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I bedshare with my baby and it’s not your problem

I never intended to bedshare with my baby. In fact, it’s probably something I would have been a bit judgemental about before I had a…

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I never intended to bedshare with my baby. In fact, it’s probably something I would have been a bit judgemental about before I had a baby.

I really wanted to post about our bedsharing story as I feel it’s something that isn’t really spoken about. I am usually honest with people that Leo sleeps in bed with me, but there are some times that I cannot be bothered with the raised eyebrows or having to justify myself so I’ll just say he sleeps in his cot. And that he sleeps all the way through.

But I’ve gotten a lot better at advocating for myself when it comes to bedsharing and I’ve read many studies about how damaging it is to leave a baby to cry and how a baby needs to be close to its primary caregiver. It makes sense really – we are the only species that has a baby but then wants to keep it separate from us. It also makes sense in regards to my instincts. I want to be near him, too.

I was raised and surrounded by people that believed you should teach a baby to sleep on their own by leaving them to cry in their cot. They would learn eventually, right? Also – don’t hold your baby too much, you will spoil them. So when I was pregnant, I had planned for my baby to sleep in this Chicco Next2me for the first six months of his life and then transition him into his own room. I hadn’t really thought about how I was going to do it.

The problem is, Leo has never been a good sleeper.

The start of our story

The first night of his life I was in a hospital side room alone as I needed a bit of extra monitoring following my complicated birth. Leo was in one of the little hospital cribs next to me and I would lift him out, feed him and he would drift into a sleepy state. Each time I attempted to put him down, he would wiggle, make noises and then cry.

I spent most of the night with him on me, exhausted from the birth. One midwife told me that I needed to just get on with it, another (nicer midwife) came in after and offered to take Leo for a bit so I could sleep. She took him out of the room between 3:30 am and 5:30 am and I could get a tiny bit of sleep.

We got moved onto a ward and things were pretty much the same. He was attached to me the whole time, either feeding or sleeping on my chest. I loved cuddling him and being close to him, but I was exhausted.

We got home and life was pretty much the same. Leo would cry unless he was being held. We could sometimes put him down while asleep, but most of the time he would wake up. I would feed him, transfer him from my chest to my partner’s chest while he was asleep and then try to go to sleep myself. Though this enabled me to get a few hours here and there, sleeping between 9 pm-1 am and then again 7 am-10 am while being awake all night, wasn’t a good long term plan.

It was really tough. I was tired all the time. I spent all day and all night on the sofa with Leo feeding on me or asleep on me. He was a contact napper and every time I put him down, he woke within five minutes. Then I had to start the whole feeding him to sleep process again.

I almost fell asleep a few times with him asleep on me. Which is can be dangerous when you’re on a sofa or chair, as the baby can slip down the side. Although I was always so sensitive to every move he made, you never know what your body is going to do when you are exhausted.

It was the health visitor that told me to look into safe bed-sharing and decide if I thought it was something that would work for us. Although I had heard about it, it terrified me. I was so afraid of him getting crushed by me or something.

He needs to be close

The health visitor told me that my baby needed to be near me and he thought he was still part of me.

It makes sense really, all Leo knew was me. He had grown inside me for 9 months. He knew my smell, my sounds, my heartbeat. Did you know that the reason we tap a babies bum to get them to sleep is that they’re used to feeling that sensation from feeling our heartbeat? And we shhhhh them as that’s similar to the sound of the placenta? All familiar sounds for the baby.

You’ve got to remember that when a baby is born, it is quite violently pulled from a warm, dark, safe space into a bright, cold world where nothing is familiar. Look up the fourth trimester – this is the 12 weeks after a baby is born when they are adjusting to life outside the womb.

Our sleep journey

Our sleep journey has changed a lot over the last nine months. We went through phases where he would spend a few hours in the Chicco Next2me before coming to bed with me. Sometimes he even went all the way through the night in it. But it was always such a gamble. I had to wait for him to go to sleep on me first, then pick my moment to move him and hope he didn’t wake up.

