Sleeping With Baby in the Family Bed - Rising in Popularity


Sleeping with baby also known as bed sharing is advocated by natural parenting moms and dads. Many feel strongly that the family bed satisfies the needs of both baby and mama and is the way to go.

Many say that bed sharing results in better baby sleep - safer and more emotionally secure, and for many moms facilitates easier breastfeeding at night.

What are some things you need to take into consideration in deciding whether this practice is for you and your family?

Sleeping with baby on the same surface can change lives for the whole family.

It could mean your baby will sleep a whole lot better with a greater feeling of security and happiness.

Dr. James J. McKenna is a professor of anthropology at Notre Dame University and director of Notre Dame's Center for behavioral Studies of Mother-Infant Sleep.

Dr. McKenna has studied Mother-Infant co-sleeping for nearly 20 years and argues that babies are born physiologically expecting maternal touch, smell, sounds, movements and warmth which can only be received by close proximity to their mothers.

sleeping with baby

Photo courtesy of mitikusa

With reference to the value of this kind of attachment is a quote from D.H. Winnicott:

"There is no such thing as a baby. There is always a baby and someone."

My little guy who is now three years old always preferred to be with us in our bed. He is a cuddler and would snuggle up to me contentedly. In the morning I would wake up to see his little face calm and happy.

Communication between you and your partner is important to determine whether sleeping with baby is agreeable to both of you. If unsure whether it would work why not set a trial period to try it out?

Will your babe be with you forever in your bed? As my son has gotten older he has grown in independence and is content to sleep in his own bed for the most part. In fact friends are surprised that both our kids sleep in the dark without a nightlight. They feel secure.

It could be that you will be comfortable and sleep better not having to get up during the night for feedings. I found it the hardest thing on my body to break out of sleep, get up, walk over to baby and then pick him up.

Or, maybe your sleep is not restful when sleeping with baby. My husband good naturedly announced to me this morning that our little guy was hitting him all night - a bit of an exaggeration but nonetheless an interruption to his sleep.

Somehow I could never comfortably get into position to breastfeed in a laying down side-by-side position - I`m very small breasted - so I would lay on my back and lay my son across my chest horizontally to breastfeed in bed and then when finished lay him back down beside me. Of note, now that he is a lot bigger - higher up - I can nurse my son in the laying down position no problem. In this situation pendulous breasts are an asset!

Whenever we bed shared with our daughter she mostly wanted to breastfeed for really long periods! Babies can really smell mama's milk and she wanted to sleep that way.

Because of my small build my lay-down breastfeeding position just wasn't comfortable for me to stay in for a big part of the night. On the up side of breastfeeding at night quite a bit is excellent milk production. I was still leaking milk when my son turned two!

Bed sharing could present the challenge of a cramped sleeping space. Dr. Sears has suggested the investment of a king size mattress to make bed sharing more comfortable.

When our daughter was born my husband was in very poor health and went on to have three surgeries during her infancy. Bed sharing wasn't an option. My husband needed all the sleep he could get and wasn't well rested with three in the bed.

Bed sharing could challenge mom and dad's intimacy. Some view this as a problem while others are content to find ways around it.

Another consideration is your baby's preferences. Although we didn't bed share with our daughter regularly there were times that we did it but it just didn't work out. She was a light sleeper and was disturbed by our every movement. She wasn't physically comfortable sharing her space and tossed and tumbled constantly when she wasn't breastfeeding.

Sleeping with baby also requires a strong awareness of how to sleep safely together and implementing the appropriate measures.

When a friend sheepishly told me she bed shares with her seven month old she said "I know I shouldn't". When I asked her why, she said her doctor told her not to. Safety is a big concern with bed sharing but it can be successfully addressed.

What kind of safety precautions should be observed when bed sharing?

  • Place your baby to sleep on his back.
  • Place baby between yourself (mama) and a guardrail rather than in the middle. Babies aren't as safe next to daddy - he may not be as aware of baby beside him.
  • Make sure there are no gaps that your baby could sink into - at the side or head of the mattress. If so, stuff with tightly rolled towels.
  • Don't sleep with baby if under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Don't sleep with baby if you are extremely obese. Overlaying is more of a problem.
  • Don't bed share on a soft surface like a couch or water bed.
  • Don't bundle your baby up too much since multiple bodies in a bed make it warmer and overheating could pose a hazard.
  • Don't wear lingerie with very long string ties.

It is possible to make the family bed a safe place for baby sleep. Whether people are talking about it or not a great many natural parenting mom's and dad's are sleeping with baby and loving it!

In deciding whether bed sharing is for your family take into consideration the feelings and comfort of your baby, your spouse, yourself and safety. In giving careful attention to these aspects you will make a decision that will keep your family happy and safe.

Return from Sleeping with Baby to Family Bed

Return from Sleeping with Baby to Loving Attachment Parenting

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