I promised myself it wouldn't happen. "Oh, the baby will be in our room, but bed sharing is the worst. It's never going to happen." If my life were a movie, we would then cut to a scene with our infant son spread out in the middle of the bed I share with my partner. That's how parenting works: you will do 76 percent of the things you vowed you'd never do. Ultimately, I'm really glad we chose to go the "family bed" route, partly because there are things you can only learn about your marriage after bed sharing.
Bed sharing isn't for everyone. If you're not into the idea, by all means skip it. As with any other parenting choice you're bound to make, there are lots of ways to get a baby to sleep. That said, if you're on the fence, I'd personally say, "Research the safest ways to go about it and give it a whirl." We found that everyone in the family got more sleep when we slept in the same bed and next to one another. Moreover, getting the hang of how to manage it all successfully was basically a masterclass in communication, physical dexterity, and compromise.
You and your partner are both working with the same goal: figuring out how everyone can share the same sleep space comfortably. You're also facing the same problem: your baby, who doesn't give a sh*t whether you two sleep any time in the next 18 years. Reaching that goal will take a fair amount of experimentation, failure, and persistence. Along the way, you will learn things about your baby, yourself, your partner, and your relationship, including the following:
Your Bed Is Never Big Enough
My husband and I have always believed we would never need a bed bigger than a Queen. We enjoy snuggling and, even when we don't feel like cozying up to one another, we're kind of hobbit-sized, so we don't need a ton of space. We were always sort of smug about it. Like, "Why would you need more than a double or a queen?! Our needs are humble whereas you are bourgeois and extravagant!" Yes, this was before we had children.
Once we began bed sharing it was painfully obvious that our soporific digs were inadequate. Somehow, our 8 pound child wound up taking up 2/3 of the space and my dude and I were clinging to our respective edges. You know what, though? Even when we have stayed in a King, which you think would solve the problem, we have found ourselves squished or pushed to the edge or otherwise inconvenienced. When you're bed sharing with a child of any age, no bed will be big enough.
How Much You Need Or Don't Need Sleep To Co-Exist
It's a fascinating paradox: you bed share so everyone can get more sleep, but you often find it hard to sleep because you're all in one bed. I think the real takeaway here is that if you have a child, there's just no possible way you're going to get any sleep unless you hire a night nanny for the next 25 years or so.
The good (and sometimes bad) thing about bed sharing, though, is that both partners are going to be on similar pages when it comes to getting up with the baby, as opposed to one parent falling into the role of de facto wake-up handler when the baby is in another room (let's be honest: probably the mom in a cis-hetero relationship). You'll quickly realize how much sleep you both need, as a pair, in order to function in the world as a couple. I can't think of too many other situations that would reveal this knowledge.
The True Meaning Of "Equitable Division Of Assets"
Usually people hear this term in the context of divorce, which is where you will be headed if your partner insists on hogging half of the goddamn bed all to themselves.
Seriously people, when bed real estate is at such a premium you find ways to negotiate the terrain so that everything is as fair as possible. Yes, things shift in the night, hour to hour, but starting with equal amounts of space and regular readjustments are necessary.
Just How Creative You Can Get WhenFinding Alternate Sex Locations
Because sometimes the bed is out. In fact, the bed is usually out with some bed sharing families. This can be tricky at first, since most couples, by the time they're married, have pretty much settled on the fact that sex happens on the bed around 90 percent of the time. Figuring out shielded, comfortable, convenient places to bang is something you probably haven't had to dedicate much time to in order to have a fulfilling sex life. Until now.
Don't despair, though. You'd be surprised at how quickly you adjust and, sometimes, it can create a new and exciting spark (it can create new and annoying back problems, too, but that's why the good Lord made heating pads).
How Much You Like (Or Don't Care About) Snuggling
When you're bed sharing, you'll be doing a lot of baby snuggling and a fair amount of family snuggling, but you won't really get to do much snuggling with just your partner. You might find that's not such a big deal for you, or you might feel that you really really miss it. You won't really know how you'll feel until the option has been more or less taken from you.
I don't know how else to describe what goes on when a baby throws up in the family bed and two people manage to clean and soothe the child, strip the bed, start the washing machine, change their own clothes, make the bed again, and settle back down to sleep. That level of communication, coordination, and pulling your weight can only happen in a bed sharing scenario.
Your Ability To Communicate Without Words
Because you will be damned if your pillow talk wakes the child that just got to sleep. Expressive eyebrows, lipreading, and specific hand gestures are an absolute must when bed sharing. You almost certainly wouldn't have had to develop these skills without having a small child lying between the two of you, but here we are.
Morning Snuggle Zen
There is nothing quite like waking up (ideally late) on a weekend morning with your sweetheart and luxuriating in a warm, comfy cuddle session. Then again, there's nothing like doing the same with your child with you, either. The family bed is awesome for moments like this. It's a totally different, but ultimately familiar vibe from the days before kids, and it's so restorative and relaxing.
How Often You Have To Change Your Sheets
Sure, you can push it when it's just the two of you because your various secretions and crud aren't really visible. (Goodness knows I always did. I'm lazy about laundering my clothes, so do you really think I'm going to religiously tend to my bedclothes with the frequency I'm supposed to?)
However, add a kid's sleep crud into the mix (drool, spit up, maybe even pee from a leaky diaper, and general body funk) and things get unbearably messy to the point that you will actually wind up washing the sheets as much as experts say you should.
Who's The Bad Guy And Who's The Sucker
All good things come to an end, including bed sharing. Of course, by the time bed sharing ends it's usually not considered a "good thing" anymore, which is why one of you will ultimately make the call to kick your kid out. This is the "bad guy." (They're not, they just know and practice appropriate boundaries.) The other will know they're right, but will feel really bad about it and try to finagle some more time. That person, dear reader, is the sucker.
For the curious, I am totally the sucker. My children know this and will come into our room pretty much every morning "for a cuddle." That "cuddle," however, is just for me. They stay clear of my husband because they know he'll stick to his guns. So, I guess in our case we didn't really mutually quit bed sharing: one of us quit and one of us just reduced our hours.