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Should I sleep with my baby?

Many mothers have found that cosleeping has many benefits for their families.

According to Dr James McKenna,

"Studies have shown that co-sleeping with a breastfeeding infant promotes bonding, regulates the mother and baby's sleep patterns, plays a role in helping the mother to become more responsive to her baby's cues, and gives both the mother and baby needed rest. The co-sleeping environment also assists mothers in the continuation of breastfeeding on demand, an important step in maintaining the mother's milk supply. "

Contrary to popular opinion, cosleeping actually helps babies become independent. Meredith Small, anthropologist and author of Our Babies Ourselves, says,

"For millions of years, the normal sleeping position of human infants has been on their backs nestled next to mother. Only in western cultures do we force babies to sleep alone, thinking they are more safe and independent placed in a crib with no contact. But history, and how most babies sleep in other cultures, suggests that the West is out of step with what is best physically and emotionally for our children."

There are many ways of cosleeping. Some mothers keep their babies in bed with them all the time. Other mothers set up the crib or bassinet in the mother's room; their babies are brought to the mother's bed when they wake. Other mothers sleep with their babies on a mattress in the baby's room.

There are as many options as there are parents and babies. As babies grow and changes their sleep patterns, families often respond by changing sleeping spaces. The only right choice is what works to give the whole family as much rest as possible

Dr James McKenna suggests these safety guidelines:

  • Parents should not sleep with their babies if they are smokers or have ingested alcohol or drugs.
  • Cosleep only on beds, not on couches or recliners
  • Bedding should be tight fitting to the mattress.
  • The mattress should be tight fitting to the headboard of the bed.
  • There should not be any loose pillows or soft blankets near the baby's face.
  • There should not be any space between the bed and adjoining wall where the baby could roll and become trapped.
  • The baby should not be placed on its stomach.
  • Do not cosleep if you drink alcohol or medications that make you sleepy, take drugs, or smoke

Some parents are concerned that their children will never move into their own rooms. Be assurred that while every baby and child is unique and has different needs, they all eventually become independent.

Cosleeping can be a safe and warm way to parent babies. We encourage each family to make an informed decision about what will work best for them.


On the LLLI Web site:

From the LLLI Online Store:

  • Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family, by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Linda J. Smith, and Teresa Pitman (a La Leche League International book)
  • Sweet Dreams, by Paul M. Fleiss, MD, MPH, FAAP, Softcover, 168 pages.
  • Good Nights: The Happy Parent's Guide to the Family Bed (And a Peaceful Night's Sleep), by Jay Gordon, MD and Maria Goodavage, Softcover, 256 pages.
  • Safe Sleep tear-off information sheets: How breastfeeding protects against SIDS, and tips for safely sharing sleep with your infant.

If you have additional concerns, please contact your local LLL Leader. To find a Group near you, call 1-800-LALECHE, look at our LLL Web Page Index  or follow the hints in our page on finding a local LLL Leader.

For additional information on parenting options, you may want to purchase the LLLI comprehensive guidebook, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING. It is offered for sale by most LLL Groups and through the LLLI Online Store.

Our FAQs present information from La Leche League International on topics of interest to parents of breastfed children. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. If you have a serious breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader. Please consult health care professionals on any medical issue, as La Leche League Leaders are not medical practitioners.

Page last edited .

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