Getting your infant to sleep can feel impossible sometimes, can’t it? Maybe your baby is a great napper—but still doesn’t give you prolonged stretches of sleep at night. Your newborn probably loves napping on you, mama, but has a harder time sleeping alone.

Whether or not to share your bed with baby is often hotly debated. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against doing so, while others say it promotes bonding between mother and child.

A new study suggests that bedsharing doesn’t boost attachment between mama and baby. Researchers say they hope their findings help ease parents’ worries when it comes to not sharing a bed with their baby.

The study was published online in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. It analyzed data from 178 babies and their parents. Questionnaires and in-person visits were done at birth, and then again when the babies were three, six, and eighteen months.

Researchers found that while many of the families shared a bed during that time frame, they didn’t report any higher levels of bonding or attachment between mother and baby.

If you’re worried that you won’t be able to bond with your baby unless you sleep together, the study shows you don’t have to worry about that, mama.

“A lot of people think that bed sharing is necessary to promote secure attachment with infants,” said Dr. Ayten Bilgin, the study’s co-author and a lecturer in development psychology at the University of Kent, in England. “However, there is little research in this area and quite mixed evidence.”

Safe sleep recommendations

According to the AAP, about 3,500 infants die each year in the United States from sleep-related infant deaths. To prevent tragedies, experts offer the following recommendations:

  • Place your baby on his back for every sleep.
  • Make sure your baby has a firm sleep surface with no other bedding or soft objects. Remove pillows, blankets and stuffed animals to reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation.
  • You can room share with your infant by placing their bassinet, crib or play yard in your bedroom. The AAP recommends room sharing for at least six months.

Want to sleep with your baby? There are safe ways to do it.

The AAP acknowledges that many parents fall asleep while nursing their infant, especially at night. If you think you might fall asleep during a late-night nursing session, they recommend doing so in bed.

“Evidence suggests that it is less hazardous to fall asleep with the infant in the adult bed than on a sofa or armchair, should the parent fall asleep,” says the AAP. Before you get started, remove any pillows or blankets that might cause a suffocation hazard to your baby.

If you wake up and notice your little one is still asleep, experts say it’s best to move her back into her bassinet or play yard.

“Because there is evidence that the risk of bedsharing is higher with longer duration, if the parent falls asleep while feeding the infant in bed, the infant should be placed back on a separate sleep surface as soon as the parent awakens.”

The bottom line

You know what’s best for your little one, mama. This study suggests that you don’t have to sleep with your baby in order to bond—just continue being your attentive self while you’re both awake. While experts recommend room sharing but not bed sharing, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks of sleep tragedies.

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