Co-Sleeping with a Baby: Pros and Cons

By: Dr. Maria Cerino - March 31, 2024 - 9 Minute Read

Co-Sleeping with a Baby | The Milky Box

Parenting comes with multiple challenges, most of which are alien to us. Most parents struggle with unrelenting worries about making the right decision for their newborn, and this is normal. It is only a sign that as a parent, you care about your baby.

Co-sleeping is by far the most fiercely debated topic in parenting forums, and this isn’t surprising: A poorly thought-out sleeping setup can pose risks for your little one. 

In this article, we'll share insights on co-sleeping, helping you and your baby sleep soundly. Let's dive in!

What is Co-Sleeping, and What is the Difference Between Co-Sleeping and Bed-Sharing?

Families may use the terms "bed-sharing" and "co-sleeping" interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between the two. Co-sleeping is a practice that involves a parent and child sleeping in close physical or social contact with each other to facilitate bonding and emotional attachment.

Co-sleeping can also be defined as sharing a bed with one's baby. However, it can encompass other forms of sleeping arrangements, such as sleeping in the same room as the baby, either by keeping the baby's crib in the parent's bedroom or sleeping in the nursery as the parent.

It is important to note that in this article, we will specifically refer to the practice of sleeping on the same surface as the baby. This practice has been associated with both benefits and risks, and it is essential to consider all factors when deciding on a sleeping arrangement that is safe and suitable for both the parent and child.

Some particular conditions make co-sleeping more dangerous, due to their nature:

● Co-sleeping is done on a sofa versus a bed

● The baby is under 98 days old

● Co-sleeping is done all night versus some of the night

● If the adult co-sleeping has consumed alcohol, or opioids

● If the adult co-sleeping has smoked, nicotine, marijuana or illicit drugs

Conditions that make co-sleeping dangerous | The Milky Box

Pros of Co-Sleeping

While there is no such thing as “safe” bed-sharing, there are certain things that parents find positive about the experience. Here are a few of them:

It Makes Breastfeeding Easier

For overtired moms, getting to rest their backs while you breastfeed is a blessing. A lot of women prefer co-sleeping because it provides quick access to a feeding session, plus it encourages closer contact. 

It also makes falling back asleep easier, as less moving around is involved, however, this practice can quickly turn dangerous if both the mom and baby fall asleep inadvertently.

You and Your Baby Can Get More Sleep

When co-sleeping, a lot of babies tend to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep too. This is because they can feel their mom’s proximity, benefiting from her warmth and scent. Moms prefer this too as the longer the baby sleeps, the longer they can catch some extra sleep on those rough nights.

You Can Respond to the Baby More Quickly

Being right next to their baby guarantees all parents that they can attend to any noises such as coughing and stirring. It also helps ease some anxiety in parents who are scared their baby might not be breathing right.

Pros and Cons of co-sleeping | The Milky Box

Cons of Co-Sleeping

While the pros mentioned above make co-sleeping seem like an innocent enough practice, most parents are unaware of the risks that it poses, particularly for preemies or babies younger than 6 months of age.

Increased Risk of SIDS and Suffocation

The American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly made several statements against co-sleeping, particularly because of the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome linked to this practice, particularly when the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs is involved.

Risk of the Baby Falling Out of Bed

When co-sleeping involves the baby lying right beside you in bed (as opposed to being in an attached bedside sleeper), there's a significant risk that the baby might tumble out and suffer serious injuries.

Your Sleep Quality May Suffer

While knowing your baby is asleep right next to you can help some parents sleep easy, many struggle with fear of crushing them, suffocating them accidentally. It also creates anxiety surrounding nightly bathroom visits, as these will disturb the baby and cause them to be awake.

Your Kids May Develop a Sleep Crutch

A sleep crutch is defined as behaviors that become mentally extremely linked for babies with sleep. Without these, they can’t fall asleep. Some examples can be certain sounds such as singing or humming, or in this case, feeling their parents ’ presence during bedtime.

Makes Transitioning to a Crib or Room Harder

Another big point to consider is the future. A lot of parents struggle when it is time to switch sleeping arrangements after sharing a bed for a long time, as this can trigger negative feelings in the baby, and guilt on the parent.

Reduced Intimacy

Sleeping with your baby will definitely impact intimacy between you and your partner, and this isn’t exclusive to sexual intercourse. A lot of couples rely on those last moments before falling asleep to have meaningful conversations and keep their bond strong. 

When co-sleeping, these practices are avoided in order to keep the room quiet, further affecting the relationship

Safe Sleep Practices | The Milky Box

Safety Concerns

Bed-sharing is a culturally rooted practice that is prevalent in some societies. In these regions, the incidence of infant deaths associated with this practice is relatively low. This may be attributed to variations in bedding and mattresses as well as differences in cultural practices.

However, it is imperative to note that health experts strongly advise against parents putting their infants to sleep in adult beds due to serious safety risks. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep on their backs, on firm and flat surfaces, in cribs, bassinets, or play yards that meet safety standards. 

The organization further discourages bed-sharing, as it increases the risk of accidental suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation.

