First of all, we should get some semantics out of the way:
- “Bedsharing” is defined as sharing the same sleeping surface, like your bed, with your baby. “
- “Co-sleeping” is sleeping in close proximity to your baby – in a cot next to the bed, in a crib in the same room, or in the same bed.
So bedsharing is also considered co-sleeping, but not the other way around.
And secondly, I’m not a doctor. I’m not even a little bit close to being a doctor. I actually have zero qualifications to discuss this topic. But I do have some opinions so if you’re comfortable with that, keep reading.
Before having Humphrey I was determined not to bedshare. It didn’t strike me as being particularly safe and I really didn’t want him to start a bad habit and refuse to sleep in his own bed until the age of 13.
But after countless nights of getting up and down throughout the night, I started bringing him into bed around 3:00am. Then closer to 1:00am. And then around 11:00pm. And now, here I am at 8:00pm with my baby sleeping next to me as I write this blog post.
There have been times when I’ve been up in the middle of the night to feed my baby and have been dangerously close to falling asleep on the couch. And falling asleep on a sofa or armchair with a baby increases the risk of SIDS by up to 50 times. So for me personally, I’d rather bring my baby into my bed to feed when I’m exhausted at 2:00am.
If you relate, read on about the risks and rewards of bedsharing, as well as some tips to do it safely!
Benefits of Bedsharing
The biggest benefit of bedsharing with your baby is more sleep!
My baby is 5 months old and is a crappy sleeper – I’m lucky to get 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep when he’s in his crib. But when we bedshare, we both get better sleep. He sleeps longer and when he does wake up, I don’t actually have to get my tired butt out of bed to feed him.
Of course there are inconveniences of bedsharing as well – diaper blow-out poop explosions all over the sheets, pee leaking out of the leg of his diaper and soaking the mattress, and spit-up spots just to name a few. I’ve never washed my sheets as often in my entire life but for me, it’s worth it.
If you are considering bedsharing and want a supportive group of mums for advice and encouragement, join the Sleepy Littles Facebook page!
Risks of Bedsharing
Bedsharing is a highly controversial topic with supporters and non-supporters firmly in each corner. But it is widely believed that co-sleeping – having your baby in the same room and near your bed, but not in your bed – greatly reduces the risk of SIDS (by as much as 50%).
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics – “Bed-sharing has not been proven to reduce risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and might actually increase SIDS risk, according to an AAP policy statement published in the August 1997 Pediatrics. ‘While the practice of bed-sharing has been shown to offer certain benefits, no scientific studies have demonstrated that such co-sleeping reduces SIDS,’ the policy states.”
And let’s be real for a minute – even though the risk of SIDS is quite low, if any parent ever rolled over their baby in the middle of the night they would never forgive themself.
According to the La Leche League, there are conditions that should be met in order to safely bed-share. They are as follows.
If you are:
- A non-smoker
- Not taking drugs or medications that interfere with normal awareness
- Breastfeeding – meaning that your breast is your baby’s food and comfort spot, day and night
And if your baby is:
- Healthy – full-term with no major health issues
- On his or her back when not nursing
- Not swaddled or overheated
And if you are both:
- On a safe surface
Then you have eliminated all the major SIDS risks, and have reduced or eliminated suffocation risks.
Creating a Safe Sleep Space
If you do plan to bed-share with your baby, it’s important to create a safe sleep space to eliminate any suffocation hazards.
- Firm mattress (no pillow top)
- Sheet pulled tight
- No extra pillows
- No heavy covers or blankets
- No gaps between the mattress and frame or wall
- Clear of any strings or cords
Our mattress is on the floor and I have our baby sleep on my side of the bed, not in the middle of us. There are times when my husband’s leg literally falls of the side of the bed with a loud “thud” and yet he continues sleeping peacefully through it. So I don’t imagine that a tiny baby sleeping next to him would be very safe.
I also tie my long hair up in a bun and either sleep on my back, or in a c-position around my baby’s body. Of course, he is exclusively breastfed so his face stays directly next to my boobs.
I keep my pillow far away from his head and my comforter stays below my waist. I would never cover my baby with the comforter or lay his head on the pillow. And I would have some concerns if he rolled around at night.
My baby is a super crappy sleeper. He takes 30-minute naps during the day (and he has to be nursed or carried around for a while to fall asleep) and he wakes up multiple times throughout the night. On a good night, he sleeps for 3-4 hours straight, but usually, it’s closer to 2. Or even less.
So by 3:00am I am beyond exhausted from getting out of bed, picking him up out of his crib, feeding him or walking him around, and then trying to get myself back to bed. Plus every time I wake up I have to pee. And my husband sleeps peacefully through it all until at some point I smack him in the face and make him take a shift.
But when we bedshare, when my baby wakes up I can just roll over to my side and shove a nipple in his mouth. He eats for 5 minutes and passes out, I scroll Twitter so I make sure he doesn’t fall asleep squished against my chest, and then he cuddles my arm and we both fall back asleep.
I should note that I usually start him off in his crib at around 7:30pm and then he inevitably ends up in our bed around 11:00pm. That way my husband and I have a few hours to drink wine and enjoy each other’s company sans baby.
Bedsharing works well for us but I’ll only have myself to blame when we have a 12-year-old who still refuses to sleep in his own bed!