You may have also spent time Googling things like “is bed-sharing safe” or “am I causing bad habits by bed sharing”, or maybe even “will I kill my baby if I bed-share”. Yes this last one might sound a bit extreme, but trust me, if you are like the mamas that I work with the thought has crossed your mind more than once!
You may not have planned to bed-share, but you’ve likely found yourself in a bed-sharing or pseudo bed-sharing situation at one point or another in your life w/ baby. The thing is, that pseudo, spur of the moment, 2am bed-sharing scenario where you either fell asleep nursing, or brought your baby into bed “just this once” because you were so utterly & totally exhausted….is usually not that safe 🙈
Shhh, I won’t tell (because heck, I’ve been there before….& I am willing to bet most, if not all of us, have).
I have bed-shared at one point or another with both my kids, sometimes intentionally and sometimes just to get through a rough night. My son, my eldest, was the classic 30-min napper alone, but could sleep for 3-4 hours on or right next to me. But he stopped enjoying bed-sharing once he got more mobile, around the 8-ish month mark. My youngest, my daughter Eevi, on the other hand, loves it. From the day she was born until now, at 4 years. Since I weaned her at 3.5 yrs (last May), she comes into our bed every single night. Sometimes at 10pm, sometimes not until 5am. There have been the odd nights when she sleeps in her own bed all night, but if I am being honest I miss her on those nights. I love her cuddles and this precious connection we have in the middle of the night. Some nights I wish I had a bit more space but most of the time I love it
Our Western Culture Has Made Bed-Sharing A Taboo Topic
Unfortunately we live in a society where bed-sharing is sort of like a taboo topic. We are fear mongered into thinking it is not safe, under any circumstance, & that our babies must sleep alone, in an empty crib. Wow, sad reality for many babies…. a cold, empty crib (& often in a separate room). Why? Because society has told us this is the safest option.
When in reality, our babies + toddlers want closeness & connection. They want a warm body to snuggle with. They want to hear someone’s breathing next to them. This helps them feel safe… & calm. This is what you & I prefer, right? Sleeping in the bed next to our partners. What makes it different for babies?
Bed-sharing is quite common worldwide. Notably, bed-sharing rates in Scandinavian and Asian countries are much higher than those in the U.S. or Canada. But for some reason, our society has fear mongered us into thinking that we’ll somehow smother our babies, cause them harm in some way, & so we do our best to avoid bed-sharing, or we adamantly say we don’t….. & then those middle of the night, 2am wakes, when we say “just this once” happen & we feel oh so ashamed + guilty. This must stop!
Yes, bedsharing can be unsafe if not done properly, and yes we have to take proper precautions to make sure that baby is safe when sleeping in bed with mom and dad. But why oh why do the American and even Canadian Pediatric Associations need to be so fear mongering about it?
The truth is bed-sharing can be just as safe, if not safer and lead to more sleep for everyone, than sleeping alone in a crib… if done with the proper set up & precautions in place. And when done properly it can be a really magical way for both mom and baby to get more sleep. For baby, being close to mom (or a primary caregiver) is literally the BEST place on earth to be. They are calm, they regulate off your heartbeat and your temperature, and they can eat whenever they get hungry. For mom, you don’t have to get out of bed (and thus wake yourself up even more) and walk down the hall to tend to your baby. Simply roll over, feed half asleep, and everyone stays happy and warm….this solution can often lead to more sleep.
How To Bed-Share Safely
I love La Leche League International’s song (tune – Row, Row Your Boat)
No smoke, sober mom, baby at your breast
Healthy baby on his back
Keep him lightly dressed
Not too soft a bed
Watch the cords and gaps
Keep the covers off his head
For your nights and naps
I am also very happy to see that the media is starting to pick up on the shift in infant sleep and there was recently a great article written in Today’s Parent about co-sleeping and how most of us do it, why it is so important to start supporting parents, rather than fear mongering them, and how to bed-share safely. I will note that the article talks about bed-sharing as “co-sleeping”. Those two terms are technically different as “co-sleeping” can mean sleeping in close proximity to one another (ie. in the same room) but not necessarily in the same bed, versus “bed-sharing” which means the same bed.
You know you’ll end up bed-sharing at some point, even if just for an hour or two – might as well be prepared, because the alternative (aka sleeping in the lounge chair or on the sofa).
You Are Not Causing ‘Bad Habits’ By Bed-Sharing
So no, you are not causing “bad habits” or “going to kill or smother your baby” if you choose to bed-share. The research on bedsharing has not found any social, emotional, or cognitive detriment for bedsharing children relative to children who were placed in their own room in infancy. And realistically your baby/child will not be bed-sharing forever….it is quite normal practice in various cultures to bed-share until even as old as 10 years of age.
Please don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or ashamed for bed-sharing if it is working for you, your baby and your family. But, make sure to follow the Safe Sleep Seven Guidelines, which can be found here….. https://www.llli.org/the-safe-sleep-seven/
Tell me, do you ever bed-share? ⬇
P.S. If you are not already in my supportive FREE Sleep Deprived Zombie Mamas community, then I invite you to join us there for real talk on what biologically normal infant sleep really looks like, how to support and optimize sleep for the whole family with responsive parenting, as well as getting all your development, reflux, body tightness, and other questions answered. Trust me, I know a lot about a lot of things related to mom and baby so this will be a one stop place for support. Click here to join us.