS. However, this can be remedied by preparing the bed before sleeping with your baby to ensure that it is a safe place for them to stay. A breastfeeding pillow, other pillows, as well as mom’s positioning can create barriers in the bed to make it as safe for the baby as her crib or basinet.

Pro: The baby won’t have to start crying in order to get attention.

The closer bond that co-sleeping can create between mom and baby may provide an instinctual response for mom to be able to respond to her baby before she needs to use her voice to gain attention. Also, you won’t have to get up to provide her with that attention, whether she’s looking to be fed or she simply wants to snuggle.

Con: The baby can become used to having her needs met immediately.

While the special bond created by bed-sharing as well as the enhanced benefits of breastfeeding are important for your baby’s development, baby can become extremely dependent on you after having you with her day and night, including the time they are asleep. This can be remedied by spending time away from your baby when you’re both awake and keeping breastfeeding and bed-sharing as separate special bonding times.

Pro: A place to doze that’s comfortable for mom and baby.

Women who decide to sleep with their baby close by for easier breastfeeding at night are hard pressed to find a place that’s safe and comfortable for both of them. A sofa or living room chair usually has too many crevices and pillow-filled surfaces to be safe for the baby so mom has to resort to falling asleep in the rocker next to her baby’s crib or pulling the basinet close so she can sit up and feed in the middle of the night. Bed-sharing offers a space that is comfortable for both mom and baby when it comes to nighttime feedings. Mom can be free to doze off and her baby can feed at her side in a position that is easy for her to latch on [interlink to article ‘the best breastfeeding positions].

Con: Anyone else who sleeps in the bed with you may be uncomfortable.

If you have other children that frequently crawl into bed with you or a spouse or partner that also shares your bed, they can make bed-sharing with your baby a dangerous idea. You’ll need to be on your side with an arm up and over your head around the baby and a knee bent up, with pillows at your back to support you and keep you from moving and a breastfeeding pillow to keep the baby in place and make sure the newborn is also supported. Anyone who shares your bed must be a non-smoker, free from the influence of alcohol or sedatives, and they must be sure to not obstruct any of mom or baby’s safety precautions and that can make them uncomfortable.

“The Safe Sleep Seven”

There is a set of factors that is recommended for all sleep situations to keep your baby safe whether she is in the bed with you or not. Advice like never letting your baby sleep on her stomach, become overheated (by overdressing or using too many covers), or allowing loose covers is advice you should always follow when putting your baby to bed. Learn more about “the safe sleep seven” as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations on bed-sharing and co-sleeping to educate yourself but in the end use your own instincts when you make your final decisions about sharing your bed with your baby to breastfeed her at night.