I feel like what I am about to say is a dark secret that I tried to hide for fear of being judged and seen as irresponsible. I hid this from family, friends, and even my daughter’s pediatrician.
I shared my bed with my daughter for the first 6 months of her life.
I never intended for it to turn out that way, but it did. And you know what? It was one of the most beautiful parts of being a new mother. I loved waking up and the first thing I saw was her tiny face. I loved getting more sleep because she was more content being next to me and I didn’t have to go far to nurse her. It was how we survived those early months, and not once did I ever feel that I was putting her in any danger
Newborns wanting to be with their moms and desire to have their newborns close isn’t a new concept. One anthropologist says that we have been bed-sharing for 200,000 years and it’s a tradition in at least 40 percent of other cultures today. For instance, Balinese babies are held almost every moment of the day and night. In Japan, the most common sleeping arrangement is with the child in between the mom and dad.
In America though, we tend to separate babies from their moms. This is even seen in the hospital when on the very first night a baby has entered this world a nurse will ask if you want them to take your newborn away to the nursery so you can get some sleep.
Why the Stigma?
The early studies deeming this an unsafe (and unacceptable) practice took into account those parents that were bed sharing after consuming alcohol, drugs, smoking, or sleeping on a couch. One of the studies showed that a baby was 18 times more likely to die of SIDS when sleeping next to a parent that has been drinking. But more recent studies have shown that when those hazards are removed, the risk of SIDS with bed-sharing is greatly reduced. This article states that a baby is more likely to get struck by lightning in their lifetime than they are to die of SIDS, even when bed-sharing.
I am not saying that everybody should start to bed-share. And despite the fact that humans have been doing this since they started having babies, it’s still important to take all safety precautions you can, like removing bulky bedding, and never co-sleeping if you (or anyone in the bed) have have been drinking or taken medication that might make you less responsive, even something as minor as Benadryl. Not all environments may be conducive to co-sleeping safely, and keep in mind that you can co-sleep without bed sharing.
But it’s tough to feel we have to hide something that comes so natural.
Lisa is a mom to a wild toddler and misses the days of cosleeping.