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.