Bed-sharing: Healthy or Habitual?

Throughout pregnancy we read literature, take childbirth and parenting classes , and load up on tips and images from television and movies.  One common denominator is the idea that babies sleep in cribs.  So how did my now 1 year-old end up in MY bed?  More importantly, where do we go from here?

Like most new moms, I found myself constantly fatigued from the night feedings.  At 4 months-old, my daughter hadn’t quite picked up on any self-soothing techniques aside from nursing.  I had been rocking and “shooshing” her to sleep in her rocking bassinet for months and all too often in my arms.  With each night feed came another round of rocking and shooshing.  My body was sore and I was a wreck.

After back to back sleepless nights, as I held my crying baby girl while I myself wept, I decided to lay her next to me in my bed and nurse her.  Not sure she’d sleep  there, just looking to rest my aching body for a few minutes.  When she had nursed to sleep, I didn’t dare wake her.  The peaceful look on her sweet little face and silence throughout the house was much needed.  It was then that I shut my eyes and the ritual began.

So many words can describe my reasons for continuing the pattern after that night – desperate, selfish, victorious.  I was very much ashamed with the situation as well.  Co-sleepers, or bed-sharers which better described our style, are not as accepted nor praised in the U.S.  Many countries practice co-sleeping and bed-sharing as a staple, however more Americans frown upon it.  And I get it, with all of the studies done on accidental deaths due to parent’s rolling over on their infants or babies falling out of beds.  None of these factors scared me though.  My husband and I would wake every time she flinched as we are both light sleepers (which I’d later find was a possible culprit for my continuous sleep deprivation).

Fast forward to 7 months of age.  Baby girl is rolling everywhere, sitting on her own and on the verge of crawling.  Now things are getting scary.  Countless attempts were made at this point to get her to sleep in a bassinet or playpen where she’d be safely contained.  Nothing worked.  Even when she did fall asleep and we’d place her there, she’d awake an hour later only for us to repeat the song and dance. So, back to our bed she went.  Now we set up a barricade of pillows around her when we would leave the room and didn’t leave her long, although there was still a great deal of anxiety.  Once she did start to crawl my head was filled with worry and “what if?”.  What if she crawls off the bed in the middle of the night?  Luckily, being the light sleeper I am, she only has to move an inch to alert me.

But sleep crawling wasn’t the only problem.  She was now so used to mommy and daddy at bedtime that she protested the crib in her own room.   After reading several books and articles, I started warming her up to the crib for naps.  It was a very long process and took months for me to get her to stay in it for a full nap.  Then came the evening crib transitions which we sort of did backwards.  She goes down in it just fine, however she absolutely will not sleep longer than a couple of hours in it.

To be clear, she relies on the breast STILL at 1 year-old.  She wants to comfort nurse as a soothing mechanism for bedtime as she has not picked up on another method.  No pacifier, thumb sucking, toy, blankie…nothing has worked.  So what happens if mom isn’t there to nurse baby girl to sleep?  Daddy or caregiver gets to rock and shoosh her as she basically cries herself to sleep.  It breaks my heart which is why I almost never leave her at bedtime or naptime.  And it is all my doing.

Our bedtime ritual is something that I truly love as far as attachment parenting and bonding goes, but I do not love the fact that mommy doesn’t get a break or that my husband and I have virtually no alone time.  So that brings us to date.  We are a work in progress with ideas comments and advice circling over head.  I truly hope we find a solution that best suits our needs and transitions with ease for baby girl.  In the meantime, I have found great admiration and joy in bed-sharing.  I can’t imagine all of these months without my daughter so sweetly curled up beside me at night.  And I’m pretty sure she loves it too.

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4 comments

  1. Cheryl Hunter says:

    All four of my children were nursed to sleep in my bed until they were sleeping through the night. That being said, all four were very different as well. My first born did not sleep through the night until she was almost six months old. She had a very sensitive stomach and spit up a lot, so I know she was either nauseated or had gas pains often. She was a voracious eater and would take too much milk (which I had plenty of!) too fast. I remember crying while I nursed her at 1:00 AM wondering if I would ever get a full night’s sleep. Funny how those two to three months of Hell seem like an eternity!

    My second born slept through the night at 6 weeks old, it scared me the first time! She liked to eat but I think she was so busy and active during the day that she wore herself out by the evening. She did not want to nap, so we did battle with that for a while. Again, she slept in bed with me often until about three months old when I moved her to a crib and she adapted just fine.

    All four babies had different patterns, personalities and needs. I believe nature and instinct are best in mothering. What the “experts” tell us this year will be completely the opposite next year. Some of these experts quite often have not truly raised enough children to offer much credibility in my opinion. A normal, loving, responsible parent can safely sleep with their child without incident. I believe you are doing a fine job and will ultimately make choices for your daughter that are just right.

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