When my first child was born 16 years ago, I was told by my health visitor that under no circumstances was I ever to bed share with my baby.
She warned me that to do so was tantamount to a death sentence and that my baby might die of SIDS as a result. Due to her advice, we decided to put our baby in a crib next to our bed.
Our baby was bottle-fed because an infected episiotomy had left me seriously ill and unable to care for her for the first three weeks of her life.
Having subsequently breastfed my other children, I know that the behaviour and feeding patterns of breastfed infants are entirely different.
My bottle-fed baby was only too happy to fall asleep from 7 p.m. till 7 a.m., did not seem stressed to sleep on her own, fed only once every three hours during the day and was able to self-soothe efficiently.
My breastfed children wanted to feed all the time in the newborn phase and would cry if I put them down anywhere away from me. They all hated cribs and would sob inconsolably when I tried to lie them down in one.
In sheer desperation one night I picked up my crying baby and put her in the bed next to me. She fell asleep straight away. I never looked back after that.
When my son was born five years ago, the health visitor handed me a leaflet on safe co-sleeping, saying that co-sleeping is actually safe in the right circumstances and that it improved breastfeeding outcomes. I was shocked at the about-turn.
So, what should you do?
SIDS and Co-sleeping
Co-sleeping has been associated with SIDS. A study involving 184,800 live births found that 90 children died and were classified as SIDS deaths. The average age of death was 2 months, 4 days.
Of these babies 54 percent had been co-sleeping. However, 31 percent involved parents who were taking drugs or alcohol, 60 percent had mothers who smoked, 17 percent slept on the sofa, 26 percent of the babies were premature.
At the time of death, 28 percent were sick. The rest of the group who died had a parent who employed unsafe sleeping practices such as using a pillow or swaddling.