Co-sleeping is a topic that I get asked about quite often, and I love sharing our experience with others. (Co-sleeping is also called “bed sharing” or “having a family bed,” although some consider having a “co-sleeper” type crib right by the bed as co-sleeping) .
In short: Having a family bed has kept me sane. I’ve been able to get much more sleep, and the comfort of sleeping next to precious Kamea is priceless.
Co-sleeping is somewhat controversial, at least here in the United States. It’s much more common around the world, and for good reason. It’s amazing! I cannot imagine not having my little baby anywhere other than snuggled up right next to me while we sleep.
But, I had done my homework. I read Good Nights by Dr. Jay Gordon, I spoke with friends who had done it, and I researched the topic extensively online. My midwife taught me how to nurse in the side-lying position. We were ready. We prepared our king sized bed to be co-sleeping friendly by removing excess blankets and pillows. We put Kamea in between us. (Although many recommend putting baby between mom and a bed rail, I actually switch which side she’s on throughout the night most times. This way she feeds from each breast, and I’m not always sleeping on the same side of my body which wreaks havoc on my hip.) We no longer shared a sheet or comforter; instead, Greg and I each have our own sheet to prevent it from covering Kamea during the night and interfering with her breathing. Kamea doesn’t care to use her own little blanket so I make sure she is wearing appropriate clothing to keep her warm (or cool) depending on the season. (Some people love using a Halo sleepsack – wearable blanket – for their baby which is a fascinating device and reputed to reduce the risk of SIDS whether co-sleeping or having your baby in a crib. According to Halo’s website, “Since 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested the use of wearable blankets to reduce the risk of SIDS.” I bought an organic one on Amazon, but I never used it primarily because of our warm Arizona weather. You can read more about them here.)
The brilliance about having a family bed with baby is that it helps mom and dad get more sleep… especially mom: I don’t have to wake up multiple times a night to nurse Kamea. Instead, whenever she’s hungry, I simply pull her to me so we are both on our sides and she nurses. We both go back to sleep with hardly any disruption. It’s pure bliss. Snuggled up next to my baby girl, I can keep my eye on her and I feel that she is safer that way.
1) I absolutely love having a salt lamp on the night stand with a dimmer switch. Goodness, I love this thing… it casts a warm, fire-like orange glow that harkens back to every woman’s inner Clan of the Cave Bear. It gives the perfect amount of light without being obnoxious. I am able to check on Kamea when I need to without having it so bright that it’d inhibit good sleep for any of us. It’s so much better than a traditional night light, and I can control it’s level of light from bed.
2) Having a supportive pillow behind my back while I’m nursing on my side. I waited at least a month or so before I figured this out. But, when I did, boy, it was a real back and hip saver! For this I use my awesome Blessed Nest organic breastfeeding pillow. It’s perfect because the buckwheat conforms to me and also offers a ton of support. I’ve tried other pillows when I couldn’t reach my breastfeeding pillow and they simply do not compare. This is the perfect pillow for this purpose (and I love it for breastfeeding).
I much prefer having Kamea right in our bed, versus using a co-sleeper type crib attached to the bed, because having her right there is that much easier and less disruptive for her and me both. Now, I simply can’t imagine having Kamea anywhere else than right next to me, let alone off in another room by herself. Eek. No way. Not for us. We love sharing our bed with her.
Sometimes Greg works late into the night and doesn’t join us when we go to sleep. For those times, I put up a wall of pillows where he sleeps. Funny thing though, for the first several months, it was not really an issue, as Kamea hardly moved throughout the night. Later on, there were a couple of nights where she rolled a bit, but even then, not very far. Still, having the pillows made me feel better.
Some people can’t help but wonder… Will you roll onto her? Honestly, the first night we shared a family bed, I knew it was a non-issue. There is truly no way I would do it. It’s instinctual… I know she’s there. Now, it’s important to note that co-sleeping is not advised if any drug or alcohol has been taken by either adult, and only the parents should co-sleep with their baby (no babysitters, grandparents, etc). For more safety rules, please read Good Nights and do your research.
And, of course, people wonder about sex. Many people don’t want to bed share because they think it will put a dent in their sex lives. Folks, this really isn’t an issue either. Trust me… where there is a will there is a way. Um… and you know the salt lamp I mentioned earlier? Turns out, it’s really romantic.
Our family bed has taken on a new appearance lately. At about the 8-month mark, little Kamea started to crawl. I became concerned that she might awaken while I was asleep and crawl off the bed. While I’d heard from many moms that this isn’t usually an issue, I didn’t want to take any chances, especially because we have a high bed with a wrought iron frame around the boxsprings… not very cushy in the event of a fall. We’re also the parents who padded our dining room table legs and bought area rugs to cover the tile in our house in the event of falls. Sorry, but skull crashing into wood or tile is not fun for us.
To avoid accidents, some people use a neat foam-rubber product called bed rails. A friend of ours no longer needed hers and gave them to us. We took things a step further though… don’t laugh, but we turned our king-size bed into more of a giant family crib – LOL. We have a 4-poster rail bed and the mattress fits into the base of the bed with a little space between the mattress and the bed frame. So, we took boxes, flattened them, and wedged them into the gap, as shown here.
I know… looks ridiculous. But, you know what? It’s so fun! I feel like we turned our family bed into a fort. (It has alternately been referred to as “the pirate ship.”) Whatever… it works! We then placed the bed rails where the mattress meets the corrugated cardboard wall. We left a little opening at the end for when I need to get out of bed (currently blocked by pillows behind Kamea as show in the picture). And, on Greg’s side, he has a bigger opening. Again, though, for times he’s not in bed with us, I block it high with pillows. What at first seemed a little absurd to us is now our cozy little cave-like den. I’ve never been happier or slept as well in my life. I wouldn’t be surprised if we keep it like this for a long time!
Sharing a family bed might not be for everyone, and people have to do whatever works for them, but as you can tell… I’m a huge fan of co-sleeping. A HUGE fan! I’m happy to report that I’ve heard almost no criticism so far, only some honest questions from curious readers… which is nice because I wouldn’t have the patience to entertain the mind-numbingly silly questions like “How will she learn independence?,” etc. Big eye roll. (And about as telling as the painfully uninformed “Socialization” question so frequently asked of parents who homeschool.)
I have no idea how long Kamea will share our family bed. I plan to follow her lead. Hopefully, there will come a time when we have another baby in the bed and when that time arrives, it’s probably not smart to have Kamea in there with us. When that time comes, I’m thinking, if Kamea wants, we’ll get her her very own little pirate ship.
So… do you co sleep or share a family bed? Please share your experiences below including how your children transitioned into their own bed, if they have.
UPDATE: Here’s a good article from Mothering.com about babies and sleeping.
Stay tuned for my next Green Mommy Blog post about hair color… you all know I used to be blond, right?