When I was pregnant with my first I never thought we would bed share. We bought a cute crib for our daughter and also got a pack-n-play so she could sleep in it those first weeks that she would be at home. The day we got back from the hospital my husband and I happily put out daughter in the bassinet of the pack-n-play. We smiled at her and about 30 seconds later she was screaming. This was the beginning of many failed attempts to put her down to sleep.
Nothing worked. We even bought a co-sleeper (and also tried this one) thinking it would be the best solution but that worked twice for about 10 minutes. She just hated being away from me and was making sure we knew it.
At first we didn’t know what to do. Letting our baby cry was not an option. I spent most nights holding her in our recliner. I would prop a boppy pillow around my arms in case I fell asleep while holding her (which is NOT recommended, it was just a safety precaution for me) and I would do my best to stay awake. My husband and I took turns holding her but she wanted to be mostly with me. After all I was her source of food and she had grown inside of me for 9 months.
I was exhausted and we knew we couldn’t keep this up for much longer. One day I laid in our bed to try and take a nap and put my baby next to me. She fell asleep. I was amazed and realized this could actually work, we could all sleep. I was a little scared about bed sharing. What if I rolled over my baby? There are so many warnings against co-sleeping so I started doing some research. Turns out a lot of cultures co sleep and/or bed share. I also found out that most nursing mothers bed share because it makes the feeding easier and is great to keep your supply up.
The more I thought about it, the more normal it seemed to me. After all, I share a bed with my husband and I love sleeping right next to him – it’s soothing and keeps me warm at night. Most adults bed share so it’s only normal for a baby to need the human touch too. I also learned that babies are wired to sleep with their moms. Sleeping next to mom regulates their heartbeat, breathing and sleep cycle. I also found that that hormones in a breastfeeding mother makes her have a light sleep, making it easier to wake up with the slightest moves. In my case, this has been true. I wake up with the lightest sound or movement but I have met other moms that bed share and formula feed and this has been true for them too so maybe it’s something hormonally related to being a mom and not necessarily to breastfeeding.
I read all the guidelines for safe bed sharing (and you should too if you decide to bed share – you can find them at the end of this post). I decided that the baby would not be safe next to my husband. He’s a deep sleeper and doesn’t wake up as easily as I do. For our first baby we put our bed against the wall and my baby slept between me and the wall. For our second baby we got this bed rail for king size beds and she sleeps between the rail and me. I quickly discovered you have some sort of awareness while sleeping. The same awareness that keeps you from falling off your bed is the same one that keeps from rolling into your child.
My next step was to learn how to nurse lying down so I wouldn’t have to get up so many times at night. My baby was nursing about every hour when we started bed sharing. After many attempts, when she turned 2 months we both became pros at it and sleep was getting so much better for everyone in my house.
My husband and I both agreed we would give this a try for a while since our daughter was actually sleeping, which meant we were sleeping too. It was pretty amazing!
To be honest, at first we didn’t tell anyone we were bed sharing. It is not a common practice in the U.S. and most of our friends didn’t co-sleep. Also, as a first time mom I was a little insecure about sharing alternative ways of parenting but as time went by I realized how great this was for our family and now I’m pretty open about it.
Bed sharing started as survival for us but soon became so enjoyable. Waking up next to a huge smile every morning was amazing. Having little feet on top of you while you sleep felt so sweet. Both my husband and I were enjoying this extra snuggles. There have been many nights where I just stare at my baby, she just looks so peaceful in her sleep.
We didn’t set a time limit for bed sharing and after a few months of having this sleeping arrangement we decided we would let our daughter sleep in her room whenever she felt ready. We were in no rush to get her out of our bedroom. She is 3 years old and she still sleeps in our room, although no longer in our bed. Her bed is next to ours and we still get those morning snuggles as soon as he wakes up. I know this is not ideal for everyone, but it’s what works for our family.
One question my friends asked when they found out we bed share was if my husband and I were still intimate. I think lack of sleep affected our intimacy way more than bed sharing. Co-sleeping didn’t get in our way, there are plenty of other areas at home were we could be together and it was fun being creative. I even got pregnant again, so bed sharing isn’t a problem for us.
By the time we had our second baby we didn’t even bother in trying to get her to sleep on the crib. We bed shared from the day she was born and I started nursing her in bed from the time she was one week old. This made the transition from one to two kids so much easier, we weren’t stressed about sleep – both of my babies have slept as long as I was next to them. It also puts my mind at ease to be able to wake up and check on my babies several times at night and fall right back to sleep.
Bed sharing works for our family because we love sleeping close to our babies. I can’t sleep if they’re in another room because I’m too worried about something going wrong. Also, bed sharing has made sleep so easy for us. Our kids don’t rely on their bed, room or sleeping props to fall asleep which has made traveling so much easier. All we need is a bed where we can all sleep and they’ll sleep through the night. We don’t know how much longer we will bed share but we do know that we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do you bed share or co-sleep? Has it made your life easier?
Resources on bed sharing:
You can find here relevant links on bed sharing but there is a lot more information out there that you can easily find in a google search.
- Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone
- Unicef’s guide for parents: caring for your baby at night
- SIDS: The Latest Research on How Sleeping With Your Baby is Safe
- Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding (also find it in PubMed)
How to bed share safely: