Mother-Infant Bed Sharing in Clinical Settings

Red Nose supports midwives and understands that there are some circumstances in which babies must be slept differently in clinical settings.


Red Nose recommends that the safest place for baby to sleep is in their own safe sleep environment, which is safest in a safe cot or bassinette at the bedside.

We also recognise that shared sleeping with baby occurs in a clinical setting for a variety of reasons including for post-operative patients and for women after a difficult vaginal birth.

However, sharing a sleep space may increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant death (SUDI) in some circumstances. When deciding whether it is appropriate for your patient to share a sleep surface with baby, Red Nose recommends that midwives undertake a risk assessment to identify the factors that make baby more vulnerable to SUDI.

These include:

  • Prematurity
  • Small for gestation age
  • Illness or infection
  • Maternal sedation
  • Antenatal and postnatal exposure to smoking
  • Parental drug (prescribed or illicit) or alcohol use
  • Soft sleep surface
  • Obesity
  • Congenital abnormality.

Midwives are in a unique position to influence the behaviour of parents and care givers, by modelling safe sleep practices in hospital, and helping parents to make informed decisions to keep baby safe once they have left hospital.

Bed sharing – which often leads to co-sleeping is an accepted infant care practice and many parents do choose to bring baby into bed with them.

However, there are some circumstances where co-sleeping can be dangerous, so it is vitally important to know how to do it more safely and to understand when not to sleep.

Learn more in our Safer Cosleeping Guide and Information Statement: Sharing a sleep surface with baby.

Last modified: 2/2/22