“Promise me you won’t ever sleep with your baby!” I was in my 20s a long way off from parenthood. My friend was a coroner who had seen too many tragedies.
I fully intended on keeping my promise. We bought a pack n play, were given a crib and borrowed a bassinet. When our little daughter arrived though she refused to sleep anywhere other than under my armpit. Bassinet right beside the bed was not good enough.
I was a little terrified at first. Not just because of my coroner friend’s words but YouTube videos, articles etc of bed sharing tragedies.
Should I bite my lip and put my daughter down whether she liked it or not? I tried but she always ended up in bed with me in order for both of us to sleep.
I felt ashamed and scared of anyone finding out until I actually started talking to other moms and hearing so many “me too’s”. But it was always said in a hushed tone as if it was some dirty secret.
It wasn’t until I did some research that I started to breathe a little easier.
“Sleeping with your baby” by Dr. James J. McKenna opened my eyes to the benefits as well as precautions of bedsharing. It was encouraging to know that bed sharing in itself doesn’t have to be unsafe if done carefully. It is not good for all people at all times. Discernment is required.
Tips from my sister helped me have the right bedding and use of pool noodles.
The La Leche League’s Safe Sleep 7 song keeps me accountable to standards.
Youtube videos of other mom’s bedsharing experiences also boosted my confidence.
The benefits, limitations and precautions are all out there at your fingertips so I won’t use this space to repeat that which is said much better and in more detail elsewhere.
What I do want to say is I have become aware of blanket statements that are rooted in and result in fear instead of education and empowerment.
I have become aware of how cultural norms
influence my thinking. Ie. On a global scale bed sharing is more prevalent than in North America. And families are successful with it.
I have become aware that the parenting styles of my close friends may be different from mine and that is okay.
I also must say that I am wary of absolute relativity “if it works for you, go for it” “there is never a right and wrong”.
There is. We don’t have the right to do whatever we want with our children. I am responsible for my daughter’s well-being.
But the process of finding the well-being may be more nuanced than I previously thought.
In my situation, a carefully prepared and protected bed where peaceful sleep, breastfeeding and bonding occurs, albeit with interruptions! is more profitable than a stressed mama and baby trying to find sleep on their own and not succeeding. There have been times when I have felt like my arm is going to fall off from sidelying nursing, when I almost fall out of bed because baby and hubby take over and times when a I have gazed longingly at the bassinet wanting a break . But my arm has gotten used to new positions. Just call me ninja arms and cozying with my daughter outweighs the rest. I asked my husband what he thinks about bedsharing and he says, “I like it! Mama takes the load of baby care.” I guess that could be a con as well as a pro! But since baby care means mostly rolling over to offer a boob it is doable. Forest offers emotional support and the occasional diaper change. He does get more sleep at night so he can be well rested to cook and clean and do baby care during the day. 😉
As for marriage intimacy… it is rare and creative and spontaneous and precious.
Back to safety:
The scary most vulnerable thing about parenting is that ultimately there is nothing I can do to absolutely guarantee my child’s well-being. We lost my little brother to pneumonia and no safety precaution was able to save his life.
I can read and learn from others, listen to and observe my little one, partner with my husband and constantly pray for wisdom. And know that things aren’t always what they seem at first. Dig deep for the gold.