Good news for co-sleeping parents - NHS updates say you CAN sleep safely in the same bed as baby

NHS update the co-sleeping advice for parents

NHS issue co-sleeping update illustrated by mum sleeping with baby
(Image credit: Getty Images / Future)

The NHS has updated its sleep advice for parents and, for the first time, now reflects the National Institute for Care and Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

The NHS' take on co-sleeping has always been 'never bedshare' leaving parents who wanted to at a loss with little help or support in how to get their baby to sleep in the first few months. Where NICE shared information on co-sleeping for the first time in 2014, it has taken nine years for the previous NHS advice 'Never to share a bed with your baby' to be replaced with a section titled; 'Be safe if you share a bed with your baby'.

While we know that parents looking to co sleep safely can turn to charities like the Lullaby Trust for help with information and tips on how to do it, the NHS is always the first point of contact for new mums. These changes weren't announced by the NHS as such, instead, it was a baby sleep trainer who noticed them and shared them with her Instagram followers. Baby and toddler sleep consultant Sarah Patel spotted the changes and urged her 22.1k followers on her teach to sleep Instagram to share 'far and wide'.

Speaking to she tells us; "This is such a great step in the right direction. The NHS website now offers advice for safer bedsharing which will open up the conversation for so many families and mean families no longer need to feel guilty for making an informed choice about bedsharing. "

The post below, which has received over 2900 likes, was captioned with "
Please share this far and wide so that all parents can be informed about safe bedsharing 🙏🏽❤. Huge thank you to @basis_babysleepinfosource and to Anna Pease for making this change happen 🙏"

And you can feel the relief in some of the responses, with one mum commenting; "Wow! So happy to see this- 5 years bed sharing and feeling unsupported by the majority of advice and opinions- glad to see sensible advice on how to do safely and some trust in our mothering instincts x" 

Another agreed, saying: "Finally!!! I got so much stick for bedsharing from my HV, yet I'd done my research and it was the safest and happiest option for us xx" And this mum said: "Co-slept / breastfed all 3 of mine. 17 years ago and now. Babies need to be close to their mothers!".

While lots of the comments are simply tagging other parents in the post to make it visible, highlighting just how much this advice may impact parents.

The Lullaby Trust stand by their advice that 'the safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own clear, flat, separate sleep space, such as a cot or Moses basket' but add that they know 'many parents find themselves co-sleeping whether they mean to or not'. And, with this in mind they 'recommend making your bed a safer place for baby', with advice inline with the NHS and NICE guidelines above, but add that you should 'consider any risks before every sleep', saying: "It is easy for your situation to change if you are unwell or have drunk any alcohol, which means your baby will be safest in a separate sleep space such as a cot or Moses basket on that occasion."

Bed sharing - the NHS' advice

The NHS now offer advice on safe co-sleeping on its Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS page. The guidelines state;

If you share a bed with your baby you should:

  • make sure they sleep on a firm, flat mattress lying on their back
  • not have any pillows or duvets near them
  • not have other children or pets in the bed at the same time

They also say it's important not to share a bed with your baby if they had a low birthweight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb) or if you or your partner:

  • smoke (no matter where or when you smoke and even if you never smoke in bed)
  • have had 2 or more units of alcohol
  • have taken recreational drugs
  • have taken medicine that causes drowsiness

This is not dissimilar from the NICE recommendations for parents about bed-sharing.

Sarah says: "The research shows that many, in fact 75% of parents will end up bedsharing at some point in their parenting journey. For years NHS practitioners have been put in a very difficult position because they know that many of the parents they are working with would be bedsharing at some point, yet they were not able to offer any guidance around it, accept to say not to do it. 

For me there is still more progress to make in this area. I think it is crucial that rather than [the NHS] having blanket statements like, 'It's important not to share a bed with your baby if they had a low birthweight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb) that we consider there will be families who will need to bedshare with a premature baby. 

"Perhaps their baby refuses to sleep in the cot or there isn't a cot available, these families need to have guidance on how to make their situation as safer as possible, rather than telling them not to do it."

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Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.