Bed sharing…Yay or Nay?

Since I’ve been a mother, I’ve gone back and forth on our views on co-sleeping and specifically bed sharing.  Before we get too far, let me clarify the difference between the two.  Co-sleeping is sleeping near infants/toddlers/children where one another can be seen/heard – so for example, if your infant sleeps in a pack n’ play in your room, you’d be co-sleeping.  Bed sharing is when the infant is actually sleeping in the same bed as you.  When my older daughter was born, I was very much against bed sharing.  I had read that if you start letting your little one sleep with you, you’ll be stuck forever.  And I know people whose 6 and 8 year olds still slept with them and that didn’t appeal to me.  And I valued my sleep.  She slept in her crib in her own room from the day we brought her home from the hospital but we slept in a bed in her room.  When she was a month old, my husband and I were both back in our bedroom and she was in hers.  Then my husband started talking about how nice it would be to have her sleep with us and came up with an argument that went something like this: do you think cavemen and people living in the wild would put their newborns in their own caves just to be eaten by tigers and bears?  Ha.  Ya, I couldn’t argue with that and as silly as the argument was, it did get me thinking about what was natural and meant to be.

In the 28 months of her existence, Miss K has slept with us on and off.  Sometimes it was for our own convenience and sometimes it was because she really liked it and we like making her happy.  I, however, don’t usually enjoy having her sleep with us.  I love having her near and knowing she’s next to me and knowing that she feels secure when sleeping in between me and her dad.  But the reality is that I don’t sleep well.  The other day, she woke up early and came in our room and climbed into bed with us.  She punched her dad and kicked me in the gut at the same time.  Sigh.

When little Super S came along, I definitely didn’t have as strong of an opinion about it because we had gone through ups and downs with her sister. Also, this time around I’m much less about the “shoulds” of parenting and much more about trusting my judgement and paying attention to my child’s wants.  She slept in a bassinet in our room for the first month and has since slept in her own crib in her own room.  If she has a hard time falling back asleep in the morning, sometimes I bring her in to our bed and enjoy the snuggles.  She actually sidles up to me if I pull away and has been doing that since she was first born!  It’s wonderfully warming.  But in general, she’s sleeping in her room.  A couple weeks ago, my grandma came to visit our place.  She is 80-something years old and spent most of her life in India.  I was showing her the baby’s nursery and she said (and I’m translating loosely here) “People in America just send their babies to their own rooms.  They don’t even let them sleep with their parents.”  Basically she was saying I was just throwing my poor helpless baby in big old room all by lonesome and it was mean.  In general, I don’t take much of the pseudo-criticisms that my grandma has to heart but her comment got me thinking.  Should we be letting our little one stay close to us?  Would it make her feel more secure?  Would we bond more/better?  And would she be safer?

As I’ve stated before, I’m semi-crunchy.  I like a lot of the attachment parenting stuff but I also know my limits and am fearful of raising a spoiled child.  I’ve been really battling this one in my head.  I know it’s safer for her to sleep in her own crib but am I being hard on her?

The other day, I heard a piece on NPR about bed sharing and infant death.  Well, I heard part of it…of course during any interesting discussion, both kids pipe up and get crazy so I couldn’t listen as closely as I had wanted to.  I just want to point out that it was dead silent when the stupid BBC was talking about some 70 year old British soccer manager’s retirement.

Anyway, the radio piece talked about how a baby suffocates while sleeping EVERY FIVE DAYS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY alone.  This is heart breaking.  Inappropriate sleeping conditions are the leading cause of accidental death for children in this area.  Scary.  But then people all over the world share beds and have for ages.  So how could it be so bad?

I looked up what the AAP has to say about it and basically they say that co-sleeping is  encouraged but bed sharing is not.  There is evidence that suggests that co-sleeping arrangements decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.  They say it’s ok to feed your little one in bed but then they should return to their own bed, bassinet, etc.  Additionally, there are no studies on the effectiveness of bed sharing devices so they do not endorse those either.  According to them, “Bed-sharing might increase the risk of overheating, rebreathing, or airway obstruction, head covering, and exposure to tobacco smoke,which are all risk factors for SIDS.”

I think what I took away from the radio discussion is that if you plan and prepare, bed-sharing can be  much less risky.  It’s when you’re exhausted and let the baby sleep with you on your soft mattress with billowy blankets and fluffy pillows (Holy shit, I’m guilty of this) that accidents can happen.  Risk obviously increases if you allow your baby to sleep with you while you’re under the influence of drugs (even prescribed medications) or alcohol.  Or if you have other children or even your partner in bed with you. Ya, it feels kind of weird to put your delicate, helpless newborn into a stark, empty crib on a hard mattress but it IS the safest way to sleep.  There are way fewer suffocations and way fewer cases of SIDS when babies sleep this way.

So having read up a little on this, I’m going to continue to put Super S in her crib at night.  No blankets, no toys, no crib bumper, no nuthin’ in it.  And I’m going to stop feeling guilty for it.  Instead I’ll debate with myself whether or not we should move her crib into our room. 😀

2 thoughts on “Bed sharing…Yay or Nay?

  1. I think an important thing to remember is crib sleeping is only safe when done correctly too. How many cribs have been recalled over the years? I, like you, do a lot of “attachment parenting” things but really I feel like my parenting style is “intuitive parenting”; trusting my own gut and judgement because I know what’s best for MY child (not yours). I don’t believe that bed-sharing and/or co-sleeping is best for every child, but I do believe it’s best for MY child and MY family (we all sleep better not having to get up in the middle of the night for anything since I breast feed on demand round the clock). That being said, knowing it’s what’s best for us, I sacrifice to do ensure I do it safely. Yes, I miss sleeping with comfy blankets above my waist line, but we all make sacrifices to do what we feel is best for our children. If you feel that a crib or side car is best, then maybe the sacrifice is the money to buy one or giving up your spare bedroom to be the baby’s room. The risk of SIDS is actually lower with co-sleeping and bed-sharing. The risk of suffocation may not be, but those are two different things. “Some studies show that sheets, blankets, and pillows, as well as extra bodies in the bed make SIDS more likely. But other researchers say that when all known adverse risk factors of sharing a bed are removed — like a mother who smokes, the baby sleeping on his tummy in a shared bed, and dangerous spaces and gaps surrounding a bed — sleep-sharing reduces the risk of SIDS. That’s because when parents sleep with their baby they become more sensitive to changes in his breathing and can tend to him quickly if a problem arises.” (Babycenter article by James McKenna, a sleep expert).

  2. Just saw this article on SIDS and bed sharing: (http://www.babycenter.com/204_sids-risk-multiplies-with-bed-sharing-study-finds_10382097.bc)

    The first sentence reads: “The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is five times higher when parents sleep with their infant, a new study finds.” I like data and am glad to see that researchers are slicing the data more and more finely to understand the relationship between SIDS and bed sharing.

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