Is It Safe to Co-Sleep With a Toddler?

Because babies are so cute, it's often difficult to resist the urge to cuddle up next to them. Co-sleeping with your toddler can be fun, but it is definitely not safe with an infant. Learn more about the safety of co-sleeping with your toddler and its potential risks. We’ll also give you some helpful tips to encourage your child to sleep safely in their own bed.

What Is Co-Sleeping?

Co-sleeping is when you and your baby sleep in close physical contact in the same bed. Ideally, both of you will be aware of how close you are to each other. Many parents co-sleep to more easily breastfeed their babies at night. Having the baby close when they wake up wanting breast milk can be a convenience. Some people also believe that co-sleeping can help the baby fall back asleep faster. Co-sleeping may also help the mother to sync sleep cycles with her baby.

Although some parents see benefits to co-sleeping with their child, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend it. It’s much safer for your infant or toddler to sleep alone in their own bed.

Is Co-Sleeping With a Toddler Safe?

It is not safe to share a bed with your infant or toddler. The AAP recommends creating a solo sleeping space for your child, which includes: 

  • Putting your infant in a supine sleeping position (on their back)
  • Placing them on a firm surface like a quality mattress
  • Having their own crib, bassinet, or toddler bed
  • Room-sharing with the parent for comfort

While it can be fun to co-sleep with your baby, doing so can cause them a lot of harm. You could roll over them and cause injury during deep sleep. This may also cause suffocating if the baby gets trapped between the mattress, headboard, wall, and soft bedding like pillows or blankets. When the baby is in such a position, it could lead to death by suffocation.

Co-sleeping with a child over one-year-old has a little less risk than with a child under 12 months. At a toddler's age of one to two years old, they can roll over and free themselves in case they are trapped in the bed. As a child gets older, it becomes less risky to co-sleep, but it’s still best for them to sleep on their own.

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Why Toddlers Should Sleep Alone

In addition to the dangers it poses to the child, co-sleeping can have various effects on the parents. Some who co-sleep are not able to get a good night’s sleep. Also, babies who share a bed with their parents may start associating sleep with being close to their parents and in their bed. This becomes a problem to the parent when they try to get the child to sleep without them or in a different room.

When not to co-sleep. Co-sleeping is not ideal, as it can pose many threats to your baby’s wellbeing. Here are some more instances when you should definitely never co-sleep with your baby:

  • When you are on drugs (including medication that causes drowsiness) or drunk on alcohol
  • If your baby was born premature (before 37 weeks)
  • If your baby was born with a low birth weight (5lb)
  • When you are very tired
  • If you smoke (even if not in the bedroom)
  • When you are on a sofa or armchair

Encouraging Your Toddler to Sleep Without You

Putting a stop to co-sleeping might not be easy on you and your baby. It can provide some comfort to your child and be a warm bonding experience. However, you can use these helpful tips to encourage sleeping independence:

  • Switch to room-sharing: Set up a crib for your child in your bedroom next to your bed.
  • Make the process gradual: Be patient with your child and make small changes gradually.
  • Create a positive bedtime routine: Try and make bedtime a fun experience for your kid.
  • Consult with a professional: Seek help from a pediatrician or sleep consultant to help you make the change.

As a parent, it’s important to create the safest and most comfortable environment for your child. Sleep is crucial for a healthy life, so each family member in your home should have their own space to curl up in each night.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 03, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

The Baby Sleep Site: "How To Gently Transition Your Baby or Toddler From Co-Sleeping"

KidsHealth: “Bed-Sharing.”

The Lullaby Trust: “Co-sleeping with your baby.”

Pediatrics: “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Evidence Base for 2016 Updated Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment”

SCAN: “Co-Sleeping with Your Infant.”

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