At my son’s nine month baby checkup, the pedicitrian was someone we hadn’t seen before. She asked us all the usual questions and when I went to explain how the baby slept in bed with us, I felt something inside of me brace myself for the response. I literally took a deep breath and told her he sleeps wonderful snuggled between us.
There are a lot of parenting things I find myself bracing for responses – for babywearing, for bed sharing, for cloth diapering. I still remember what I used to think when I heard some of these things; I couldn’t imagine it and was so used to the “norm” of cribs and disposibles that I could hardly wrap my brain around why people would do something different.
I never understoood why people let their babies sleep in their rooms or their beds, and I cannot believe we are these people now. I’m so happy we are, because waking up besides the two people I love most in the world is amazing. I love the early morning and late night snuggles, the way he wakes up babbling and playing with my hair. I couldn’t imagine now waking up with his feet tucked into my side to stay warm, and being able to watch him – at eye level – peacefully doze after a feeding is priceless.
There’s more to bedsharing and co-sleeping that just happiness, though. Breastfeeding mothers who share rooms or beds report they get more sleep throughout the night, and studies have shown that babies and mothers tune their sleep patterns so they are waking and in deep sleep at the same time. When people ask how I’m sleeping now that we have a baby, I don’t lie: I tell them this is the best sleep of my life. It truly is.
Like I suspect a lot of parents do, I worried about SIDS and sleeping arrangements. I think that’s a personal decision every family has to make with their own research; that being said, we co-slept until my son outgrew his handmade cradle, and then we decided he was old enough to bring to bed with us because he was more mobile. As working parents, I think continuing to share our bedroom with our son allows us to feel more connected to him.
In a psychology class at the University of Michigan I wrote a paper on the sleeping patterns of Americans versus native cultures; my classmates and I discovered that virtually none of us had co-slept with our parents for any extended amount of time. When I interviewed my mother, a non-American, she said she wanted to foster independence and didn’t want to create a child who needed someone else for comfort. There’s research to support that attachment parenting styles, including co-sleeping arrangements, foster this independence, too, because it allows children to more explore their world once they have sought out comfort.
At the end of the day, I think we all do what we believe is best for ourselves and our families; this is what works for us and even though I may brace myself for what over people think, I don’t mind. It works and I’m happy we stumbled upon this choice sooner than later.