The real co-sleeping dangers

dangerous baby sleep

Today is Friday. I don’t usually blog on a Friday, but I saw something this morning on social media that was so blatantly dangerous and disturbing, I needed to speak up.

If I had dug around my box of old family pictures for awhile, I could have posted, for #ThrowbackThursday, one picture that still upsets me to this day: it’s a picture of my dad, sleeping on the couch, with me as a teeny tiny baby on his chest. It’s not like he knew it was dangerous, but as I always tell parents a) He did the best he could with the information he had and b) Now we know better, so we do better.

So, here’s the thing: While maybe their message is well meaning, when the “never sleep with your baby”, “back to sleep”, and “don’t breastfeed while drunk” messages get pushed and pushed and pushed by the powers that be, it discourages and blurs the lines about what is safe and what really isn’t. If you pay attention to the headlines, you’ll notice that two things ARE truly leading to the deaths of babies: Parents sleeping with babies in couches and chairs, and parents falling asleep on a couches or chairs while drunk or on drugs (legal or not).

What, really then, is dangerous?

Never fall asleep with your baby while on a couch or in a chair

Never share bed space with your baby if you smoke

Do not fall asleep with your baby if you’ve been drinking

Do not share sleep space with your baby if you are on any kind of sleep medication

Waterbeds and sagging mattresses are very dangerous sleep spaces for babies

Do not share sleep space with your baby on a bed that is pushed up against a wall

Do not allow pets or older children to share the same sleep space with you and your baby

If you want a good handout to share with patients or family members, the always-amazing Kathleen Kendall-Tackett has a PDF on her website on safe sleep. She also has this really great video you can watch:

The reality is, it’s not uncommon for mothers to fall asleep while breastfeeding at 3am. They are exhausted, eyelids droop shut, and….zzzzzzzzz.  It happens. BUT…if you’re going to fall asleep while nursing, make sure that if it does happen it’s in the safest situation possible: On a firm mattress without heavy blankets, no pets, that your hair is tied back, and you are not under the influence of anything.

Listen, accidents can and do happen. It’s imperative that parents make safe choices for their kids. While so much of parenting seems like you can just make whatever choice you want, there are a few things that are not negotiable:

Always use properly-installed car seats and seat belts for your child, and make sure whatever method of child restraint you are using is appropriate for his or her age, height, and developmental stage.

Lock up your guns if you have young children. (Yeah, I went there. I don’t care.)

Don’t leave a baby or toddler unattended in the bathtub or around pools, lakes, or rivers.

Don’t put infant car seats on top of shopping carts, restaurant high chairs, chairs, tables, or anything else that’s not the car seat base in the car or compatible stroller.

Don’t parent while very intoxicated.

Don’t sleep with your baby on the couch.

Don’t sleep with your baby while sitting in the chair.

OK. Sorry. Soapbox done. Carry on, and make safe choices. Your child’s life depends on it.


Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE
Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.