Co-sleeping, Bed Sharing & the Family Bed: It's All Good
I love the feeling of my daughter’s toes resting gently on my knees as she is sleeping, her warm breath on my back and I love the feel of her arm slung across me when I wake up in the morning. But I hate being kicked in the gut and woken by her incessant squirming. But that is bed sharing, you take the good with the bad.
Our daughter does not go to sleep in our bed, nor does she end up in our bed every night but if she wakes up and wanders in then we hoist her up and we all go back to sleep. The bonus is that if she is asleep in our bed then she will sleep in until around 9:00 a.m. I would not define ours as a Family Bed, I would say we have a Family Accessible Bed
We have always shared a bed with our babies. It just made sense for us because it is easier. Babies wake up a lot and I do not like to get up and walk down the hall in the dark. I don’t even like to get vertical at all. So having the baby in the bed where I can tend to him/her without too much fuss works for me. But the decision to co-sleep was not born out of just sheer laziness (like many of my other parenting choices). Co-sleeping is better for the baby and mother; it regulates the baby’s breathing, it facilitates breastfeeding, it allows the mother to be aware of the baby’s movements; and it also means better sleep for both mother and baby. Mothers and babies were literally made to sleep beside each other. There are lots of good reasons for co-sleeping and if you want to read all about the scientific benefits, check out PhDinparenting or Dr. Jim McKenna, the North American expert on mother/infant sleep patterns. (And no, I never worried about rolling over on my baby. I have never rolled over on my husband, nor have I ever rolled out of bed.)
I know that co-sleeping is controversial and there is evidence against it, though there are usually other factors involved when a baby is injured in a bed. The institutional war against co-sleeping seems archaic and ignores the reality of most parents' lives. I know that as right as co-sleeping feels for me, it feels equally wrong for other parents. But you can not dispute the historical and cultural prevelance of co-sleeping.
Families who bedshare all have a different definition of what it means to co-sleep and when to move the child out of their bed. Don't most families have some form of the Family Bed? I find it hard to believe that most parents have not slept with their child at one point or another but we do have friends who have never slept with their kids. I just don’t see how it is possible to feed a baby every few hours and not nod off, or to fall asleep together on the couch in the middle of the afternoon or sleep with a sick child. Truth is, I feel sorry for people who have never slept with their babies. They have missed out on one of the great joys of parenting – there is absolutely nothing like staring down at your sleeping child watching them breathe and wondering what they are dreaming about.
Which brings me to my preschooler in my bed. Through a series of trials and errors our three kids ended up in their own room by the time they were one year old. But we have a (fairly) open door policy, if one of the kids has a bad dream or just needs some company they can climb into our bed and sleep with us.
Does anyone else think it is ironic that we take such a strong stand on kids sleeping on their own, but as soon as they become adults they get to sleep with someone in their bed again? No one really likes sleeping alone. Well, that’s not completely true because if the bed gets too much like a game of Sardines, my husband or I usually hightail it to the peace and quiet of an abandoned bed. That is luxury.