Depending on who you ask, bedsharing can be the perfect solution to a sleepless baby or a terrible, unnecessary risk.
Before we get too far, let’s recognize the distinction between bedsharing and co-sleeping:
Bedsharing is exactly what it sounds like – baby sleeps in the bed with their parents.
Co-sleeping is a broader term for when baby sleeps close to their parents, so this includes room-sharing and bedsharing.
While room-sharing is generally recommended and has been linked to lower risks of SIDS, bedsharing is pretty controversial in the US.
There are tons of strong opinions about bedsharing as well as lots of conflicting information. It can get really confusing for moms who are just desperately trying to get some sleep.
Of course here at The Moms At Odds we have differing opinions (and experiences!) on the subject. Jo bedshared with both of her babes but Rachel avoided it.
Today we want to discuss some of the pros/cons of bedsharing. Even more importantly, for those decide to bedshare we’re giving you 10 guidelines to help you do it as safely as possible. Lots of good info here, definitely pin this so you can easily reference it later:
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I never intended to bedshare, in fact I was originally opposed to it.
But then one night when my first baby woke up for the 14975th time, in a fit of complete exhaustion I laid him down in bed with me and he slept peacefully for the rest of the night.
After that, I was hooked.
Admittedly I usually saved it for “bad nights”, but bringing my babies into bed was a surefire way to get them to sleep. When they did awake, I could adjust myself slightly and allow them to nurse while we both sailed off to dreamland.
Here Are Some Bedsharing Benefits:
Babies sleep better when they’re next to a mom. It’s comforting for both baby and you. When they do stir, pacifying them is quick and easy because they can often be soothed before baby fully awakens or cries.
-|- Increases Bonding
Snuggling your baby all night long increases the love and feels all around. Baby can feel the comfort of your warmth, breathing, and heartbeat.
-|- Encourages Breastfeeding
Bedsharing allows mothers to breastfeed easier simply due to the close proximity with their babies. (If you bedshare, be sure to look up “side-lying position”, you’re welcome) Another bonus, this regular night-feeding is great for supply. Statistically, bedsharing mothers also breastfeed their children for longer.
-|- Ease Maternal Fears
New moms wake up roughly 574 times per night (half joking, half true) to check on their infants. When you bedshare, checking on baby is so simple. You can easily open your eyes, check if they’re breathing, and then drift back to sleep.
-|- Establishes Positive Vibes Surrounding Bedtime
Mothers who begin bedsharing at the start of the night (rather than during the night after baby awakens) report that their children learn to see bedtime as a reward (because of the close, undistracted time with mom) rather than a negative thing or punishment.
-|- Avoiding Bedsharing May Be More Risky
If you are exhausted but determined not to bedshare, you’ll likely attempt to nurse your baby in a recliner or on a couch. If moms doze off while holding their baby, this can increase the risk of baby injury by dropping. Another cool thing is that some studies have suggested that the carbon dioxide that mother exhales actually stimulates baby’s breathing when they are sleeping adjacent.
Bedsharing just was not right for my family.
I am a natural worrier. Combine that with some tragic bedsharing tales and I just wasn’t comfortable with it.
I did try in desperation to get some precious sleep, but my fears made it anything but restful.
— Higher risk of SIDS
This is hotly debated, however, there are a few risk factors that have been strongly associated with higher risks while bedsharing:
– If the parents are smoker, consumed alcohol, or used drugs (including medications that cause drowsiness)
– If the infants is less than 3 months, premature, or low birth weight
— You Must be Home for Bedtime
If you have to travel or just like to go out in the evening, this can be a big problem. It may be very difficult to leave your little one with a babysitter if they won’t sleep without you.
— The Eventual Transition out of Your Bed
Depending on how long you bedshare, getting your child to eventually sleep in their own bed can be tricky. While, they most likely won’t want to still sleep with you when they’re in high school, they may not be ready to leave your bed when you are.
— Intimacy Issues
A baby in your bed can certainly put the brakes on your sex life. Some couples are cool with finding creative times and places, but that’s not everyone’s thing.
— Poor Sleep
Certainly a personal preference, but some moms report that they do not sleep well with a squirmy baby kicking them.
This is actually the biggest reason I avoided bedsharing. Having baby next to me made me super anxious and I barely slept at all. Even the tiniest movement would startle me fully awake.
If you are considering bedsharing, there are 3 absolute requirements to check off for the safest possible sleep. Make sure that:
- Your child is a full-term and healthy baby
- Both parents are non-smokers
- Both parents are completely sober (meaning no drugs, alcohol, or even medications that can make you drowsy)
Also remember that adult beds are not designed for babies and do have some potential hazards. Here are 10 ideas to help minimize the bedsharing risks:
1 | Have the Safest Gear
Luckily for the modern mom, there are devices specifically designed for safe bedsharing.
The SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper provides your baby with a firm surface and allows them to sleep between parents in the middle of the bed. The frame is metal (so it prevents a parent from rolling onto the baby) and the sides are mesh (to allow for proper air circulation). Options include the basic or the deluxe version (which includes sound, lights, and vibration settings)
2 | Use a Firm Mattress with a Tight, Fitted Sheet
If baby is sleeping directly on the bed, you want to have a sleeping surface as firm as possible, so remove any pillow-top covers or padded mattress protectors. Make sure you fitted sheet is the right size for your mattress and is pulled taut. Another good idea is to invest in sheets that are hypoallergenic, cool, and breathable.
3 | Keep Pillows and Blankets Away from Baby
If your baby is sleeping in the middle of the bed, each parent should have their own blanket/sheet so it is not accidentally pulled up and onto baby. You should also keep the number of blankets and pillows to a minimum.
4 | Back to Sleep
While many moms find the side-lying breastfeeding position helpful when bedsharing, ensure baby is sleeping on their back at all times when they are not feeding.
5 | Unwrap the Baby
Even though we praise this amazing swaddle in our list of essential baby sleep items, when bedsharing you want to have the baby unswaddled to prevent overheating and suppression of the startle reflex.
6 | Position Baby Beside Mom
In the start of bedsharing, it’s a good idea to have just baby and mom sleep together. Studies have shown that moms (particularly breastfeeding moms) are more alert and aware of their babies when laying beside them. Sorry dads.
7 | Prevent Falls
When dad moves back to bed, position your baby on the side of the bed between mom and the wall/bedrail. If you don’t have a bedrail, one like the Regalo Swing Down is a good investment because you can use it again later when your child is older and you transition them to a “bid kid bed”.
8 | Mind the Gaps
Before laying your baby down, check for space between the headboard/wall/bedrail/bed frame and mattress
9 | Constant Vigilance
Never leave baby unattended in your bed.
10 | Breastfeed
Even though there are many formula-feeding moms choose to safely bedshare, we can’t ignore the studies that suggest breastfeeding moms are more attuned and easily awoken by their baby sleeping adjacent to them.
Another great resource for more information on safe bedsharing is Dr. James McKenna’s book, Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping.
But hey, do your own research and make the decision that’s best for your family. Don’t be afraid to be a Mom At Odds! Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more great information about the controversies of parenthood.