There Were Three in the Bed and the Little One Said….

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I think that every mother that I have talked to has a different opinion regarding this infamous subject, and rightfully so. Every family operates differently and is entitled to their own opinions on whether or not to share their bed with their baby. Either way, this is a recurring topic of conversation which often has my girlfriends and I reflecting on our answers to the question:

Is it okay to bring the baby into the parent’s bed at night?

I tend to have very strong opinions regarding this subject that I have held firm since my Branden was a wee little one. I feel that the bed I share with my husband  is our own private place. Branden has his own bedroom with his own bed, and it is important in our house for him to be able to sleep there on his own. Even when he was first born, he slept separately from us in a crib in our bedroom. I just don’t think that it is best for my husband and I to have a baby or small child in our bed for a number of reasons.

The kind of sleep-sharing that I am totally OK with!

I do understand though, that what works for me may not work for you, and that is the way it should be, because every family operates differently. With those differences in mind, I decided to do some research  so I could present some interesting facts and opinions about “co-sleeping” or “sleep-sharing” (everyone has a different name) for parents trying to decide whether to share their bed with their baby and/or toddler. The following are the main points that stood out to me.

Get the “OK”

Making the decision about whether to sleep-share or not to sleep-share can’t just be up to one parent. It has to be a decision that is agreed upon by both parents. If one parent disagrees, while the other okays it to the child, this can cause hostility within the relationship.

Intimacy

Whenever your family partakes in sleep-sharing, it can be very difficult to find time to be intimate with your spouse. We all live busy lives, and it’s challenging to find alone time during the day or evening whenever you have a child running around to look after, dinner to cook, laundry to fold, activities to attend, etc.  So if you share a bed with your baby, that leaves you with zero time alone.  What’s a girl to do?

For some couples, advance scheduling of intimate time can be helpful so that other responsibilities do not overtake the relationship. If you need to hire a sitter in order for that to happen, then that sounds like a good investment indeed! For others, it is easier and more fun to be spontaneous. And if that is the case, you can choose to put your child down in their own bed in order to have time alone. Either way, this is something that needs to be discussed with your partner and agreed upon beforehand, because intimacy is a huge part of every relationship.

SIDS

There are arguments coming from both sides about whether sleep-sharing causes SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or helps protect young babies against it. At this point in time, there is no conclusive research that effectively proves one or the other to be correct. (Raising Children Network.) The cause of SIDS is one of those very tricky things to identify, especially in a situation such as sleep-sharing, but it’s also tricky even if the baby sleeps alone.

However, researchers have been able to definitely find a link between SIDS, along with many other types of fatal sleeping accidents with a child, baby, or toddler, if the parents go to bed with the child when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These statistics hold true regardless of the age of the child, which is something for parents to seriously take into consideration.

Safe Sleeping

Here are some highlighted rules that I came across to ensure safe sleep-sharing, if you choose that path. (Note that the first four rules are true for babies and young children sleeping in their own cribs or beds, too.)

  • Make sure you have a firm, smooth mattress that is safe for a baby or young child to sleep on.
  • Make sure that there aren’t too many blankets in the bed that would prevent the baby or young child from breathing properly.
  • There should not be any mattress covers or sheepskins on the bed, as these can be hazardous.
  • Make sure the baby is sleeping on his or her back.
  • Never leave the baby alone in your bed.

    Branden relaxing in his crib after a trip to the doctor.

Arguments For Sleep-Sharing

Since many parents of newborn babies are up frequently during the night for feedings, it can be more convenient to partake in sleep-sharing during this time. There is also a great deal of bonding that happens between the parents and infant during the early stages of infancy, so sharing a bed together can help the new family connect. And, sometimes, the baby just sleeps better whenever they are near their parents. Many proponents point out that the “family bed” is a custom that is common in many other parts of the world, and it is only Western attitudes that prevent it. ( BabyCenter)

Arguments Against Sleep Sharing

You will find that most researchers and doctors argue against sleep-sharing due to dangers of our Western style bedding , dangers of larger bodies sleeping with much smaller infants, and SIDS research. (Raising Children Network.) According to the Raising Children network, “Bed-sharing is more common in the first 12 weeks of life than the next 12 weeks.” Therefore, if you choose to sleep-share only while the baby is an infant and frequently waking during the night, do so only if it is done correctly. After this period is over, experts agree that it is safer for the baby to be in the parents’ bedroom in a crib or right-sized bassinet.  And, as stated above, many partners chose to sleep without their children so their bed can serve as an intimate place and a much needed respite from parental obligations.

Warnings

  • Always make sure that there aren’t any pets in the bed.
  • Make sure that older children are not in the same bed as a young baby.
  • If you are extremely over-weight, installing a co-sleeper or bassinet may be a better alternative.
  • If you are ever under the influence of drugs or alcohol, DO NOT sleep-share with your baby.
  • If you are exhausted to the point that you think you may not wake up easily if your child stirs, this too could be a valid reason to place your baby in his or her own bed.
  • Make sure that the bedroom is child-proof, as the child could wake up earlier than the adult and go exploring.

    Branden “hanging” out in the baby swing with a friend at 4 months old!

Well, my sleep deprived Mamas, I hope you found this information helpful. At the end of the day, it all depends on what is the safest sleeping arrangements for your family that keeps everyone happy and healthy. As Mamas, we know that we share common goals when it concerns the betterment of ourselves and our families, even if we have different paths to get there. We can always agree on that!

Now, what are your thoughts on bringing your baby/toddler into your bed at night?

Fashionably Yours,

Allison

Sources:

Network, Raising Children. “Sharing Your Bed With Baby.” Raising Children Network. Web. 03 July 2011. <http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/sharing_your_bed_with_your_baby.html>.

“Sleep-sharing: The Family Bed | BabyCenter.” BabyCenter | Homepage – Pregnancy, Baby, Toddler, Kids. Web. 03 July 2011. <http://www.babycenter.com/0_sleep-sharing-the-family-bed_7753.bc>.

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