When my son came home from the hospital, I'd had his crib set up in the nursery and little bassinet set up next to my bed. In my mind, he'd sleep in the bassinet until he outgrew it and then I would transition him into his crib, because, by then, he'd surely be sleeping through the night. Those were the two options I had envisioned, I had no reasons to consider co-sleeping. Heck, it wasn't even on my radar. But my little bundle of joy (and tears, and poop, and gas, and spit-up) had different plans.
There were the feedings (every two hours like clockwork), and the spit-up (after every burp), and the diaper changes (after every feeding). I would call it a miracle if I actually slept more than 40 hours total in the first two weeks.
Then one night, I was feeding my son in bed and he fell asleep in my arms. I'd left the bassinet in the living room and my husband, who'd just gotten into bed, suggested that I lay him down in our bed — just until he wakes up for his first overnight feeding — and then he'd bring in the bassinet. My eyelids were heavy and I thought, "Sure. OK. He'll be up in less than two hours, anyway." So I closed my eyes, and four hours later I sprung up out of bed worried that something was seriously wrong. It wasn't. He was just still fast asleep.
Of course, I immediately woke him up to double and triple check that he was alright. He was perfect. The next few days we experimented, and realized the only way my son would sleep more than two hours in a row was in bed with us. He woke up happier and seemed well-rested, and frankly, so did we.
Eventually, our bed became the "family bed" where we always did our best sleep safely by keeping him face up and in a warm sleeper rather than covered with a blanket. We have no regrets and look back on that time fondly.
If you are considering co-sleeping, always do your research and talk to your child's pediatrician. And, if you want a personal account from a mama who did it not once, but twice, here are some of the reasons it worked for me.
1. It Helps Everyone Sleep Better
The few times I tried to put my son down to sleep in his nursery, none of us got any sleep. Having him in my room made a world of a difference. He was always at arm's reach. Things only improved when we he started sleeping in our bed. He slept longer, and was far less restless. Dr. Sears' research shows that mothers and babies who sleep together tend be in the same stage of sleep for longer periods, getting more rest and being in sync.
2. It Makes Breastfeeding Easier
Even though I didn't breastfeed for long, I could never have gotten through the time I was nursing if my baby was sleeping in another room. The Australian Breastfeeding Associations says that mothers who bed-share with their baby tend to breastfeed longer than those who do not co-sleep.
3. It Improves Parent-Child Bonding
Studies have shown that co-sleeping with an infant promotes bonding, according to La Leche League International. My husband and I would stare at our son while he slept in our bed and talk about how happy he made us. When he woke up and saw us next to him, he would immediately smile rather than scream the way he would when he would wake up alone. My husband would often hold our sons hand while we slept, something he couldn't have done if our baby had been in another room.
4. It Makes It Easier To Fall Back To Sleep
Being in the same room or same bed with your baby makes tending to their needs much easier. Your baby becomes less stressed and, according to What To Expect, co-sleeping helps babies fall asleep more easily and go back to sleep more quickly when they wake up during the night
5. It Give You Easy Access To Check On Baby
Co-sleeping has the benefit of keeping your baby at arm's reach throughout the night. Gaps in breathing can be common in the first few months of infancy, according to The Natural Child Project, and by being close by, a parent can arouse or assist a baby who might be having difficulty breathing.
6. It Provides A Feeling Of Security
One of my biggest fears when I had my son was that someone was going to kidnap him in the middle of the night. It was only a few years after the local case of Sabring Aisenberg, a 5-month-old baby who was allegedly kidnapped from her crib in the night and I couldn't shake that fear. I worried about getting to him if there was an overnight fire or that a tree would come crashing through his window like in the movie Poltergeist (yes, maybe that was a stretch.) And, even though I lived in a safe community I also worried about burglars, drive-by shootings, and cars crashing into his room which faced the street in front of our house. Sleeping by my child put my mind and worries mostly at ease.
7. It Promotes Sibling Bonding
Our kids transitioned together from the "family bed" to a futon in our room, and then transitioned into a room they shared until they decided to sleep in own rooms around ages six and eight. I firmly believe that these early years helped create the close friendship they have maintained as they've gotten older.