Bedtime is probably the strongest reminder that, as much authority as I may wield in many aspects of my life, that authority is not absolute. When it comes to sleeping arrangements, regardless of what you and/or your partner have initially planned on, your baby gets a say in this decision, too. Their say is usually, a loud scream punctuated by heartbreaking little hiccups and choking sounds, potentially for hours on end. It's extremely persuasive. That's why rules to help you survive co-sleeping exist. I mean, after hearing your child’s well-argued point of view, you have decided that it's just better to let your little one in your bed than deal with all that.
Contrary to the nuance-free scare-mongering you may have heard, it is possible to safely share a bed with your child. Provided you aren’t intoxicated, you don't smoke, your bed is safe and your baby was born full-term, your child is at no greater risk of harm than if they slept in a crib. Plus, you get to cut way down on the amount of crying you may or may not be forced to suffer through, and the number of power struggles you have to engage in with an infant or toddler. If you're breastfeeding, you get the added benefit of getting to feed your baby through the night without having to get out of bed (or even waking up, most of the time), sparing you or your partner the hassle of having to wake up and deal with bottles. I mean, you guys, that's the dream.
However, and with anything in parenting or life, there are pluses and minuses to co-sleeping. For many of us who end up co-sleeping with our babies, there are lots of unexpected benefits equally and usually paired with things we won’t miss in the slightest when our kids move on to their own beds (because no, they will not sleep with us forever). Regardless, the goal here is to maximize sleep so you can be a healthy, alert parent who doesn't crash into other parents’ cars at drop off, or not realize they're wearing two mismatched shoes until they're just two metro stops away from an important meeting. You’ve totally got this, as long as you keep these rules in mind:
Coming up with the best sleeping arrangement can take different forms for different families. These folks just kept morphing their co-sleeping arrangement as their kids got bigger, and now they sleep in what looks like an awesome IKEA fort. Our bed was low enough to the ground that we didn't worry much about falls, but other people with taller beds temporarily do away with the bed frame to maximize space and minimize falls. At one point when my then-baby still refused to do anything at all in his crib, I used it to sort laundry so I wouldn't feel as bad about it sitting there like an empty baby shrine. The possibilities are endless!
Practice Your “Mind Your Own Business” Face
If you let it slip that you're a member of the Secret Society of Co-sleepers, be prepared for all manner of creepy, judgmental, and just plain weird comments and questions. Here's where the side-eye you honed over the course of navigating weird pregnancy comments and people trying to touch your belly comes in handy, so feel free to deploy it freely. Remember: you don't owe anyone an explanation or a defense for your choices, as long as you and your children are safe, healthy, and pose no threat to others.
Shield Yourself With Knowledge
Know the research. Know how to make your bed safe to share. Know why you made your choice. Be prepared to quote this multiple times for nosy people who think you should sacrifice precious sleep over their baseless worries. Or, you know, don't. After all, it's none of their business.
Actually, Shield Yourself. Period.
Very little ones are pretty chill to sleep with. Sometimes. Usually. I mean, once they start getting into the toddler phase, things get interesting. Positioning yourself to avoid flying feet and head butts to the face is critical.
Practice Your Yoga Or Pilates On A Daily Freakin' Basis
Fun fact: the smallest person in your bed needs the most room. It's a science, I'm sure of it. Being able to balance yourself on a teeny slice of mattress and hold yourself in awkward positions for long periods of time is very useful for co-sleeping, especially with a toddler. That is, unless you don't mind falling off the bed in the middle of the night.
Enjoy The Pre-Mobile Period
Soak up all the stationary baby cuddles while you can. These can be used as patience-fuel for later, when your once sweet little infant morphs into a ball of flying hands and feet (commonly known as a “toddler.”)
Take Notes, Or Pictures
This time in your life goes quickly. No, really, it does. There are lots of cute and funny moments (like sweet morning smiles and little bedtime games) that serve as great reminders for why you're making this and many other sacrifices for your little one. Document them if and when you can.
Constantly Reassess Your Situation
There's always a balance between advantages and disadvantages for each parenting choice you make. Don't feel like you have to commit to one way of doing things and then rigidly adhere to it for some arbitrary length of time. Flexibility and communication are everything. Keep checking in with yourself and your partner (if applicable) to see if the pluses are still outweighing the minuses. If they are, keep doing what you're doing. If not, come up with a new arrangement. The goal here is to maximize sleep, not win some sort of parenting merit badge. Nobody gives those out. Trust me, I checked.
So, About Those Beloved Pets...
If you have a pet who used to sleep with you before the baby came, but who's now looking all sad and neglected, yeah, sorry, I don't know what to do about the guilt either. I have no guidance for you on this point, except to say that pets and babies probably shouldn't be in the same bed at night, especially when the baby is really young. (I'm so sorry, Mama Cat! Things will feel normal again someday, I promise.)
Remember Your Mantra
“This is temporary.” (Or so I'm told.)