Now Leo spends the whole night in bed with me. I cuddle him and feed him to sleep in our bed and then I can roll away and go downstairs for a few hours in the evening. He sleeps so much better with me next to him. There are times I’m still awake and I see him open his eyes, look for me, turn into me and then go back to sleep. If I’m downstairs when he does this, he just cries until I come to the room.

When he needs feeding, I can do it straight away. He usually feeds for a short while and goes back to sleep. If I didn’t bed share, I’d have to get up lots in the night to feed him, get him back to sleep and put him down. It’s the only way that I actually get any sleep.

Read more about our breastfeeding journey here.

Other people’s opinions

The hardest thing about bedsharing is other peoples opinions on it. Bedsharing isn’t really something that’s spoken about, it’s not until I’ve become a parent who bedshares that I’ve come to learn about it and understand it. It’s actually quite common. When you speak to other parents, they will also say ‘me too’ in a guilty way, like they’re sharing something with you only because you understand.

Because other people wouldn’t.

There does seem to be some stigma attached to it like if you bedshare you’re giving in to your child’s evil plan to sleep in your bed and they’ll never sleep in their own room.

When in reality, by bedsharing you are responding to the need of your child that needs to be close to your to feel safe and secure. Some babies are not good sleepers, some wake frequently and cannot get back to sleep on their own. There are some babies that sleep really well in their own cot from early on. But this isn’t the case for a lot of babies.

They need a bit of extra support and comfort during the night.

Babies cry because it is the only thing they can do to say they need you and get your attention.

But previous generations were told to get their babies in their own room as soon as possible. They were taught to leave a baby to cry themselves until they fall to sleep. Often crying until they are exhausted, some even are sick they cry that might. They then give up on the idea of their parent coming to get them and go to sleep.

So often I am told I need to get Leo in his own room and sleeping on his own. They try to give me tips and tricks on how to get him to sleep in his cot.

I was told to wean him early to ‘fill him up’ so he will sleep.

I was told to leave him to cry.

I was told to give him a bottle instead of breastfeeding.

Thing is, I’ve never actually asked for help with our nighttime routine. I’ve always let Leo lead the way. He is a baby, after all. I respond to his needs and adapt around him. But a lot of people are so fixated on getting my baby into a routine and act like I am being soft with him for not enforcing a strict bedtime. Or making him sleep in his own bed.

They don’t take into account that even if I could get Leo to sleep in his own cot, I would have to get up every time he woke up. Rather than putting my boob in his mouth for him to fall back quickly. It would ruin my sleep.

Babies are biologically programmed to wake frequently and seek out their caregivers during the night, it’s how they survived generations ago.

Research changes all the time

I think another thing that people don’t like, is they feel offended when I talk about studies that show the babies who are left to cry struggle to deal with stress and struggle to feel secure in later life. It’s like I’m telling them they were bad parents. But I am not trying to say that those who have left their babies to cry in a cot were bad parents, they were just following the advice that was around at the time. Now we know more about babies and their development, and there have been more studies done – we now know that it’s not the best way.

It’s just like with weaning, it was once advised to wean from 4 months, but now we know a babies digestive system isn’t developed enough to cope with food until 6 months and can lead to digestive issues.

Or just like how you should place a baby to sleep on their back to reduce SIDS when years ago parents were told to place them on their front to reduce SIDS.

Things change as we learn more. I’m sure when Leo is an adult and having children, there will be even more information out there!

It’s not a dig at anyone else who has raised their children on outdated advice or have listened to their parents and grandparents outdated advice.

It’s about informing parents to make the best choice based on their circumstances and the latest research available.

Benefits of bedsharing.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at some of the benefits of bedsharing.

Bonding

Bedsharing allows you to have close emotional and physical bonding time. Also, touch between you both is a survival need.

