Today I would like to share my personal story about how bed-sharing and co-sleeping has worked and continues to work for me and my family- despite the negativity sometimes associated with it.
From the moment my little girl was born I had this overwhelming need to have her close to me at all times. I would carry her around in my arms constantly, despite remarks such as:
“Put her down.”
“She needs to learn to be by herself.”
“You are getting her into bad habits by holding her all the time.”
“You are spoiling her.”
And this need persisted even at bedtime. I wanted her right next to me in the tiny, uncomfortable hospital bed, just the two of us together.
But I was petrified.
The bed was so small and I was terrified that she would fall off onto the rock solid tile floor or that I would accidentally crush her delicate little body. The bassinet provided by the hospital looked so much more snug and safe that I chose to lay her in it instead. However, I pushed it right up next to my bed, adjusted the height of my bed to exactly the same height as the bassinet and slept the entire night holding her precious little hand. I would also place my hand on her chest every hour or so just to check that she was still breathing.
I still couldn’t quite believe that this little angel had come into my life- and felt the need to repeatedly confirm this fact throughout the night.
After five days in the hospital we were finally allowed to go home. As soon as I stepped into our bedroom and saw our huge, spacious king-size bed I thought:
“Brilliant! Our princess can sleep with us now that we have a decent sized bed that she won’t fall out of!”
Amaia spent her first two weeks at home sleeping in between me and my husband. She didn’t move an inch during the night and only woke up once or twice to breastfeed.
It was January and so bitterly cold that I couldn’t imagine putting her in her crib alone. I thought she would freeze to death. We all needed each other’s body heat to keep warm. All three of us sleeping together in our big family bed was the perfect set up, and I felt very happy and relaxed as if we were doing what was natural and right for our family.
However, the following day Amaia had a check-up with the pediatrician and she asked me about our sleeping arrangements. When I explained that Amaia simply slept in the middle of the bed in between me and my husband, she looked horrified.
She said that I was seriously endangering my baby’s life by having her head on my pillow as her airway could get blocked and she could stop breathing. She also said that the duvets in the bed could easily suffocate her and that my husband or I could easily roll over and crush her.
I walked out of the doctor’s office feeling like a complete failure of a mother.
I had failed my baby. I had put her life at risk and that realization crushed me inside. How could I have thought that I could just have my newborn lie beside me in a bed totally unprepared for such a tiny creature, full of pillows and duvets that could suffocate her?
I still had this innate, uncontrollable desire to have my baby sleep next to me but I refused to listen to the voice inside, went against my will and had her sleep in her crib from then on.
I would have never forgiven myself had she died of suffocation or cot death whilst sharing our bed. No matter how much I wanted to, the pediatrician’s words kept resonating in my head and I just couldn’t bring myself to have Amaia in bed with me from then on.
We did do naps together though.
During the day we would both nap together on the bed lying on top of the covers; and at night I did have the crib pushed right up next to my bed. I always slept with my arm through the bars touching her little body or holding her hand.
The problem was that she didn’t want to be in her crib. She wanted to be beside her mom.
She would fall asleep on my chest, then I would gently lay her down in her crib praying she wouldn’t wake up; if she did wake and realize she was no longer next to me she would start to wail uncontrollably and I would have to start the whole process of soothing her back to sleep all over again. And every time she woke up to breastfeed during the night I would have to feed her while sitting up, trying my utmost not to fall asleep, then lay her back in her crib (hoping she wouldn’t wake up). I was absolutely exhausted and the whole scenario was a complete nightmare.
My husband was rather affected too. He would wake up from the noise of her crying for milk, and of me frantically scurrying around lifting her out of her crib, putting on the nightlight and trying to get myself into a comfortable position to breastfeed with the help of numerous pillows.
By the time June arrived Amaia was five months old, a lot sturdier and less fragile. I was much less afraid of crushing her and had fully developed that sixth sense you get when sharing a bed with your baby (i.e. even when in the deepest of sleeps you are constantly aware that they are next to you and would never roll over onto them).
