Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why we bed-share

The short answer is because it is natural and easy.

But here's a story for your reading pleasure...
When I was pregnant, I had a bassinet all set up for my baby next to my bed. I thought that babies were supposed to sleep by themselves, and be "trained" to sleep soundly through the night.
I just thought this was normal, I didn't have any idea how differently I would feel once I had a real live child.

After WildChild was born, everything went out the window.

Accidently passed out on the lounge, WildChild was about a week old
(This is not an example of safe bedsharing, but luckily my dad was nearby so no worries)
 I tried to put her in the plastic bassinet that was next to my hospital bed, but I couldn't bring myself to keep her there. I can't even describe the feeling of it, it was something like putting my own limb away from myself. I felt lost and scared and unatural with my baby away from me (which was nothing compared to day 3 when they took her away to test for jaundice, I was crying into my food).
So she slept on the bed with me. I put the side rail up and wrapped her up and slept with her beside me. The nurses occasionally told me it was against hospital policy, but they were very understanding and (several of them) told me they wouldn't tell so long as I didn't tell that they knew.
I guess I was lucky for that because as a new mum I was so impressionable and if someone had screamed about it then I would have overridden my instincts and put her in the cold plastic bassinet to sleep.

So that's how we came to bed-share. It was instinctual and natural, and it was also the easiest things in the world. I did try now and then in the following months to put her to sleep by herself, but she wouldn't have a bar of it, and it killed me to listen to her cry that she was scared and lonely.
I have always gotten as much sleep as I wanted or needed, never having had to get out of bed to feed my daughter. I guess this is why I've never cared that she didn't sleep through.

anyone feel like telling this mum she can't sleep with her baby?

When I thought about it a little, it made sense to me that doing what our species is designed to do will produce the best results. (Sound a little Paleo?)

It was only after being a mum for a while that I found many online parenting resources that document the short and long term benefits of bed-sharing for babies and mothers. Research by Dr James McKenna indicates that bed-sharing protects against SIDS (and other night-time dangers), facilitates breastfeeding, and produces happier, more confident people.* Babies don't know that they've been born into a safe place, they instinctively need their parents close to feel like they aren't in danger. They also need to feed frequently because they have very small stomachs and very quick metabolisms, which in turn helps mums milk supply keep up with her baby's changing needs.

Now that WC is 18months, I'm starting to think about her having her own bed. Although this doesn't seem like a very practical option while I'm living at my parents house, in a rather cramped room, so I'm happy to continue while we're here.
Perhaps when one day we have a home of our own she will have her own room and her own bed, but I won't force her to sleep alone if she doesn't want to, and I won't mind the cuddles at all :)

NOTE: This means safe bed-sharing, where the parent is not sleep deprived, under the influence of anything, they don't smoke, the baby is above the bedding, and there is not chance of baby falling into gaps that could crush a tiny body. There are dangers, just as there are dangers with cots, that need to be monitored and minimized.
However, for us, bed-sharing is lots of reward for much less effort.


  1. I just found your blog through the Primal Parent, I'm so glad to find all these resources. I am just starting the primal thing and need all the info I can find. I just wanted to share a funny story about shared sleeping spaces from when my kids were small.

    My youngest was born early, and weighed less than 5 lbs when she came home. After breastfeeding I usually put her back into her bassinet, but not every time. One morning my husband woke up to find me + baby in the bed next to him and was upset - Hon! You can't keep her in the bed like that! I could have rolled over and all we'd have is a smear! I just smiled and reassured him that I'd had my arm around her the whole time, I wouldn't have let that happen.

    Doing what feels natural is so often harder than doing what "everyone" does, but when you give in to your feelings and follow them, the heart is happy.

    Take care,


  2. Thanks for sharing Becky! :)

    It's amazing the consciousness you have of your baby isn't it, even asleep!
    I've had mixed reactions when telling someone (that I don't mind about Elsie not sleeping through because) we're cosleeping. Some people nod knowingly, and some people get a horrified look. LOL
    People just seem so out of touch with their own instincts, especially when it comes to child-rearing.

    all the best for your and your family :)