More sleep

You get more sleep, as you can feed or cuddle your baby while both are still somewhat not fully awake. This means both of you can get back to sleep faster. It’s easier to latch your baby to your breast and go back to sleep quickly.

Reduction on PPD

As bedsharing means you typically get more sleep, this can reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

SIDs reduction

Your breathing cycles adjust to being in sync with each other. This offer SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) protection by keeping the baby’s breathing adjusted to yours and preventing deep sleep for babies where they may “forget” to breathe.

Dad’s bond

Bed-sharing with Dad can allow him to bond with the baby too.

A secure and happy baby

Bed-sharing is great for your babies psychological and emotional health. They become secure children that trust that their needs will be met. This study of 25 four- to ten-month-old babies showed that when sleep trained, the babies’ behaviour quieted but their levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) remained high.

Indepenance and confidence.

Studies show that children that bedshare are often more independent and self-reliant than those that did not. This study showed that children even though children who slept on their own earlier fell to sleep more on their own and sleep more through the night, those who coslept were more likely to problem solve, entertain themselves and dress themselves

On average, children who bedshare do tend to transition to sleeping independently about a year later than other children, but they may be more independent, self-reliant, and confident in their daily lives than children who did not bedshare.

Should you bedshare?

Bedsharing is your choice and I am not here to tell you what you should do. The point of this blog post is to explain why bedsharing is an option that can be considered and should be respected and accepted by others.

You should sleep in the same room as your baby until they are at least 6 months old (this is advised by the NHS) – whether that’s a sidecar crib, a cot in the room or bedsharing – that is up to you.

Your sleep arrangements should be what works the best for your and your family. Remember, it is not forever. Even though people say things ‘you’ll never get him out of your bed’, it really isn’t forever. I mean, I don’t know many 17-year-olds who sleep in their parent’s bed. Do you?

I have friends whose babies sleep well in a cot in their own room. Leo does not. If he did, then I would put him in his cot to sleep and only bring him into bed with me if he was waking frequently. I expect when we do eventually transition to the cot, it will only be for part of the night if he isn’t sleeping through.

The Safe Seven

Read here about the safe seven and how. to bedshare safely.

The main points are:

  • no smokimg
  • don’t drink alcohol
  • remove all covers/pilows
  • don’t swaddle the baby
  • baby on his back

(some of the photos in this this post do go against safe bedsharing, where he is under covers or there are other things/pillows in the bed – please note these photos were taking during supervised naps, or in the morning when I woke up before him)

why i bedshare

I love bedsharing with Leo and I am certain he will be ready to sleep on his own before I am ready for him to sleep in his own room. I love that when I wake up, I see him immediately. I love the smiles and cuddles in the morning, I love the closeness and I love that I don’t have to get up to go to him during the night.

I was afraid of bedsharing to start with, but as he’s gotten older. it is much less scary. I’m longer afraid that I’ll suffocate him! As long as you stick to the safe sleep rules, bedsharing is a perfectly good option.

Whether you bedshare or not, I hope this blog post has helped you understand that bedsharing is a wonderful option.

17 comments

  1. I was adamant on not bed sharing, got the chicco next to me, kept the side down so it was like she’s with me but wasn’t. She was a terrible sleeper, so when it came to moving to a cot (still in my room) I absolutely hated. Getting out of my bed, lowering down to pick her up from the cot was so draining. But I still plodded along (absolutely regrettably) it had such a negative effect on me mentally. When she turned 2 I gave up, took the side of the cot off and turned it into a co sleeper cot. Eventually she just cuddled into me and we got rid of the cot! She’s 4.5 now and still sleeps with me and I’m more than happy to continue. We both sleep so much better which means neither of us are grumpy the next day! I intend to continue for as long as she wants too and to be honest I love cuddling her! Everyone has their reasons and we should respect that, thank you for sharing your experience!

