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Is it illegal to sleep with your baby in bed?

Co-sleeping with infants is a controversial topic. While some parents choose to have their babies sleep in the same bed with them, others are adamantly against bed-sharing due to concerns about safety and potential risks. So is co-sleeping actually illegal? Let’s take a closer look at the laws and guidelines surrounding baby bed-sharing.

Is co-sleeping illegal in the U.S.?

There are currently no federal or state laws in the U.S. that explicitly prohibit parents from sleeping in the same bed with their infants. Co-sleeping is generally not considered illegal or unlawful. However, certain situations of bed-sharing may fall under child endangerment laws if the practice is deemed unsafe and directly harms a child.

For example, co-sleeping while under the influence of alcohol or drugs could potentially violate child endangerment statutes in some states if it directly leads to injury or death of a child. But in general, simply sleeping next to your baby is not an illegal act in and of itself.

Safety guidelines and recommendations

While not technically illegal, various government agencies and pediatric organizations strongly advise against bed-sharing and recommend that parents have infants sleep on a separate surface, such as a crib, bassinet, or play yard. Here are some of the main recommendations against co-sleeping:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics: Recommends room-sharing but not bed-sharing. Advises against any objects like pillows and blankets in baby’s sleep area.
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission: Warns against allowing babies to sleep in adult beds, on couches, or on armchairs.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Advises against bed-sharing especially in the first 3-4 months of life.

These recommendations are based on research showing increased risks associated with co-sleeping such as suffocation, entrapment, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, while organizations strongly advise against bed-sharing, it is ultimately up to parents to decide what works best for their family’s sleeping situation.

Potential risks and dangers

Health agencies provide warnings against co-sleeping because studies have identified the following potential dangers:

  • Suffocation – Babies can suffocate if they get trapped against a pillow, blanket, or adult body. Loose bedding is a top cause of infant sleep suffocation.
  • Entrapment – Babies can get trapped or wedged between the mattress and headboard, wall, or other furniture. Gaps as small as 3 inches can entrap an infant’s head.
  • Overheating – Shared body heat under blankets may cause a baby to get overheated, increasing SIDS risk.
  • Rolling over – Parent can roll over onto the baby during sleep.
  • Falls – Baby can fall off the bed and get injured.
  • SIDS – Bed-sharing increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

These threats are significantly heightened when sleeping surfaces are not firm and designed for infants. Beds, couches, armchairs and other soft, uneven surfaces greatly increase dangers.

Highest risk situations

Certain situations amplify the risks of co-sleeping even further:

  • One or both parents are smokers
  • Parent is overly tired or sleep deprived
  • Parent is under the influence of alcohol, medications, or drugs
  • Baby is born premature or low birth weight
  • Baby is under 12 weeks old
  • Baby was a victim of SIDS in the past

For these high-risk situations, pediatricians strongly stress that babies sleep separately from parents.

Potential benefits

Despite recommendations against bed-sharing, some parents still choose to co-sleep for perceived benefits such as:

  • Increased breastfeeding rates and duration
  • Easier nighttime feedings
  • More sleep for mothers
  • Emotional comfort for baby
  • Enhanced bonding and attachment

However, these potential benefits are still controversial and debated. Research is inconsistent on whether co-sleeping actually provides benefits compared to separate sleeping surfaces.

Ways to reduce risk

If parents still choose to co-sleep, experts recommend taking steps to reduce risk such as:

  • Keep bedding light – no pillows, blankets, or toys around baby
  • Ensure mattress is firm and flat – no gaps or soft surfaces
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and medications before bed
  • Breastfeed baby to reduce SIDS risk
  • Keep baby away from headboard and footboard
  • Make sure baby can’t get trapped between mattress and wall
  • Keep baby on back – not tummy or side

While these tips may help reduce risk, the safest approach recommended by experts is to avoid co-sleeping altogether by having baby sleep in a separate crib or bassinet.

Cultural considerations

Co-sleeping practices and attitudes can vary significantly across different cultures. Bed-sharing is common and widely accepted in many Asian and African countries. However, practices like allowing baby to sleep on very soft bedding would still be considered hazardous universally.

Across all cultures, co-sleeping safety comes down to avoiding suffocation, entrapment, and overheating hazards. No matter the cultural context, soft bedding, gaps in sleep surfaces, overbundling under blankets, and exposing babies to second-hand smoke are universally dangerous.

Laws and regulations around the world

While there are no blanket bans on co-sleeping anywhere, some countries have taken legal measures to promote safe sleep practices. Here are a few examples of co-sleeping laws and guidance around the world:

United Kingdom

  • Department of Health advises against bed-sharing for the first 6 months of life.
  • NHS and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend separate sleep spaces.
  • No law explicitly banning co-sleeping.


  • Red Nose organization warns against co-sleeping and endorses separate sleep spaces.
  • Queensland – Co-sleeping with infants under 12 months is banned for parents under the influence of drugs/alcohol.
  • No federal laws prohibiting bed-sharing in general.


  • Federal Institute for Risk Assessment advises against co-sleeping.
  • No federal law explicitly banning co-sleeping.


