Friday, August 12, 2011

Bedroom Confessions

My daughter sleeps in my bed. . . every night. Not all night. But every night. I'm a bed-sharer.

It's weird to me that it's hard to write those words, but apparently I'm not the only one who feels that way. This article from Time suggests that many people bed-share and hide it, fearing the response they will get in a culture where bed-sharing is viewed as a bed decision. In the U.S. the cultural norm seems to be tied to both the SIDS fear and to our high value of independence, which we cultivate early and often.

I'm not against independence, but I do like sleep.

My bed-sharing, I'll admit, grew out of necessity. I went back to work part-time at seven weeks and full-time at twelve. My daughter had a brief period of sleeping thought the night between weeks eight and thirteen. Then she just stopped doing it. She'd wake up at two or three in the morning, and nothing--I mean nothing--would get her to go back to sleep in the crib. I'm not a proponent of cry-it-out methods, but even if I was, I don't think it would work. My daughter's emerging personality suggests that she's at least picked up my penchant for self-expression. She will be heard. Sleep be damned.

So, after several nights of little to no sleep in a row, I was nursing her in the bed. I had avoided nursing lying down because I knew I would fall asleep if I did. But I was so tired. So, mind-numbingly tired. So I decided to just close my eyes for a few minutes. And she slept, peacefully, curled next to me. I made sure to remove blankets and pillows and I slept lightly enough that when she moved, I woke up. But she didn't move much. It was bliss.

I felt guilty immediately. I didn't want to tell anyone about my new strategy. And, wow, did they ask. "How's she sleeping?" "Is she sleeping through the night yet?" In the parenting Olympics, this seemed to be an event that drew a crowd, and I didn't want to admit to cheating.

I read books like Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent and The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure & Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory. There, I found opinions that supported bed-sharing as a positive part of child-rearing, a decision that led to well-adjusted, healthy children. But I have to admit that I sought these books out after I was already bed-sharing. Talk about locking the barn after the horse gets out.

The pattern remains. There have been a few, sporadic nights when she's slept all the way through, but most days she goes to sleep in her crib around nine. Then she wakes up hungry at one or two and comes to bed with us. Sometimes I wake back up and put her back in the crib, in which case she'll sleep another couple hours before waking up again. She pretty much always wakes up in our bed.

I still feel guilty sometimes, though I can't quite explain why. I don't believe I'm "spoiling" her, and I don't believe I'm doing psychological damage. And we all definitely get a lot more sleep.


  1. What you are describing is different from what I heave heard of as "co-bedding," which I think is what people start to have an aversion to - including me. Given the choice, you would put your baby in her own bed, and I am sure that as she grows older you will. And at this point it doesn't seem to be damaging your marriage, especially since you start out the night with the baby in her own bed. Co-bedding is when parents sleep with their children from day 1...and never stop. No matter how old the child is, no matter how well the baby sleep on his/her own, and no matter if it is "mommy-and-daddy-time." Co-bedding many times causes problems for marriages as it is something father's will be against because they won't like it, which upsets the wife and down the slippery slope it goes. But, as I said, this certainly doesn't sound like you and as she grows and stops nursing I'm sure she will sleep fine in her own bed and you can stretch out more :)

  2. Oh, and stretching out would be nice!

  3. You could try the Ferber method for say 3-4 days if you're not too completely opposed to it. You can give your daughter water instead of milk when she wakes up at night, briefly comfort her, and then let her cry some (if she has to, not for the pleasure). She may learn to self soothe in a few days, and will not expect a feeding in the middle of the night. I have two small kids who slept through the night from 3 months or so. My youngest is 8 months old, so a similar age to your daughter. Good luck with everything! And things will eventually get better whichever way.