Co-sleeping advice to parents

Babies should be slept in their own sleep space, which is safest in a cot or bassinette. Some families choose to bring baby to bed with them, but this isn’t always safe.

Read our advice below on how to do it more safely, to reduce your risk.

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Safer Co-sleeping Guide for Parents

Co-sleeping or sharing a sleep surface with an infant is a common practice for many families. However, co-sleeping or sharing a sleep surface can increase the risk of death and injury, in some circumstances.

Red Nose recommends that parents who choose to co-sleep or are worried they may accidentally co-sleep, follow a risk minimisation approach to reduce the risk of a fatal sleeping accident by considering this advice and following our tips for safer co-sleeping.

Every family is unique, and every baby is unique – so you need to make the decision that is right for you and your family.

There is no parenting rulebook, just facts and Red Nose is here to support you on your parenting journey.

Tips for safer co-sleeping

  • Place baby on their back to sleep – never on their tummy or side.
  • Make sure the mattress is clean and firm.
  • Keep pillows and adult bedding away from baby.
  • Make sure baby can’t fall off the bed – you can also put the adult mattress on the floor to help reduce the risk of baby being injured from falling off the bed.
  • Make sure the bedding and sheets can’t cover baby’s face.
  • Place baby to the side of one adult – never in the middle of two adults, or next to other children or pets.
  • Move the bed away from the wall – so baby can’t get trapped between the bed and the wall.
  • Dress baby in a safe sleep suit. A safe sleep suit is one with no hood, a fitted neck and with baby’s arms out of the armholes. Don’t wrap or swaddle baby.
  • Tie up long hair, remove all jewellery and remove teething necklaces – so they can’t strangle baby.

When not to co-sleep

Parents and carers should avoid co-sleeping or lying down holding baby if:

  • They are overly tired or feel unwell;
  • They or their partner have recently drunk alcohol;
  • They or their partner smoke, even if they don’t smoke in the bedroom;
  • Baby is unwell, was premature or is small for their gestational age;
  • They or their partner have taken any drugs (both illicit drugs and prescription medication) that make you feel sleepy or less aware. When you are overly tired, unwell or have taken alcohol or drugs that make you drowsy, you are less likely to wake up if there is a problem – which is why co-sleeping is very dangerous in these circumstances.
  • Falling asleep holding baby on a couch or chair is always unsafe – move yourself and baby to a safe sleep environment if you think you might fall asleep.

Safe Sleeping for Twins

Sleeping baby in their own safe cot is always the safest option, however, Red Nose recognises that this is not always possible, especially if you have twins.

Sleeping twins in the same safe cot (known as “co-bedding”) is dangerous if one part of the body of one twin were able to accidentally cover the face of the other, causing an interference with breathing. There is a risk that this can happen if the infants are sleeping side-by-side.

Tips for safer co-bedding

  • Place the babies head to head, at opposite ends of the cot.
  • Do not use bedding. Safer alternatives to bedding include wrapping/swaddling the babies separately until they show signs of being able to roll over or their own safe sleep suits.
  • Babies must be slept separately when they show signs of being able to move around in the cot.

Our tips for safe sleeping

The Red Nose Six Safe Sleep Recommendations are based on many years of research and are evidence-based to reduce your risk of sudden infant death and other sleep accidents.

Always follow the Red Nose six safe sleep recommendations:

  1. Sleep baby on back
  2. Keep head and face uncovered
  3. Keep baby smoke free, before and after birth
  4. Safe sleeping environment, day and night
  5. Sleep baby in parents’ room in a safe cot
  6. Breastfeed baby

More information
Call our Safe SleepAdvice Line on 1300 998 698 (during business hours)
or email education@rednose.org.au