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Co-Sleeping & Bed-Sharing

Co-Sleeping & Bed-Sharing

By Andrina Wilson - Midwife & Certified Sleep Consultant.

At The Sleep Store we have a strong focus on safe sleep and helping parents to be well informed about safety.

Our recommendation is to choose co-sleeping (having baby in your bedroom), as this is in line with the world's best safe sleep advice and gives you peace of mind, quick access to your baby during the night and a safe sleep space for you baby.

However we also want you to have information about bed-sharing, so you can see the difference between this and safe co-sleeping, and make an informed choice with safety considered if you choose this option for your family.


You may hear the term ‘co-sleeping’ thrown around a lot in the world of newborn and infant sleep. It can often be confused with the term 'bed-sharing' and some websites use them interchangeably. However they are in reality very different!

By definition, co-sleeping is simply having your baby in the same room as you. So how this looks will vary between families, cultures and socio-economic groups. The practice of co-sleeping is very protective against SUDI (Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy) and is it is recommended that baby sleeps in the same room as their parents for the first 6-12 months of life.

Co-sleeping does not mean having baby sleeping in your bed, however it could mean having baby in a safe bedside bassinet or 'co-sleeper'. These are a great option as they can meet all safe sleep guidelines and baby has their own safe space, and you can roll back to your own space.

The UNICEF statement on co-sleeping is “Sleeping in close contact helps babies to settle and support breastfeeding, which in turn protects babies from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)”.

Co-sleeping guidelines:

  • Choose a safe, sturdy bassinet, moses basket or bed-side bassinet. Look for international safety standards and reputable brands, as there are no NZ or Australian standards that apply.

  • The only baby bed in NZ & Australia that has a local safety standard is a household cot. The safest cot option is a fixed side cot - Drop-side cots are now banned in many countries.

  • Always put baby back into their own bed after feeding or settling.

  • Have baby in your room but not in your bed for at least 6 months.

  • No pillows, blankets, duvets or soft toys anywhere near baby.

  • Baby should always be placed on their back to sleep.

  • The sleep surface should be firm, well-fitting and with no loose bedding or soft toys.

  • Baby should never sleep in a hat, bonnet, head-band, with teething or any other necklaces or cords or attachments for dummies. These items can cause over-heating or be a strangulation risk.


Please note we do not recommend bed-sharing. However we are providing this information that is available in many other countries to help parents who do choose to bed-share to reduce risk where possible.

Bed-sharing is when mother and baby share the same sleep surface, which must be a nice firm mattress. This is common practice in many cultures around the world, so it is a choice many families make regardless of all the safe sleep advice advising against it. Parents may also be choose to bed-share for parenting philosophy reasons. Whatever the reason for choosing to bed-share, please ensure you have all possible information and carefully follow all recommendations.

If you choose to bed-share or think you may bed-share on occasions, we strongly encourage you to follow the guidelines below rather than accidentally bed-share. This means making an informed decision to share the bed with your baby and making sure the space is safe with no pillows or blankets anywhere near baby.

Accidental bed-sharing is much more dangerous and poses a far greater SUDI risk, as adult bedding and pillows are likely to be in the bed. Accidental bed-sharing is when parents do not intend to have their baby share their bed but baby ends up asleep in the parent's bed due to illness, being unsettled or feeding.

It is common too for Mum to accidentally fall asleep while feeding baby in bed, which is a reason why safe sleep guidelines often state to feed in a chair. However falling asleep in a chair or on the sofa is also very common and considerably more risky than falling asleep next to baby where hazards such as adult bedding and pillows have been removed.

Unfortunately in New Zealand, there has been no detailed research into bed-sharing practices and there are no records kept or certainly not published for parents to be informed on the circumstances around unsafe bed-sharing and tragic deaths resulting from bed-sharing. However there have been plenty of highly publised coroner reports where babies suffocated on the sofa, a drunk or drugged parent rolled on baby and bed-sharing guidelines were not followed.

Bed-sharing is very dangerous for parents who smoked during pregnancy. Please do not consider any type of bed-sharing if you smoked during pregnancy and if anyone in the family smokes after baby is born.

Bed-sharing Guidelines:

While we do not recommend or advise you to bed-share, the guidelines for reducing risk when bed-sharing are as follows:

  • Smokefree home – particularly no smoking and sharing a bed with baby, or smoking during pregnancy – these greatly increase the risk of SUDI.

  • No alcohol, drugs or sedatives to be taken by anyone sharing a bed with baby.

  • Baby should ideally be breastfed

  • If baby was born prematurely or of low-birthweight it is NEVER safe to bedshare.

  • No swaddling in bed – there is a risk of overheating.

  • No pillows, blankets or duvets anywhere near baby.

  • Baby should always be placed on their back to sleep.

  • The sleep surface should be firm.

  • Babies should never sleep on a waterbed, pillow or couch (with or without adult supervision).

  • There should not be any space between the bed and adjoining wall where baby could roll and become trapped.

  • Likewise, the mattress should be tight fitting to the headboard and/or footboard.

  • Children under 1 year of age and pets should not share the same sleep space as baby.

  • Baby should never sleep in a hat, bonnet, head-band, with teething or any other necklaces or cords or attachments for dummies. These items can cause over-heating or be a strangulation risk.

  • If you use a separate sleep space for baby WITHIN your bed, this also must follow safe sleep guidelines. So the base must be flat and firm, no padding or pillow like sides, baby can breath fresh air even if up against the side and that no loose bedding is used. For example, Pepi-pod and Wahakura are an recommended safe sleep option in NZ, provided there is no risk of adult bedding or pillows covering the Pepi-pod / Wahakura and baby is ALWAYS returned to their Pepi-pod / Wahakura after feeding.

  • Padded baby nests are never safe for bedsharing. Be aware of misinformation about their claims of safety. They must only every be used for fully supervised day naps, similar to a play mat or swing.

In a 2019 poll we conducted with over 8000 responses, over 75% of our customers say that they have shared a bed with their baby at some point, either deliberately or accidentally.

UNICEF estimates that on any given night in the UK, 22% of babies will bed-share with their parents. That’s a whopping statistic considering bed-sharing is generally ‘not recommended’ by most health professionals or health organisations and the messages to avoid all bed-sharing have been given for decades.

Padded bed nests are NOT safe for bed-sharing. They do not meet any guidelines for safe sleep.

Dr James McKenna, a world-recognised advocate for bed-sharing notes:

“In sum, overwhelmingly, bedsharing deaths are associated with at least one independent risk factor associated with an infant dying. These include an infant being placed prone (on its stomach) and placed in an adult bed without supervision, or no breastfeeding, or other children in the bed, or infants being placed in an adult bed on top of a pillow, or who bedshare even though their mothers smoked during the pregnancy therein compromising potentially the infants ability to arouse (to terminate too little oxygen, or to terminate an apnoea). Drug use and alcohol have historically been associated with poor outcomes for bedsharing babies so if drugs and/or alcohol are present,please don’t bedshare.”

At the end of the day, you as a parent will decide what is right for your family. We encourage you to make an informed decision, choose co-sleeping rather than bed-sharing and consider the safety of your baby.

Please do not assume that your current set-up for bed-sharing is safe or believe someone who tries to sell you something that makes bed-sharing 'safe'. We urge you to read the guidelines above, review your situation, assess if you followed every one of the guidelines.

If you feel it is the right choice for your family, ensure that you have minimised every risk you can to give your baby a safe sleep for every sleep.

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