Lots of us do it, some of us enjoy it – so why do so many mums lie about sharing a bed with their baby?

According to a new survey, nearly half of those who sleep with their baby won’t admit it to their GP, midwife or health visitor.

Fear of judgement

The survey of hundreds of mums, conducted by Gentle Parenting, found that many mother keep co-sleeping habits a secret because they’re afraid of being judged.

Forty-six per cent of women questioned said they had lied about sharing a bed with their baby because they were worried about being criticised.

“In this country we don’t like co-sleeping because we think it will create clingy children,” Sarah Ockwell-Smith, owner of Gentle Parenting, told The Sunday Times.

“But all the research supports that both mums and babies get more sleep when they bed-share. And at five, children who co-slept are no more likely to be in their parents’ beds than those who slept in a cot.”

One 2004 study of mums with four-week-old babies found that breastfeeding mothers got more sleep when they shared a bed.

Another UK study carried out in 2014 found that smoking, drinking alcohol and sofa-sharing tend to be causes behind SIDS deaths that occur when babies are co-sleeping with an adult – not bed-sharing itself.

Sharing a bed safely

Mary Newburn, head of research at the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) previously told the Guardian: “It is clear from surveys that around half of parents sleep with their babies at some point in the first six months, and around a quarter do so routinely, so we need to help them to do this in the safest way possible.”

The authors of the 2014 study argued that parents not be judged, but taught how to avoid dangerous co-sleeping environments: sofa-sharing, drugs, smoking, alcohol, or bed-sharing with premature babies.

While official advice does not tell women to avoid sharing a bed with their baby, experts do recommend taking certain safety precautions to minimise the risk of accidental deaths or injuries.

Co-sleeping safety advice:

  • Always put babies to sleep on their backs, and on a firm, clean mattress
  • Make sure that there is no soft bedding, stuffed animals or pillows around the baby
  • Use light bedding such as sheets rather than duvets. Check that the covers cannot cover the baby’s head
  • Ensure that the baby cannot become trapped between the mattress and the wall. There should be no gaps between the mattress and bedframe. Also ensure that the baby can’t fall out of the bed
  • Mums with very long hair should keep it tied back to prevent the baby from becoming entangled
  • Make sure that any other person sleeping in bed is aware that the baby is also sharing the space
  • Never sleep with a baby on a sofa or chair. If you are worried about accidentally falling asleep whilst holding your baby, either leave the infant in another adult’s care or move to a bed (taking the appropriate safety steps)
  • Do not share a bed with your baby if you have been smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs, sedatives, medications or substances that could make it difficult for you to wake up
  • Babies under 1 year should never sleep next to siblings/other older children
  • Parents who are extremely overweight, or who may have difficulty judging how close their baby is to their body, should put their baby to sleep on a separate surface next to their bed (such as a bedside cot)