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What Is Bed Sharing?

Bed sharing refers to the practice of sharing a bed with your baby or young child. It is also known as co-sleeping and has been a topic of much debate among parents and experts. While some people swear by the benefits of bed sharing, others are concerned about the potential risks involved.

Bed sharing can take different forms, depending on cultural, social, and individual preferences. It can involve parents and children sleeping in the same bed, or in close proximity to each other, such as in a sidecar bassinet or a separate but connected bed.

Proponents of bed sharing believe that it promotes bonding, facilitates breastfeeding, and helps both the parent and child get better sleep. They argue that it is a natural and instinctive practice that has been followed for centuries in many cultures around the world.

On the other hand, opponents of bed sharing raise concerns about the safety risks it may pose. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against bed sharing, citing the potential for accidental suffocation, entrapment, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). They recommend infants sleep on a separate, firm sleep surface, such as a crib or bassinet, in close proximity to the parents’ bed.

While the debate continues, it is important for parents to make informed decisions about bed sharing based on their individual circumstances and the guidance of healthcare professionals. Here are answers to seven common questions about bed sharing:

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1. Is bed sharing safe?
The safety of bed sharing depends on various factors, including the age and development of the child, the sleep environment, and the parenting practices. It is important to follow safety guidelines, such as ensuring a firm mattress, avoiding suffocation hazards like pillows and blankets, and avoiding bed sharing if either parent smokes or has consumed alcohol or drugs.

2. Does bed sharing promote breastfeeding?
Bed sharing has been found to facilitate breastfeeding by allowing easy access to the breast and promoting frequent nursing. The close proximity of the parent and child can also help establish a strong bond and promote a sense of security.

3. Can bed sharing improve sleep for both parent and child?
Many parents find that bed sharing can improve sleep for both themselves and their child. The presence of a parent can provide comfort and reassurance to the child, leading to more settled sleep patterns. However, it is important to note that this may not be the case for everyone, and individual sleep preferences should be considered.

4. At what age is bed sharing appropriate?
Experts recommend against bed sharing with infants under the age of one due to the increased risk of SIDS. However, some parents choose to bed share with older children, as long as safety precautions are followed.

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5. Are there any cultural differences related to bed sharing?
Bed sharing practices vary across cultures, with some societies embracing bed sharing as a norm while others discourage it. Understanding and respecting cultural differences can help inform individual choices regarding bed sharing.

6. Should I consult my healthcare provider before engaging in bed sharing?
It is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before deciding to bed share, especially if your child has specific health concerns or if you are unsure about the safety guidelines. They can provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances.

7. What are the alternatives to bed sharing?
If bed sharing is not the preferred option for a family, there are alternatives to promote closeness, such as room sharing with a separate sleep surface for the child, such as a bassinet or crib. This allows for proximity and convenience while reducing the potential risks associated with bed sharing.

In conclusion, bed sharing is a personal choice that should be made after considering the individual circumstances, cultural perspectives, and safety guidelines. While it can have potential benefits, it is important to prioritize the safety of the child and ensure that the sleep environment is as risk-free as possible. Consulting with healthcare professionals and being aware of current recommendations can help parents make informed decisions about bed sharing.
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