  • Public Health Agency of Canada recommends against bed-sharing.
  • Canadian Paediatric Society strongly advises separate infant sleep spaces.
  • No federal laws prohibiting co-sleeping.

Summary of Global Laws on Co-Sleeping

Country Laws on Co-Sleeping
United States No federal or state laws banning co-sleeping
United Kingdom No laws prohibiting bed-sharing
Australia No federal laws banning co-sleeping (except Queensland ban if intoxicated)
Germany No federal laws against co-sleeping
Canada No laws prohibiting bed-sharing

State laws and child protection interventions

A few states have laws allowing child protective services to intervene or require counseling if they believe co-sleeping practices are putting an infant in danger. Some examples include:

  • Alaska – Allows CPS intervention if bed-sharing is linked to abuse/neglect.
  • Delaware – Mandates safe sleep education for bed-sharing parents.
  • Illinois – Allows CPS to assess home if unsafe sleep practices.
  • Michigan – CPS can intervene if co-sleeping is considered neglect.

However, these laws tend to focus on clear cases of unsafe bed-sharing practices. Simply room-sharing or occasional bed-sharing may not warrant CPS involvement absent other signs of neglect.

Criminal charges in injury/death cases

While co-sleeping itself is not illegal, parents can potentially face criminal charges if an infant dies or is injured while bed-sharing:

  • Child endangerment – Co-sleeping that directly causes injury or death can become a criminal matter if negligence is involved.
  • Reckless endangerment – Cases where parent was aware of risk but disregarded it.
  • Manslaughter or negligent homicide – In states with child endangerment laws, co-sleeping fatalities may lead to felony charges if gross negligence can be proven.

However, such criminal prosecutions tend to occur in relatively extreme cases. There would need to be clear evidence the sleeping situation was highly dangerous and directly led to the child’s death or injury. But in general, an accidental death during co-sleeping alone does not automatically result in criminal charges.

Child welfare interventions

In many areas, child welfare agencies first seek to educate parents on safe sleep practices through counseling and parenting programs if they find high-risk co-sleeping occurring. The emphasis is often on steering parents towards recommended separate sleep spaces rather than punishing them outright. But if very dangerous sleeping situations persist, agencies can intervene through:

  • Parenting assistance programs
  • In-home safety monitors
  • Temporary removal of child from home
  • Mandated separate sleep spaces

These actions would only take place if the co-sleeping arrangement was proven to be extremely hazardous to the child based on sleeping surface, parental behavior, objects in bed, etc.

Hotel bed-sharing policies

Many hotels are proactive about informing guests not to co-sleep with infants. Typical hotel policies include:

  • Information about SIDS risks in guest rooms
  • Not providing cribs to avoid legal liability
  • Training staff to advise against bed-sharing
  • Offering separate rollaway cots for children if requested

Hotels aim to discourage bed-sharing not because it is outright illegal, but to avoid potential injury lawsuits. Ultimately though, hotels do not usually monitor or prohibit what parents actually do in their rooms.

Child care rules

Child care centers and home-based providers strictly adhere to safe sleep standards set by regulatory agencies. Typical rules include:

  • Firm, flat sleep surfaces with fitted sheet only
  • No loose bedding, pillows, stuffed animals
  • Sleep sacks instead of blankets
  • Cribs compliant with CPSC standards
  • No bed-sharing for infants

These rules aim to eliminate suffocation, entrapment and overheating risks. Many states legally require child care providers to complete mandated safe sleep training as well.


Hospitals promoting safe infant sleep is a key priority across maternity wards. Steps taken include:

  • Educating expecting parents about safe sleep practices
  • Modeling safe sleep by using separate bassinets
  • Ensuring hospital-grade bassinets meet safety guidelines
  • Training nurses and staff on safely placing babies to sleep
  • Avoiding soft bedding and pillows around infants

These precautions aim to discourage bed-sharing and demonstrate proper use of separate sleep spaces starting from birth.

Is bed-sharing considered neglect?

Bed-sharing alone does not inherently constitute child neglect. However, co-sleeping may potentially be considered neglect if:

  • It directly causes injury or harm to the child
  • Deemed an imminent danger by authorities
  • Part of a larger pattern of neglect
  • Parent is aware of risk but still engages in unsafe practices

As with most areas of child welfare law, much depends on specific circumstances of each case. But in general, room-sharing or occasional co-sleeping alone does not amount to neglect absent other factors.

Small bed exceptions

In cramped living quarters, bed-sharing may be unavoidable at times for some families. Recognizing this reality, a few jurisdictions provide exceptions or mitigating factors in their child protection guidance when beds are too small to allow separate sleep spaces. But immediate safety hazards like soft bedding would still need to be addressed.


There are currently no laws in the U.S. or internationally that explicitly prohibit co-sleeping altogether. Much depends on the specific circumstances of each case. But parents can potentially face scrutiny, child welfare interventions, civil liability, or criminal charges if bed-sharing is proven to directly cause injury or death due to negligence.

Ultimately, while bed-sharing itself is not categorically illegal, health agencies strongly warn against it due to risk of suffocation, entrapment, overheating, and SIDS. Parents who choose to co-sleep should be aware of these dangers, follow safety steps, and be prepared to face potential consequences if harm occurs.