I started bed sharing with Joshua when he was newborn, he just would not settle on his own and I needed to get some sleep so into the bed he came. He stayed in our bed for 19 months and if Zara hadn’t been born then he would probably still be there now. I mean, I wake up some mornings and he’s in our bed so I know he’d be a permanent fixture in our bed if he could.
Zara is now in our bed and even though I have been thinking about moving her into the cot, I’m pretty sure she’ll be in our bed for a while. As I’m still breastfeeding, bed-sharing just works and makes it much easier for night feeds. It means I can feed Zara, whilst lying down, and we normally fall asleep together. It’s a very special moment between us.
I’m first going to explain a little bit about the difference between bed sharing and co-sleeping. Many of us, myself included, assume that sharing a bed with a baby is co-sleeping when in fact it’s bed sharing (hello captain obvious). Co-sleeping is when you share a room with your baby but they sleep elsewhere, like a cot. I did write a post about my thought’s on this a while back, you can read it here, this was before I was aware of the difference.
I know that all the health professionals say that bed sharing is a big no-no and that’s because the Department of Health say that the safest place for a baby to sleep, for the first 6 months, is in a cot in your bedroom. This is to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, when you bring your newborn baby home you soon realise that all they want it to be close to their mother, they just spent 9 month tucked up safe and warm inside your womb so of course they’re going to want to stick to what they know.
There are so many benefits to bed sharing with your baby and when done safely it offers a positive experience for all the family.
Less night-time crying
When you’re bed sharing with your baby, you find yourself quickly responding to their every move, and because they are right next to you it is much easier to comfort them quicker. If you’re breastfeeding it is very easy to nurse your baby whilst lying down so you don’t even have to get out of bed.
More time to sleep
With baby sleeping next to you, you can squeeze in a bit more sleep than if you are trying to settle your baby back into their cot. A baby will always sleep better when next to their mother so they tend to fall asleep a lot quicker.
Helps with bonding
Being close to you baby helps release oxytocin, better known as the love hormone. This helps both you and baby feel secure, loved and also helps you to relax. I generally believe that this is why I feel calm and sleepy whilst nursing, all due to the release of oxytocin.
Cuddles! Lots of them!
Being a mum to three doesn’t give me much time during the day to give my youngest lots of cuddles. I’m always busy doing something and I have to split my time between all three of my children. Bed sharing provides that time to have a lot of cuddles without being interrupted.
It helps incorporate a daytime/nighttime pattern
Baby’s don’t really know the difference between day and night, it’s something they learn over time. It helps to keep things noisy and bright during the day, then quiet and dark at night. Taking baby to bed with you reinforces that it’s time to sleep when it’s dark and quiet. Of course you don’t have to bed share to do this, but it does help.
How to Safely Bed Share
There are a few things to keep in mind whilst bed sharing, these things are unsafe and increase the risk of SIDS. Do not share a bed with your baby if you’re a smoker or if you have consumed alcohol. Alcohol affects your awareness and can cause you to fall into a deeper sleep, meaning you may not wake to baby’s cries. You even run the risk of rolling over where your baby is sleeping. It is also very dangerous to fall asleep whilst holding your baby, especially on a sofa or chair. You run the risk of dropping baby or even having baby slip down, get trapped and suffocate. With that being said, here are some guidelines to follow to practice safe bed sharing.
#1 Use a firm mattress and bed surface, ensuring your bed sheet in pulled tight.
#2 Keep baby cool, lightly dressed, and ensure they aren’t under your duvet. Use a sleeping bag or light blanket (tucked under their arms) to keep warm at night.
#3 Move your pillow away from where baby is lying. I can’t sleep without a pillow but I always make sure it is away from Zara, enough for me to lie on and be close to Zara but far away enough so that if Zara was to roll then she wouldn’t push her face into it.
#4 Tie back long hair. This probably wouldn’t cross your mind, but your hair can strangle your baby so for optimum safety keep it tied up (also saves baby pulling it out).
#5 Put baby to sleep on their back. Now that Zara has learnt to move around and roll in all directions she has took to rolling onto her tummy and sleeping like that. Even at 8 months old I panic about it and constantly wake to check on her.
#6 Never have baby sleep in the middle of the bed, keep them on the outside. The bed should be against a wall without a gap as baby could roll and become trapped. I use a bed guard on our bed to keep Zara from rolling off.
Do you bed share, or even co-sleep? What works best for your family?