I totally planned on my son sleeping in a crib in his own room. I bought a beautiful (and expensive) crib. I set up a monitor. I got a noise machine. I hung a mobile. Then he came, and I put him in a bassinet in our room. It was only supposed to be temporary. Then, I started wondering how long I could keep him in said bassinet because I really didn’t want to put him in another room allll the way across the hall. Then, I stopped getting up out of bed to nurse him every couple of hours and started putting him in the bed with me. Sometimes, I would fall asleep and wake up in a panic to find that neither of us had moved an inch. Slowly, the panic gave way and I started really enjoying sleeping with my baby. This was around the three month mark, I think. Everything is so hazy from the early infancy epoch. And that is the story of how I became a bed-sharer.
I heard ALL the advice against sharing my bed with my baby. ALL. Of. It. I accidentally dozed off while holding him in the hospital, and they laid the law down hard. I could almost taste their disapproval. I was required to take a class before being discharged from the hospital—which was mostly about not sleeping with your baby accompanied by a few horror stories. I even saw a billboard quoting an autopsy pathologist about how she could be the last person to see your baby if you bed-shared. And how about this ad-campaign?!
All moms have heard about how we should never sleep with our babies. But we are doing it. LOTS of us. I asked around on several Facebook mom groups, and of the nearly one hundred responses I received, almost 80% said they had bed-shared at some point in their child’s early years. And I’m not talking about for a night or two, I mean for several months or years. Most cited convenience while breastfeeding as their cause. Some just plain loved it. Whatever our reasons, we are bed-sharing. I think it is time the conversation shifted gears from forbidding the practice to how to do it as safely as possible.
Telling mothers not to sleep with their babies is not entirely unlike telling teenagers not to have sex. They might listen to you—but you probably ought to teach them about safe sex just in case. Here are some of the best tips I have found in my quest for safe sleep—just in case.
- This one seems like it should be obvious, but don’t sleep with your baby if you have been drinking or are under the influence of recreational drugs or prescriptions that may hinder your ability to wake easily.
- Keep baby on mama’s side of the bed. Moms are more likely to wake if the baby is distressed. It’s in our programming.
- Do not use down comforters or cushy mattress toppers. Only use the pillows your head is on. Be careful with sheets as baby could become entangled. I just sleep under a quilt. Make sure the bedding cannot cover baby’s head.
- Put your mattress on the floor. It’s not the classiest-set up, but you will be thankful the first time your baby rolls off the bed. Trust me.
- If you are uncomfortable with baby being in your bed but want to be as close as possible, use an Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper or sidecar your crib. The sidecar trick involves securing baby’s crib to your mattress with the front rail taken off. This extends your mattress, giving you and your child a little separation.
- If your child is under the age of one, do not bed-share with siblings. Use a co-sleeper or sidecar a crib instead.
- If you have very long hair, tie it up.
- Don’t sleep with pets.
- Keep sleeping infants on their backs.
Got another bed-sharing tip? We’d love to hear it!