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Bed Sharing: The La Leche League 'Safe Sleep 7'

The topic of bed sharing is certainly a contentious one, but it’s also a subject that we should talk about more.

Historically, as parents we have been warned to avoid bed sharing with our little ones as the safest sleep environment for baby is in their own clear cot, on their back. Despite this, there have always been families who make the decision to bed share (whether you agree with it or not, it happens), so to keep these families and their babies as safe as possible, organisations have stepped out and updated their safety guidance to try to mitigate the risks and help parents to make an informed decision.

We’ll be taking a look at the ‘Safe Sleep 7’ by La Leche League, and also covering the change in guidance by the Lullaby Trust.

The La Leche Safe Sleep 7

According to La Leche League, to bed share with baby you need to be: 

  1.  A non-smoker
  2. Sober (no drugs, alcohol, or medications that could make you drowsy) 
  3. Breastfeeding

 Your baby needs to be: 

  1. Healthy (not ill or premature)
  2. Kept on his back when he’s not breastfeeding 
  3. Unswaddled, wearing no more than a sleepsuit or light pyjamas 

 You both need to be: 

  1. On a safe surface.  Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair. 

Read more here.

The Lullaby Trust has also updated their bed sharing guidance – this video summarises their safety advice.

You may have noticed that, unlike La Leche League, whilst the Lullaby Trust does indeed emphasise on their website that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, they don’t explicitly include this in their updated bed sharing guidance, as despite this there will always be formula feeding parents who choose to bed share therefore they feel that the advice should be tailored to all parents regardless of feeding method.

We asked La Leche League for some insight into why they include breastfeeding as an important factor in their safer bed sharing guidance…

“We know, with plenty of supporting research, that breastfeeding is protective against SIDS, regardless of sleep location.
LLLGB also knows that many families find co-sleeping to be very valuable in sustaining the breastfeeding relationship and there is research showing that babies sharing a bed with their mother breastfeed more at night than those sleeping separately.
In terms of other (non-SIDS) risks to babies associated with bedsharing (which apply to both breastfed and formula fed babies), there have been several studies noting the high responsiveness of breastfeeding mothers to their bedsharing babies, and observing the naturally protective sleep position they assume and behaviours that they adopt.
Smaller-scale studies doing direct comparisons between breastfeeding and other parents have suggested that breastfeeding mothers may be more responsive when co-sleeping than non-breastfeeding adults in the bed, and there is need for more evidence in this area. The key studies tracking mother-infant arousal when bedsharing looked only at breastfeeding pairs, so LLL prudently include breastfeeding as part of our “safe sleep seven” because we have seen evidence of the protective behaviour of breastfeeding mothers sharing a sleeping space with their babies.
The simple message is that breastfed babies are at a lower risk of SIDS, and that for many families, safe bedsharing makes breastfeeding more achievable.”

Should I bed share if formula feeding, then?

Ultimately, it is a case of different organisations taking different stances – it is up to you alone to decide whether to bed share. The Lullaby Trust are aiming to reach non-breastfeeding parents who choose to bed share, whilst La Leche League feel that breastfeeding is too important of a factor to not include in their bed sharing guidance. Both organisations state that breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS, so it would be safe to take away from this that it is safer to bed share if breastfeeding than if formula feeding your baby.
By discussing this and noting the differences, we hope to open up a dialogue about this topic and help more parents to make an informed decision on a subject that definitely isn’t black and white! We’d love to hear more from you in the comments.
Love from Katie & Team BBY. Xx

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