Because it is a huge part of our life, I thought it would be a great time to discuss why we bed share with our kids. I know that for many this is a very controversial topic and that many have their very strong opinions on both sides. That’s why I have chosen to talk about it. Not because I want to cause a stir, but because for me, it’s not a decision that I made for anyone but my family. It’s one that suits our family well, and that’s the point of parenting – doing what works best for you and your children.
You should first know that my husband was actually the one to suggest that we co-sleep and bed share before my daughter was born. He explained to me that had talked to this woman who still had a 3 year old in their room and when he said that, I think I laughed. I legitimately think i fake laughed and wrote him (and the lady) off as completely crazy. There was NO WAY our infant, our baby, or our toddler would be sleeping in our bed let alone the same room as us.
Then I started thinking about it. In my mantra of sustaining an eco-parenting model, I realized that if we did cosleep and bed share, then it would mean less purchases and materials used in terms of not having a crib. That was when I started to seriously consider it as an option and research the facts for myself.
The more I started researching the facts and exploring the experiences of others, the more I found that co-sleeping and bed sharing was far more prevalent than I realized. Because of the campaigns and news stories it had just become something that parents did not talk about. They brought the baby in bed with them on hard night, for a certain amount of time, or indefinitely, it was still something everyone seemed to not want to talk too much about as if the parenting police were going to come take their baby. It was in these moments, pre-motherhood, that I discovered how harshly other parents judged the parenting practices of others that did not align with their own.
The Joys of Bed Sharing
- The idea that you shouldn’t go to bed angry with your spouse applies to the whole family. But it’s more than anger… it’s that feeling of being burnt out or the long days where you’re impatient. All of those attitudes are left at the door with the family bed. For us it’s a part of peaceful parenting. We go into it together and come out of it together.
- I have loved every morning waking up to my daughter’s smiling face.
- Going to bed together is a fun adventure. Now as a toddler, she “bounces” on the bed, hides under the covers playing peek-a-boo, and snuggles up with me as we wind down for the evening.
- For us, co sleeping in our bed has meant that as parents we have gotten more sleep. We never had to get up to feed and in fact, most of the time I referred to myself as the “open buffet” because she would sleep feed and after a few months, I would rarely even wake up as she was eating. Those nights even now when she doesn’t sleep as well, it means we are on the same sleep schedule, because typically, we fall back asleep together.
- My husband is always a glowing a proud dad in the mornings after she has nuzzled and given him late night snuggles. Since he doesn’t get to spend much time with her during the day, this is a way now that she is older that he can have father bonding time and he feels more connected to her.
Safe Ways We Learned to Bed Share
- A breastfeeding mother that is not under the influence of smoke, alcohol, drugs, or medication, should not be able to roll over on her baby. Professor of Nursing and researcher of infant care practices and mortality, Jeanine Young, mentions that in studies, these women communicated with their infants through touch, often waking right before their child; therefore, women in this category were never seen to roll over on their child (1) (2).
- As an infant, our daughter slept on my side of the bed with me. Even so, if my husband was overly tired or did not feel safe sleeping with her in the bed, he would choose to sleep in another room that night. This happened very rarely, but it was a safety precaution we were obviously willing to make.
- It’s a “normal, healthy, and expectable human behaviour, especially if mothers breastfeed”. (3) For us, like the article indicates, it was normal and felt abnormal to leave my child alone in another room.
- As an infant, our daughter slept breast-level to me with no pillow and no blanket. This allowed me to protect her by sleeping in a “C” position. Typically this means that baby can feed as needed and has regulated temperature, heart rate, and respiration because of mom’s ability to help regulate (4).
- If I was overly tired, had to take medication, or had any circumstance that I felt it was best to not sleep with my child, she laid in a bassinet near the bed.
- We realized together as parents that SIDs is real both inside and outside of cribs and parent beds. In fact, SIDS was originally called cot death or crib death because they baby died alone in a crib. While the only US statistic I could find was that using a crib could reduce the risk by 0.18%, it was not enough for us to want to put her in a room by herself. But worldwide evidence actually suggests that cultures that practice safe bed sharing have a very low SIDS rate.
So now, I am that crazy lady with a toddler in her bed.
Up until this point, bed sharing is not one of those things I have ever talked about. It’s because I personally have always been afraid someone would feel that I judge them for their choices and then I would feel judged because they felt like I was putting my child in danger. But in the end, I now realize that it really works for my family. I also know that it really doesn’t work for some and I completely respect that.
Edited// As of December 2014, we joyfully welcomed another little person into our bed. While all the same rules are in place, now we have the added pleasure of having a baby and a toddler in bed with us. While we have tried adding a side-car mattress for the toddler, most days she chooses to stay in the bed with us.
What worked for your family to help your child(ren) sleep?
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!
This is beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing your family’s experience with us! It seems like the perfect timing that you posted this because I was just thinking about coming out of the bed sharing “closet” myself. Syfy is 4 years old and has started sharing a bed with us. At first I wasn’t sure if it was ok that a 4 year old sleep in mommy and daddy’s bed, but you give me reassurance that I am not alone. Thank you so much!
Thank you Christina! It was very heavy on my heart to tell our story. I too felt like I was hiding in a closet about it or that it was something that I should be ashamed of in mainstream society. I then realized just how blessed I am to wake up to giggles or to a toddler bouncing on the bed next to me. SO SWEET!
I am so glad that I could reassure you just in telling our story. Definitely love that you are still cosleeping. Our children are only so little for so long and it’s a treasure in itself to be able to share all of it with them.
We also bed shared. My older daughter slept with us until just before her 5th birthday when she decided that she wanted to sleep in her own bed. My younger daughter is 4 and sometimes sleeps in our bed, but her and her sister share a bed so she never sleeps alone. We never planned on it, but it just happened naturally and I’m glad it did.
I think those times are the most beautiful … when it’s completely unplanned, but it just works. I think it’s hard to sleep alone as a kid because I know even as an adult, there have been times my husband was out of town and it was so lonely. It’s great that they can sleep together as sisters!
I remember I tried to move my first child into his own room at 4 months old, to realize he was really too young. I enjoy co-sleeping so much. Our 7 and 5 year olds sleep outside of our room, but they each co-slept. Now our 3 and 1 year olds sleep with us. Our 3 year old is not ready for independent sleep. It’s much easier for him to sleep with us, rather than fight him at bedtime.
That’s awesome that you are getting to experience so much as parents by co-sleeping. I bet you treasure those snuggle times even more with your younger ones! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I am always excited to read articles about this. Our pediatrician is very by-the-book, and we blindly followed some of her advice (which will not do with our next one), but we did bed share with our first child after she refused to sleep separately in a bassinet in our room…not to mention how much easier breastfeeding was. We just didn’t tell her doctor! Whenever the doc would talk about it, I would just nod and smile. Now, our child showed signs of being ready to move to her own bed pretty early, around 7 months, and she transitioned easily, sleeping through the night immediately. We will definitely consider bed-sharing again with our next child, provided that seems like the right choice for him/her. I strongly believe that it made our now 3 year old feel more confident and secure and loved!
We knew that going into appointments that most of our decisions would probably be questioned, so we just nodded many times. Never lied, but made sure that we never met any arguments 🙂