In June the temperatures rose dramatically too so there was no need to have any heavy, potentially-suffocating duvets on the bed. So, we removed the legs from our bed so as to create a floor bed (Amaia had already fallen off the bed once before and after a trip to the ER we decided not to risk that happening again), removed all the duvets from our bed and had Amaia sleep in her rightful place once again: in between mom and dad.
It felt so nice to have her in the bed with us again. We all started to sleep much better since when Amaia woke to breastfeed it was a simple case of rolling over and nursing her while lying down still half asleep. I no longer had to get up, lift her out of her crib, put on the nightlight, wake my husband up in the process, feed her while trying desperately not to fall asleep and strategically place her back in the crib while trying desperately not to wake her up. Amaia started to sleep much better too.
She stirred less during the night and seemed much happier.
When Amaia turned eight months old I had to return to work and send her to daycare. That was an extremely traumatic experience for all of us.
It took Amaia a long time to adjust. She would cry uncontrollably every morning when I dropped her off, constantly had a fever and would wake up screaming in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. I don’t know if she was having night terrors about daycare or what, but it was very disturbing to watch.
I couldn’t imagine not having her in bed beside us during that painful time. She was obviously suffering a lot and I like to think that having her mom and dad beside her at night helped to ease her distress a little.
Amaia is now a year and a half old and still sharing our bed. It makes sleeping a lot easier. She mostly sleeps straight through the night but if she does occasionally wake up to breastfeed my sleep is not disrupted as she just nurses herself back to sleep without waking me up. She doesn’t move a lot during the night and our bed is very big so no one’s sleep or space is compromised.
But, I feel safe knowing that if anything were to happen to her I would realize it straight away as she is right there beside me.
After spending six and a half hours apart while she is at daycare and I am at work, I feel that co-sleeping offers us both the chance to reconnect and bond with each other. I couldn’t imagine spending a night away from Amaia or not having her sleep next to me.
I receive a lot of criticism for co-sleeping:
“You will never get her to sleep in her own bed”.
“She will still be sleeping with you at the age of 12”.
“It’s not healthy”.
“It’s not good for you both as a couple, you need your intimacy”.
“You are making her very needy and fostering an unhealthy dependence on you”.
“You are encouraging her to be a baby, she will never grow up”.
“You and your husband need your space”.
“No one is getting a good night’s sleep because there are too many of you in the bed”.
However, I let this criticism wash over me. Deep down I know I am doing what is best for me, my baby and my family as a whole, and ultimately that is all that matters.
Thanks to co-sleeping:
1. Amaia loves going to bed
Whereas many children refuse to go to bed at night, Amaia loves going to bed! She takes my hand, leads me to the bedroom, lies down and falls asleep quickly while breastfeeding. She has a healthy go-to-sleep attitude as opposed to viewing sleep as unpleasant or frightening. We never have to ask her to go to bed or impose sleeping upon her, she happily goes to bed of her own accord every night. If she does wake throughout the night she is immediately comforted by my presence and falls back to sleep effortlessly.
2. I sleep better
I sleep soundly knowing that my baby is safe next to me and if she does wake I don’t have to get up out of bed to soothe her. I simply reach over in a half-asleep state, touch her, possibly breastfeed her and she falls back to sleep instantly. It would take me a lot longer to settle her if she were in another room as opposed to being within arm’s reach.
3. Breastfeeding is easier
If Amaia wakes up in the middle of the night to breastfeed I simply roll over and feed her while lying down still fast asleep. I am not even aware she is breastfeeding half the time. Having to get up in the middle of the night to nurse fully awake while sitting up in a chair would definitely make it a lot more difficult for me and make me view breastfeeding as more of an unpleasant chore than an enjoyable bonding experience with my child.
4. I feel more connected to my daughter
Sharing a bed with my child allows me to feel closer to her. Despite being apart during the day, I feel we reconnect, bond and undo any feelings of abandonment by sharing a bed at night.
I realize that bed-sharing is not for everyone. Each family is unique and dealing with their own specific needs and circumstances. No one size fits all. It is all about finding out what sleeping arrangements work best for your family. Regardless of where you and your baby sleep, safe sleeping practices should always be followed.
If you feel that co-sleeping is for you, be sure to check out 5 rules for safe co-sleeping!
Photo Credit: Louisa