Bedsharing Bliss

My son has never spent the night in his crib.  We are Family Bed peeps. Bed-sharers by choice. This was not necessarily by design, but was also not by default. I knew I wanted to bed closely to my baby, and I had imagined that he’d have a temporary layover in our bedroom before he transitioned to his crib in a neighboring bedroom. I was clueless about how powerful the drive would to keep him close to me at night.

Our first few nights home from the hospital were rough. I simply couldn’t sleep, even with Arlo nearby in his co-sleeper. He seemed so far away, so defenseless. Was he breathing? Was he warm? Was he lonely?  Within days I ordered one of those little in-bed co-sleepers, and that’s where Arlo slept, right between my husband and me, for the next three months. Most nights I slept with either my face nuzzled against the mesh walls of the co-sleeper, or with my hand on Arlo’s chest, or both. When he outgrew the co-sleeper he began sleeping directly in the bed with us.

Perhaps this inability to sleep away from my baby sounds batty. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to others why we feel so strongly about bedsharing.  There were times when we felt the pressure by others to coach our baby towards independent sleep. We’d place Arlo in his crib in his nursery, which felt miles away. When he’d stir for a feeding, I would bound down the hall, scoop him up, and bring him back into the bed with me. He’d melt into a dream feed, and I’d exhale in a regained sense of wholeness. My family, all right within an arm’s comforting reach again.

The truth is that I love having Arlo in the bed with us. The truth is that it feels instinctual. It feels right to us.

I love listening to his breathfalls, and when I awake in the dark, the sound of his breath is the sound I reflexively zero in on above the concert of other nighttime noises–my husband’s breathing/snoring, the traffic on the street, the wind through the trees outside, the furnace, the dog slobbering on his junk at the foot of the bed.  I love the envelope of balmy warmth from our three bodies under the covers. I love that when I sleep on my side, Arlo almost instinctively gravitates to that little half-moon of my body. It’s as though he knows that this space is his, as though he remembers that this is the space where he used to live.  We are corresponding shapes in our sleep, and when he is nuzzled there, and his little knees and plump fists are pressing into my torso, it recalls somewhat similar sensations from my pregnancy.

I was reading a book in bed one night, and Arlo was sleeping on his back between my husband and me.  Arlo shifted slightly from his back to his side, and by the light of my booklight I watched as he stretched an arm out and tenderly crooked it around my husband’s neck. My husband cozied into Arlo’s one-armed embrace, neither of them waking. Had I not been awake and reading I would never have witnessed this sweet scene, and I wondered how many times we unconsciously give this kind of comfort to each other during the night. I’d wager that it happens a lot. Perhaps it goes unwitnessed, but I do not think it goes unfelt.

I love waking up to a happy baby. I love that when Arlo wakes, he instantly pushes himself up to sitting, locates his mama and daddy, and then buries his head into one of us in a sort of armless good morning hug. Arlo wakes for the day so early now, so seldom is it that I get to see his face anymore as he wakes on these still-dark mornings. But when he was smaller and the sun was up before he was, I would lay next to him and watch him until he woke. There is something profoundly disarming and wildly touching about the look on your baby’s face when he first sees you as he wakes. It’s the kind of sweetness that makes the walls of your heart feel like they just might collapse.

Honor your parenting instincts. Disregard the uninformed and judgemental commentary from others. You are an expert on your baby. When people say things like this, bravely counter them with this and this empirically demonstrated research. Explain that you can, indeed, safely bed in close proximity to your kid. Please don’t allow the ignorant pressure of others to compromise the undiluted comfort both you and your little one feel when you share sleep.

Rhianna just moved her bed to St. Louis this weekend, and she looks forward to many more mornings of waking up with a younger man in her bed. She will admit that she has woken up to her fair share of surprise warm wet spots courtesy of said younger man. You can follow their out-of-bed shenanigans at her blog, A Brave New Garden.

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3 thoughts on “Bedsharing Bliss”

  1. We too shared the family bed until George was 14 mo. Then he got the hang of sleeping in his crib, and soon he did not want to sleep with me anymore. Now he started to like it again, sleeping in the crook of my arm and we often cuddle and fall asleep when he wakes up too early. It is wonderful! And I have missed it so…

  2. “It’s as though he knows that this space is his, as though he remembers that this is the space where he used to live.”

    I love this. My heart…it…what is this warm feeling in my chest?

    I wish I hadn’t clicked on those anti-sharing ads. I had to click away right away. I also wish I hadn’t been so terrified to have HGB in bed with me. I wish I had known about in-bed co-sleepers, even the ones that attach to your bed. The bassinet pulled right beside me just wasn’t enough.I deeply regret that I knew nothing about different ways to co-sleep. He sleeps wonderfully in his crib, but I still bring him in bed with me for the morning feeds, and I cherish it.

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