  2. I think it’s totally your choice, you know what’s best for Leo! I slept in my parents bed longer than most people and it didn’t give any bad effects x

  3. I don’t see any issue with it at all, but I know so many people who immediately judge parents for choosing to co-sleep. How you choose to parent should be no one elses business but yours. Unless, of course, you’re endangering the child. But in regards to this, I see no issue.

  4. I love that you’re so open with your choice and even more I love the title to this post! You’re absolutely right, its nobody else’s problem. Everyone seems to have an opinion on other people’s parenting, whether you breastfeed or not, whether your kids are allowed sugar. The point is that whats right for one person isn’t necessarily for another, but you’re doing what’s best for YOUR child! Who is incredibly adorable by the way! Great post x

  5. It seems like an awful lot of people have opinions about how other parents raise their children, but unless it’s physically, mentally or emotionally dangerous/neglectful/abusive, those opinions should not be offered if not asked for. And certainly no judgement passed as there’s no way of knowing the ins and outs of anyone else’s everyday lives. Do what’s best for your children I think is all anyone should say.

  6. Thank you for sharing this post. Its a personal choice and nobody should judge anyone else on that! I struggled with other people’s opinions during & after pregnancy. I don’t know why people give out so much advice on pregnancy

    Our little one is exactly the same. One of us bed shares with her now. I personally love spending that quality time with her and all toddlers want is to feel secure and loved. That’s my job!

  7. I loved reading this! Thank yu for sharing your story and what works for you and your baby. Every baby is different and you as a mum know what’s best for them, and I hate when people try to give their opinion on ‘what is right’. You’re doing so incredibly well xx

  8. My four siblings and I all bed-shared with our parents and I can attest to the fact that we all moved out at around between six and eight. 🙂 It is an awesome way to be close to your child, get more sleep, and build a strong bond on the sides of both partners and the baby.

    What I love most of all about this is, that no matter the pressures or frustrations of what everyone else suggests and encourages, you followed your instincts and responded to the need of your child. I find this is an instinct many new parents train themselves to ignore and I always find that a little sad. Most of my experiences with this kind of denied instinct or encouragement to do it the traditional way comes from conversations about discipline methods. Most people encourage spanking, saying it gets easier over time and is nothing to feel guilty about, but if the guilt is innately there, it is real for a reason.

    Thank you so much for sharing a beautifully written, smilingly illustrated post on your experience bedsharing and why it works for you!

  9. I think bed sharing, like a lot of parenting things is personal choice and shouldn’t be judged either way. We bed shared a few times and if I’m honest it didn’t really work for us. I kind of wish it did so I could get extra cuddles and night time feeds would be easier. Good for you for sharing your story, I can imagine a lot of people can be quite judgemental about it all.

    Claire.x
    http://www.clairemac.co.uk

  10. I am so glad to read how bedsharing brought you even closer. I am not a parent yet, but agree that with your choices, people shouldn’t judge you for that as you know best for your child. What used to be normal years ago is outdated now, so everyone should get informed before giving an opinion. So glad it’s working well for all of you x

  11. Before having kids I would have been judgemental too. When my two were little is was frowned upon and not recommended but the advice has changed over the years and to be honest there was a few times where I bedshared with my youngest. I just didn’t tell the health visitor. hehehe
    Don’t worry about other peoples opinions. Leo is your baby and you know what is best for him. He’s still only small and there is no rush to put him in his own room. x

  12. I think bed sharing is an amazing way to bond and as long as you, your partner and baby are happy, that is literally all that matters in life. Other people’s opinions don’t matter.

  13. This is such a big debate for so many! I love this post! Thank you for sharing and being brave enough to be honest. Every family needs to find what works for them. Other people’s opinions really don’t matter. XO

  14. Not all babies are the same, so glad you followed your instinct. I didn’t think bedsharing with your baby might be an issue. I don’t have a child yet and if I do, I will probably bed share with my baby.

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