Blurry-eyed, 3 a.m. Googling is never a great idea, but sometimes parents will try anything to get their baby to just go to sleep, please. When rocking, feeding, burping, changing and begging—yeah, I’ve tried it!—doesn’t work, you may be tempted to bring your infant into your room for a few stolen minutes of precious shut-eye. Add to this the fact that the guidelines you stumbled upon in a postpartum haze were a little confusing, and you get a recipe for disaster. Is co-sleeping with your baby a big deal? What about bed-sharing? And what exactly is the difference between the two?

Understanding the definitions and the recommendations surrounding co-sleeping and bedsharing are important for an effective (and a safe) night’s sleep for mom and baby. Especially because the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) safe sleep recommendations changed in 2022.

The difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing is a major one. Below, we’ve broken down what parents need to know.

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Co-sleeping and bed-sharing are not interchangeable

Despite the fact that many people talk about co-sleeping—like Kourtney Kardashian and Alicia Silverstone—they may actually mean bed-sharing. These two terms sound similar, but they have a distinct difference: it’s all about where baby sleeps.

“The main difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing is where the infant sleeps,” Dr. Nilong Vyas, pediatrician at Sleepless in NOLA and medical review expert at, tells Motherly. “Sometimes the words are used synonymously but are pretty different in the safe infant sleep space. Co-sleeping, for many families, has become the catch-all phrase for when a child sleeps in the bed with the parent or caregiver.”

She explains that co-sleeping is “a parent and child sleeping in the same room but on different surfaces.”

This means a parent is in their bed, while the infant is in a bassinet or crib in the same room. Or for older kids, a separate bed or space in the same room as the parent, but not in the same bed.

On the other hand, “bed-sharing is a more specific term for an infant or child sharing the bed or sleeping space with the parent/caregiver,” says Dr. Vyas.

Bed-sharing isn’t recommended for infants under age 1

“Bed-sharing is not recommended for any child less than 1 year of age per AAP safe sleep guidelines, which were recently updated,” says Dr. Vyas.

It’s OK to breastfeed or cuddle with your baby in bed, as long as you move them before you fall asleep. (And, luckily, you won’t be missing any special attachment by skipping bed-sharing, according to this new study!)

“Some say bedsharing helps improve breastfeeding and/or bonding of the infant with the mother,” Dr. Vyas adds. “However, the downside is that bed-sharing increases the risk for sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS] and sudden unexplained infant death syndrome [SUIDS], which means an infant may suffocate or stop breathing when bed-sharing. This is a risk and not an absolute, but we want to limit the risk as much as possible.”

“Some parents may find bed-sharing convenient for night-time feedings and believe that their baby ‘sleeps’ better while lying next to them,” Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP, board-certified pediatrician and consultant for Mom Loves Best, tells Motherly. “However, bed-sharing is dangerous for the baby.”

There are many reasons for this. “Adult bed mattresses are not as firm as those designed for infant beds and are an increased risk for SIDS,” she says. “It is also possible for the parent to roll onto the infant while asleep, suffocating the baby. Pillows, blankets and quilts are also infant suffocation risks. For these reasons, the AAP advises against bed-sharing.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends placing infants 1 and under on their backs to sleep in a crib alone, with no blankets. 

Co-sleeping has many benefits

Sleeping in the same room as your baby on a different sleep surface has “numerous” benefits, according to Dr. Vyas.

She says co-sleeping “helps to promote breastfeeding, helps regulate breathing and decreases the likelihood of SIDS.”

Dr. Alexander also shared some of the many benefits of co-sleeping. “It is easier for infant feeding, diaper changes, and consoling,” she says. “Mothers can easily soothe a crying baby and breastfeed with the bassinet next to the parent’s bed.”

She continues, “Room sharing is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics until at least age six months and is felt to reduce the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—any unexpected infant death that cannot be attributed to a specific cause—by 50 percent.”

Again, sleeping in the same room—but not the same bed—as your baby is beneficial until they are 6 months old.

There is a downside to co-sleeping

Experts say co-sleeping could make it harder for your baby to learn to self-soothe when they are older.

“If the child gets used to having the parent in the room with them as they are falling asleep, the infant may be unable to fall asleep independently, which delays transition into their own room,” Dr. Vyas says.

Dr. Alexander agrees. “It may be more difficult to sleep-train older infants,” she says about co-sleeping. “When the baby wakes at night, he or she may cry until held by the parent. It may take longer to learn how to self-soothe.”

“How long a parent chooses to room share is a personal choice,” she adds. “This decision may be associated with the family’s particular home situation; it may not be possible for the infant or toddler to have a separate room.”

Bed-sharing with toddlers is safer—but may lead to less quality sleep

Despite the bed-sharing risks to infants under 1, Dr. Vyas says it may be safer to share a bed or sleeping surface once the baby is past 1 “because their motor skills have improved and can better protect their airway.”

“However, toddlers between 1 and 2 years of age can still suffocate in an unsafe sleeping environment or roll off the bed and injure themselves,” she warns. “Not to mention the parent may not be getting as much or quality sleep as they need if a child of any age is in bed with them.”

A 2018 study in the Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics found that bed-sharing and room-sharing with toddlers is linked to increased mental health symptoms in mothers, which makes sense when you think about how often your toddler will kick, wiggle and wake you up throughout the night. 

In Dr. Alexander’s clinical practice, she recalls “several patients who continue to bed-share throughout their grade school years, much to their parents’ displeasure.”

So, if you want to make it easier on everyone, you might want to move older babies and toddlers to their own bed and their own room to sleep.