Editor’s note: This essay describes a woman’s journey with bed sharing. To learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep recommendations please visit the AAP.
Like everything in life, what is considered “normal” changes with the seasons; there is an ebb and flow in what we, as a society, deem appropriate. Co-sleeping is one of those topics that really hits a nerve with parents—we tend to be either very for or very against it.
In my experience, there can be an air of judgment that surrounds the topic which implies that you are somehow less of a mother for choosing one way and not the other.
But I’d like to be the first to remind everyone that getting your baby to sleep is an awesome feat in and of itself. We, as mothers, should embrace the fact that our little ones are sleeping at all, not tear each other apart for the how and when they do so. Co-sleeping worked for me but it isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay.
I never specifically set out to co-sleep. I wasn’t sure that sleeping with my kids in my bed would be a good fit for my family—I didn’t really think about it much at first. When the topic came up, my husband would say things along the lines of how he was afraid he would hurt our newborn and I was nervous about the things I read in regards to suffocation. So we had a lot to learn about the topic to be sure if it were ever an option for us, we were being really safe about it.
I mean, these tiny humans don’t come with a handbook or a user’s guide. In fact, I often feel like I’m muddling through this journey as best I can, learning lessons as I go. In today’s world we have enough to worry about—how or where other people’s babies sleep should NOT be one of them.
Co-sleeping has allowed me to get more rest.
For me, co-sleeping happened naturally. I was so exhausted one night that I literally could not pull myself into a rocking chair. After a long day I collapsed into my bed and nursed my baby as we both fell asleep. Having my baby next to me allowed me to get more rest because I didn’t have to get up and down throughout the night.
Co-sleeping has comforted me. And them.
Furthermore, it comforted me to hear them breathing beside me. To feel their heart beating alongside my own. But most importantly, in the throes of postpartum life, that little body curled up on my arm brought me relief from anxiety about SIDS. It allowed me to close my eyes and relax enough to sleep.
Co-sleeping has been the answer for my family. It’s okay if it’s not for yours.
Mamas—let me be clear—this is what worked for me. To the other mothers out there whose babies sleep in cribs or bassinets or swings—I want you to know that I applaud you. We all need sleep. (And coffee. But mostly, more sleep.) . We have all been that bleary-eyed mother that is awake at 2 a.m., doing anything and everything possible just to get some shut-eye. I mean, I once wandered around my yard with my 6-month-old in a stroller in the dead of night singing ‘You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog’. It was the only thing that would make him stop screaming! So, I get it.
It helps to put motherhood into perspective.When I get caught in the mindset of anxiety and apprehension, I think about all of the mothers who have come before me and mothers from different places all around the world. Women have been doing this whole mothering thing for a long time now. And, may I say, we have been rocking it.
So whether your kiddo sleeps on your chest in a home on the West Bank, nestled in a cardboard box in Sweden, or on a mattress on the floor of an apartment in Brooklyn—mothers have always made it work. We are strong. We are resourceful. We will get our babies safely to sleep in whatever way works for us.
What’s important, for me, to remember is that every baby is different. Every family is different. I don’t want any mother out there to ever feel shame or disappointment in how her baby sleeps. (As long as she’s getting them to sleep safely, it doesn’t matter to me!) If your baby prefers to catch some z’s in a dog bed with a Tupac lullaby playing on repeat—that is spectacular. However or wherever you get your baby to sleep should be considered an accomplishment in my eyes.
Most of us enter parenthood like Sam I am from Dr. Suess’ “Green Eggs and Ham”—we are sure that we will not like something. We are sure we will do something one way and not the other. But as our story progresses and our experiences deepen, we learn. And we may find that the things we once swore we would never try are often quite gratifying. They are often the solution.
So whether your baby sleeps in a tree (themed nursery), in a car (seat while driving around for nap time), in a box (like, one that’s meant for sleeping...because that’s a thing), or with a (stuffed animal) fox, in a house or with a (again...stuffed animal) mouse—I, for one, think you’re doing an amazing job, mama.
Now go get some sleep! ?