Thus, while the cultural significance of bed-sharing cannot be ignored, parents must be made aware of the safety risks it poses to their infants. Providing safe sleeping environments for infants is paramount, and health experts advocate for parents to follow established guidelines to mitigate risks.

The AAP's Safe Sleep Guidelines

There are a series of actions you can take to ensure your baby is safe throughout the night:

● Supine positioning

● Use of a firm, non inclined sleep surface

● Room sharing without bed sharing

● Avoidance of soft bedding and overheating the room

● Keep soft objects, such as toys, fur-like materials, and loose bedding away

● Avoidance of exposure to nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opioids, and illicit drugs

● Routine immunization

● Use of a pacifier

AAP Safe Sleep Guidelines | The Milky Box

Safe Alternatives to Co-Sleeping

A safer alternative to co-sleeping is room-sharing. Your baby can sleep in your bedroom, as long as they are in their designated space: a crib or bassinet. This will ensure you are still close but they have their own safe, controlled environment.

This is the safest way to get the best of both worlds: you get to be in tune with your baby’s needs and ease your worries while still keeping your own space. It’s easier to feed them this way too. 

Room-Sharing and Sleep Training

Room sharing is the perfect alternative to co-sleeping, but it does require some training, as babies who are used to bed-sharing struggle with being put down on their own at first. 

With that being said, we can’t deny the amazing benefits: sharing a room enhances the convenience of feeding, diaper changes, and snuggling with your baby. Additionally, room sharing has been identified as a preventive measure against sleep-related infant deaths.

Room Sharing | The Milky Box

Can You Sleep Train While Room-Sharing With Your Baby?

There are no rules when it comes to sleep training, as it is a process that very much depends on each infant. The only specific rule to this practice is that it should be started after four months of age, as this is when your baby’s feedings will start being less frequent during the night.

However, it does pose certain challenges for the parents themselves, as some babies cry before falling asleep while they adapt, making it difficult for them to fall asleep, or stay asleep during night wakings.

When Should You Stop Room-Sharing?

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing up to at least six months of age, as this aligns both with the exclusive breastfeeding window, and their most vulnerable age. It’s perfect to ensure they get a great start in life.

Moving them to their own room also encourages routines, once the right time comes. Co-sleeping babies will naturally tend to fall asleep later in the night, as we adults tend to stay up later.

When you want to implement a routine, putting them down in their room earlier in the evening will encourage early sleepers, giving you a chance to have some extra minutes to close off on the day’s activities around the house.

In Conclusion…

Ultimately, it is your choice as a parent to make a final choice when it comes to your baby’s sleeping arrangements. However, it’s important to keep their safety in mind first. 

Practices like room sharing are perfect for strengthening your bond and keeping an eye on your baby throughout the night, there is no denying it. If you decide to take a safer approach, it will be easier for you to get a better night’s rest, contributing to your overall sense of ease and good parenting. 

As always, remember to consult your doctor if you notice any unusual behavior in your baby’s sleeping pattern. For anything else, just know that The Milky Box has got all your parenting needs covered.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does co-sleeping affect infants' development? 

When it comes to co-sleeping and development, there is no defined conclusion. Some studies point towards co-sleeping children developing anxious behaviors as they grow up, while others point towards making babies more emotionally sensitive and present. 

Emotionally speaking, there are no dangerous consequences as far as it is known, but it’s still important to keep their safety in mind when making a decision. No evidence describes any physical development impairment related to co-sleeping.

What do psychologists say about co-sleeping?

Generally speaking, psychologists support the emotional benefits of co-sleeping. The baby feels less of a need to self-regulate, therefore experiencing less stress during bedtime. This is supported by various studies that suggest better emotional regulation in co-sleepers once they reach their first year of life.

Can my baby share a room with their siblings?

The American Association of Pediatrics does not recommend this practice. Parents should wait until their baby is at the very least, one year old to consider sharing a room with their siblings, this is due to safety concerns. If the age difference between your children isn’t huge, once your baby is older, it can create strong bonds and forever friends.

Is it okay if my baby sleeps on my chest?

If you are awake, yes. It is a perfect way to bond with your baby while keeping an eye on them. However, you need to be very careful to stay awake, as this same sense of comfort can encourage you to snooze too, endangering your baby. 

Sleep-induced position changes, arm movements, or inadvertent pillow shifts could inadvertently harm your infant.


Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

Dr. Maria Cerino is a medical doctor and a researcher from Mexico, her works being published in prestigious journals like the American Journal of Human Biology among others. As a medical writer, Dr. Cerino focuses on infant nutrition and healthy neurological development in infants and children. In her free time, she enjoys going on walks, watching indie films, and cooking at home.

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Reviewed by Suzanne Renee',

Infant Nutrition Expert

Suzanne Renee' is an accomplished professional with extensive expertise in the area of infant nutrition, dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of children. She started this journey as a foster parent.

Suzanne has emerged as a strong proponent of the European baby formula and has become a full-time writer on the subject. 

In her free time, she enjoys camping, hiking, and going to church.