Many times we look at each other and are glad our children were born 30 years ago! The plethora of advice given to new parents is mind boggling to say the least.
In our day we just did what came naturally and likely what our mum’s and grandmother’s had done throughout hundreds of years of child rearing.
Then research came along in all it’s infinite wisdom and put a spanner in the works of “what came naturally”.

Two articles written recently caught our attention about the co-sleeping controversy. Dr Nils Bergman states co-sleeping reduces stress. promotes bonding and quiet sleep cycles. However, the cohort of babies studied was small – just 36! TBH – it’s common sense that a baby will feel reassured with skin-to-skin contact or nearness of a parent. Which begs the question of when should babies learn to sleep independently?

The common sense approach must surely be that in some babies independent sleeping is a skill that needs to be taught gradually – while other’s will respond quite naturally and sleep independently from birth.

In practice we meet many parents with small babies who say their babies will only sleep “on them” or “with them”. In which case it is really important that parents know about the safest way to sleep with their new baby. Yes – there is a “safer” way of bed sharing with your baby! Unicef and FSID created this leaflet – so please take a look.…/caringatnight_web.pdf

As health professionals we are guided by research and evidence based practice and would always recommend FSID SAFE SLEEP guidelines. These clearly state that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in his cot/crib next to you.

Sleeping With You

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in her cot. For the first six months, it is best for her cot to be in a room with you. If there is not enough space, you should have her in the next nearest room, with the doors left open.

You should especially avoid having your baby sleep in bed with you if:
• Either parent is a smoker (even if you don’t smoke at home).
• Either of you have been drinking alcohol or have taken drugs or medication which might cause drowsiness.
• Either of you is very tired.
• Your baby was premature or of low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or five and a half pounds).

If you do choose to have your baby sleep in bed with you, you need to be aware of the dangers of rolling over and suffocating her, or of her falling out of the bed or getting trapped between the bed and the wall. Avoid any unnecessary risks by placing her in the cot before you settle down. Having the cot next to the bed is its ideal position, allowing you to easily check on her during the night.
FSID 2011

Argument for Co-sleeping

Babies ‘should sleep in mother’s bed until age three’
Newborn babies should share their mother’s bed until they are at least three years old, a paediatrician has claimed.

A paediatrician has claimed that sleeping on their mother’s chest provides young babies with a better rest than being put in a cot for the night.

By Sarah Rainey
8:18AM BST 28 Oct 2011

The suggestion, which goes against health warnings, suggests that babies’ hearts are under more stress if they are left to sleep on their own.

It claims that sleeping on their mother’s chest provides young babies with a better rest than being put in a cot for the night.

The suggestion comes from Dr Nils Bergman, a paediatrician at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, who found that sleeping alone makes it harder for the mother to bond with her child.

Brain development can also be damaged by nightly separation, which can lead to behavioural problems in later life, the research claims.

But letting a newborn sleep in his or her mother’s bed goes against previous warnings on the controversial issue, which urge parents to let babies sleep in their own cots. It follows years of mounting concerns over cot deaths in Britain, and the risk that a mother could injure or suffocate her child while sleeping.

A recent study of sudden infant deaths in the UK found that almost two-thirds of unexplained deaths happened when bed-sharing was involved.

While the National Childbirth Trust is in favour of newborns sleeping in their mothers’ beds, under a strict set of guidelines, the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths remains against it. It recommends that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot in his or her parents’ room – but not in their bed.

Dr Bergman, however, insisted that cot deaths and other infant injuries were not caused by the presence of the mother.
“When babies are smothered and suffer cot deaths, it is not because their mother is present,” he told the Daily Mail. “It is because of other things: toxic fumes, cigarettes, alcohol, big pillows and dangerous toys.”

Dr Bergman, who founded a movement called ‘Kangaroo Mother Care’, emphasising the benefits of skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn, studied the sleeping patterns of 16 infants for the research.

He found that the babies hearts were under up to three times more stress when they slept in a cot, rather than on their mother’s chest. Just six babies in the research group had a quiet night’s sleep on their own. The study also revealed disruption to the brain sleep cycle, which is vital in the organ’s development, in babies sleeping in cots. Dr Bergman warned that a lack of sleep at this stage could cause behavioural problems for the child in later life.
Disrupted sleep and stress to the heart could make it difficult for them to form relationships, he claimed.

And Against Co-sleeping

New study into cot deaths raises concerns over co-sleeping
Posted by: Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity: 26th October, 2011

The national cot death charity, The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), called today for the collection and publication of local infant death data, as a new post-mortem study reveals that almost two thirds of babies died while they were sleeping with a parent.

Currently, a wealth of detailed information regarding the circumstances in which babies die is gathered by individual Child Death Overview Panels (CDOPs) in England, but it is not collated and published nationally.

A recent study from a specialist team at Great Ormond Street Hospital, published today in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, reveals that over a 10-year period, almost two thirds of babies who were referred to the hospital for post mortem were sleeping with a parent when they died.

The expert group of paediatric pathologists, led by Prof Neil Sebire, analysed findings from 1,516 post mortems performed between 1996 and 2005. Of these, 546 met the criteria for sudden unexpected death of an infant (SUDI).

Prof Sebire said:

“The results of our study show that co-sleeping was involved in nearly two thirds of all SUDI infants referred to Great Ormond Street for autopsy.

“This is the largest single-centre pathology study to date, but in some cases, information regarding the presence or absence of risk factors such as parental smoking or alcohol use was not available at the time of post mortem.

“Several international studies have shown an increased risk for babies, less than four months old, who co-sleep with a non-smoking mother, but it is only in the last two years that data on risk factors has been routinely collected by local UK agencies. We back FSID’s call for collation of the CDOP data. This would be of enormous benefit both to future research and public awareness campaigns.”

FSID’s Chief Executive, Francine Bates, said: “The new Study strengthens what previous research has shown, that co-sleeping is associated with a significant number of unexpected deaths of babies in the UK, but it also highlights the need for more research which examines the relationship between co-sleeping and other risk factors.

“The UK has one of the best Child Death Review processes in the world so it is very odd that this vital local information is not widely available. Failure to collate and publish it is a missed opportunity to help us to prevent and reduce cot death still further.”

To hear a brief interview with consultant paediatric pathologist Dr Marian Malone about this study, please listen to BBC London Radio “Drivetime with Eddie Nestor” (at 34 minutes in).

FSID runs a freephone Helpline (0808 802 6868) for parents and professionals seeking advice on safe baby care. The Helpline also supports bereaved families. Advice for parents and professionals can also be found at For more information on research carried out at , please visit our Bringing Research to Life website.

Great Ormond Street Hospital

Our Conclusion

Well – as with every part of parenting the choice is yours. Certainly if either parent smokes, takes prescribed or non prescribed drugs that induce sleepiness, abuses alcohol and all that rock and roll – it is dangerous to co-sleep with your baby. We have to be guided by research which clearly states there are risks associated with co-sleeping.

ALSO – the good news is that babies and tots who sleep independently have more consolidated night sleep (and that means more sleep for you).

However, parents are only human! The exhaustion of parenthood leads many of us into survival status. If you decide to co-sleep our best conclusion is to do it as safely as possible by following UNICEF guidelines.