(This is part of a series on attachment parenting which started here).
Bedsharing is the best idea I ever had.
Well, OK, it wasnât actually my idea. I got the idea from Dr. Sears. If Iâd never picked up his book, I probably would have spent the months of my pregnancy preparing a nursery just like everybody else. (Instead, I spent it reading).
Because we co-sleep (another common word for bedsharing), I honestly get more nighttime sleep now as the mother of a two-month-old than I ever did as a grad student. And no, my baby isnât sleeping through the night yet.
Speaking of which: of course I am always getting the question that every new mom is used to: âDoes she sleep through the night?â Even from the old man at the passport office. It’s as if uninterrupted sleep is some great achievement that I ought to be striving for above all else. It drives me nuts.
The thing is, I am still awoken several times a night by my baby Â . . . but it doesnât bother me. Not one bit. Honestly.Â Iâm in no hurry whatsoever to get my baby to sleep through the night.
Now, donât get me wrong: I love my sleep. More than most, Iâd say. I need a good eight hours to function properly. Even then I am never a cheerful riser: Iâm one of those girls who takes half an hour to drag herself out of bed, and then all I can offer are grunts and growls like one of the Undead for the next hour. So itâs not that Iâm a particularly peppy gal at night.
But waking up at night to feed and change my baby simply isnât terribly bothersome. And I think bedsharing facilitates that.
It didnât start out this easy, of course. I felt a little nervous about having our delicate little newborn in the bed with us at first so she slept in a three-sided crib pushed up against our bed for the first couple of weeks. Learning to breastfeed while lying down took some practice, so I started out by getting out of bed every few hours to feed her in a rocking chair; and for the first couple of weeks she peed and pooped so constantly that I was always getting up to change her. It almost killed me.
But now? A good nightâs rest is a given.
Hereâs how nighttime looks in our household, if youâre interested:
I nurse Lydia to sleep when she shows signs of being sleepy — usually around midnight. (I wish it was earlier, but you take what you can get). Because weâre practicing elimination communication, I keep her in a cloth diaper without a cover, and lay her down beside me on a square of vinyl tablecloth overlaid with a flannel receiving blanket. (This way, I can detect a pee within minutes and change her while keeping the bed dry). I usually nurse her lying down in bed, after Ben and I have had our bedtime chat and reading time. When she pulls off, I settle myself near her in a way that will keep me aware of her presence, usually with my lips against her forehead. And then we slumber.
After a few hours of quiet sleep she starts to fuss — her feet start kicking, her fists start bobbing, her head starts wagging — and I slowly return to consciousness. I feel her diaper. If itâs dry and Iâm feeling energetic, I sit up and hold her over the potty (which is within armâs reach) until she pees. If itâs wet, I reach over to the stack of dry diapers on the bed stand and change her right there in bed, tossing the wet one in the diaper pail nearby (The urine of breastfed babies is odourless). Then I lie back down, lift up my shirt, and viola: sheâs happily sucking before she even gets a chance to cry. I find I donât even need to burp her when we do it like this because she sucks so calmly and contentedly. Ben usually doesnât hear a peep and sleeps through the whole thing.
This repeats once or twice before morning, at which point Ben and I wake up, tell each other how cute our baby is, I feed her one more time (still lying in bed), and I then get up, fully rested.
So in sum, why we do it:
a) It allows me to get more rest.
b) Uhm, I love being able to cuddle my baby while drifting off to sleep and as soon as I wake up.
c) Dr. McKenna, a leading academic on bedsharing, believes that there are numerous health and developmental benefits to bedsharing — for example,Â it “strengthens the infantâs emerging psychological system and future resilience” and “contributes to the emergence of optimal (healthy) infant emotional development.”
But youâre probably still wondering about two things regarding bedsharing: safety and sex. Well, here are my thoughts on both.
Is it safe?
Isnât it dangerous to have your infant in bed with you, you may be wondering? Isnât that why cribs were invented? Isnât it selfish to risk your childâs life for your own comfort?
My mom is still constantly worried that one of these nights Iâm going to suffocate her granddaughter in my sleep.
Well, I canât tell you how safe it would be for you and your baby — I donât know your personal situation; and besides, Iâm just some girl from Ontario who reads too much. But I can direct you to a few qualified folks who do believe itâs safe, if done right. Itâs because of them that I decided bedsharing was safe for us.
First, hereâs a video I found through Vina who did an excellent series on cosleeping. The video is about 10 minutes long, but it explores the safety of bedsharing from both sides of the argument. (I couldn’t figure out how to embed it, so you’ll have to follow the link).
One of the most prominent points in the video that Iâd like to highlight: breastfeeding (as opposed to bottle-feeding) is key to safe bedsharing. (Dr. McKenna explains why in the video, as well as here).
What about your sex life? Isnât cosleeping going to interfere with that?
Honestly, just having a baby is going to interfere with your sex life. But I personally feel that having to hear your baby wail from another room will do just as much to dampen the mood as having a content little lima bean sleeping away on the far side of the bed.Â Alternatively, I think Iâd be equally distracted if my newborn was slumbering quietly in another room because Iâd be worrying about whether she was okay. Regardless, you have to get creative with your love life when a baby joins the family.Â For us, the bedroom is still the best place for her and us. Thereâs still the 3-sided crib set up against our bed if we need a little more space, too.
Iâm not recommending that you share your bed with your baby — thatâs totally up to you. Maybe your spouse flails a lot in his sleep or maybe you fear you would resent your baby if you didnât get your space. Iâm just saying that for me and my husband itâs the perfect solution to our sleep situation and I feel completely confident in its safety. You might not have been aware that it was a plausible option.
How about you? Do you cosleep? Do you feel uncomfortable with the idea? Do you have any questions about it?