How to Set Up a Floor Bed for Safe Cosleeping with Your Baby
I was four weeks postpartum and my daughter just would not be put down. My husband and I had worked out a shift system that involved me holding the baby from midnight until 6 a.m. I was beyond exhausted. Then one day, he said “Just bring her into our bed.”
I resisted, wanting to do everything by the book. “Isn’t bed-sharing dangerous?” I thought. According to one study from the University of Bristol, there is no significant increased risk to bed sharing for infants in circumstances other than sofa-sharing, alcohol use, or smoking — and in fact, it may be protective for infants older than 3 months.
According to The Lullaby Trust in the U.K., 76% of parents report bed-sharing with their infants at some time (and that’s just the ones willing to admit to it), but 40% are not doing it safely.
Dr. Anna Pease, research fellow at the Centre for Academic Child Health and researcher on the paper above, points out that “knowing what makes all infant sleep spaces more or less risky is vital to helping parents make decisions that will reduce their baby’s risk of SIDS.”
We moved house when my daughter was 6 months old — and it didn’t look like the end of bed-sharing was on the horizon for us anytime soon — so we decided to invest in a bed for the nursery that we could use for cosleeping.
Like a growing number of parents, we’ve made bed-sharing an intentional decision, rather than risk accidentally falling asleep with our daughter in a dangerous situation. For us, it was a choice between bed-sharing safely, or barely sleeping at all, which could be quite dangerous in itself.
How to Make a Floor Bed Work for Cosleeping in Your Home
We spoke with Tiffany Belanger, safe cosleeping educator and founder of cosleepy.com, to find out how you can use a floor bed for safe cosleeping with your infant or toddler.
1. Make sure you are in a safe sleep position.
Before you worry about buying bed-sharing furniture, you need to make sure that both parent and baby are in the safest position.
For the first year, the recommendation is for your baby to sleep on their back. The bed-sharing parent should sleep in the “cuddle curl,” that is on your side with knees bent in front of your body, and the baby at chest height.
“The cuddle curl keeps the baby close and easy to monitor, facilitates convenient and frequent breastfeeding, and prevents the mother from rolling onto the baby,” says Belanger.
Anyone else in the bed, whether that’s the dad or another partner, or a sibling, should be behind the bed-sharing parent. If the baby is in between two adults, both “have got to be conscious that the baby’s there,” says Belanger. “And committed to keeping them safe.”
2. Choose a firm floor bed mattress.
The mattress for your floor bed should ideally be very firm, and not too high off the floor. Belanger notes that “a firm mattress is really important because, for that first year, suffocation is a risk factor.” Skip mattresses that are heavily quilted or made of memory foam, because any mattress designed to mold to your shape as your body heat warms the foam poses a suffocation risk for infants. “You want [the mattress] to be firm,” Belanger repeats. “And not to move at all.”
3. Opt for a special floor bed frame, or no frame at all.
The bed frame you choose for bed-sharing might not seem like a big deal — until your baby starts to roll. “Part of protecting your child when you’re bed-sharing is keeping them from falling on the ground and injuring themselves that way,” she explains.
Alternatively, you could use a crib mattress (e.g., this) on the floor as a safe way to cushion any falls — don’t use thick pillows, towels, or duvets for this, as they can cause suffocation.
4. Choose thin blankets.
Heavy pillows and duvets can add a suffocation risk, so Belanger recommends you layer several thinner breathable blankets (like this or this) over yourself, pulled up only to the waist. If you get cold, you can layer form-fitting vests, shirts, sweaters, and cardigans to enable easy access for breastfeeding without becoming a suffocation risk. The baby should not have a blanket. Opt for a cozy sleepsack instead!
The parent can use a small pillow, as long as they keep it well away from the baby, but other pillows or cushions should be removed.
Safe Cosleeping Recommendations
The research shows that bed-sharing is going to happen in a lot of households — and that that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the whole family is on board, and you practice safe cosleeping. For some parents, bed-sharing is an intentional choice during this season in life, to allow everyone to get better sleep and to facilitate a strong attachment.
Having the right bed setup for safe cosleeping is important for anyone planning to bed-share with their infant or toddler. Here are a few recommended products: