Co-sleeping. Like with most parenting issues it’s a topic that everyone has some form of opinion about. “It’s dangerous”, “it helps prevent SIDS”, “It’s the best for the baby”, “you’ll never get your child out of your bed again”, “you’re creating a bad habit”.
Researchers from Murdoch University have shown that bedsharing is far less dangerous than most people think. Says Associate Professor Catherine Fetherston; “Often when researchers look at bedsharing, they include sofa-sharing or armchair-sharing, which have been shown to be very dangerous, with a number of associated deaths”.
“In fact, when you remove deaths associated with sofa-sharing from the analysis, the rate of bedsharing deaths is lower than the rate found in babies sleeping by themselves in cots.”
This is given that the sleep environment is safe and that parents are not intoxicated or smokers, of course.
Co-sleeping was one of those things that scared me when I first became a mum. Not because I was afraid to sleep with my son, but because people was so in my face about it, one way or the other, and I was afraid of doing anything wrong.
Our version of co-sleeping was to have Anakin in his cot in our room for the first 5 months. Having him in our bed wasn’t an option because our bed was simply too small and my partner is a heavy, restless sleeper and I’m too much of a worrier. For the first two months or so I didn’t even dare turn the nightlight off because I was always sleeping with one eye open, my head filled with all sorts of horror scenarios, mostly supplied by people who desperately wanted to relay their fears/bad experiences.
At 5 months it became clear that Anakin’s sleep was deteriorating because we kept waking him up throughout the night. We moved him to his own room and nights improved. But there were many nights during whatever thing he was going through where I laid on his floor or sat holding him on the sofa in his room, hot or cold, trying to comfort him, sometimes for a couple of hours, wishing I could just pick him up and put him in bed with me.
Then when my partner recently went to LA for a week and both Anakin and I got sick, I took one of the mattresses off our bed the first night and we slept next to each other for the first time, and continued to do so for most of that week. And I liked it.
Once my partner came back we had a long talk about what to do. It was clear that we couldn’t leave the bedroom the way it was, the bed was becoming a storage space which Anakin would climb up on and could easily fall off. Did we stop or did we go all the way? We decided after much deliberation that our bed wasn’t important to us, that we both enjoyed waking up with him and that it was better that he slept with us when it was necessary so that I too could get some sleep, or at least some more or less comfortable rest. So we threw out our bed altogether and made one gigantic family bed on the floor. And we love it. I love waking up to little hands touching my face and a tiny voice asking for “puppen” (boobie) in the dark. (He’s very much still a boobie boy.)
Our bedtime routine has stayed the same. It’s a quiet, peaceful affair. Anakin goes to sleep in his room after breastfeeding. I lie there in the dark with him, out of sight, until he falls asleep. If he wakes up after we go to bed I bring him in to us and he sleeps next to me for the rest of the night. Some nights he doesn’t, most nights he does.
I’m sure once you get to Anakin’s age the risks are minimal as long as we’re sober when sharing our bed with him. And it probably is becoming somewhat of a habit, but so what? He’s only little for a very short time, and I doubt he’ll be climbing into our bed forever. And to us it feels very natural to want to share our sleeping space with our son. For our next baby I’m sure bedsharing will be an option from a lot earlier on.
Co-sleeping is a very personal choice and it’s definitely not for everyone for a variety of reasons. Do you, or have you co-slept with your kids? How did you find it? What was the best and the worst thing about it?
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