Each night all over the world millions of parents sleep with their babies and the babies wake up just fine. The good news is that overlying rarely happens. Overlying has in fact gotten an unfair reputation. There are many more crib accidents than sleepsharing accidents.
The same subconscious awareness of boundaries that keeps you from rolling off the bed prevents you from rolling onto your baby. Mothers I have interviewed on the subject of sharing sleep are so physically and mentally aware of their baby’s presence, even while sleeping, that they feel it would be extremely unlikely for them to roll over onto their babies. Even if they did, their babies would be likely to put up such a fuss that the mothers would awaken in an instant. Martha, an eighteen-year veteran of sleepsharing, also believes that a breastfeeding mother usually has such full breasts that she is unlikely to roll over onto her chest without being awakened by pain. Since breastfeeding and sleepsharing mothers nearly always sleep facing toward their infants, rolling over onto their backs and smothering baby is also not a worry.
The bad news is that overlying does happen. The great majority of cases of proven overlying (most of the suspected cases were not proven) have been the result of an abnormal sleeping arrangement: too small a bed, too many people in too small a bed, parents under the influence of sleep-altering drugs, or unsafe sleeping practices.
If you enjoy sleeping with your baby and all of you are getting more sleep in this arrangement, don’t let the fear of overlying discourage you from feeling secure with this time-honored custom.