If you would have told me, four years ago, that I would be sharing my bed with a tiny man who kicks me in the face, I would have told you you've got the wrong girl. However, here I am: bed-sharing with my toddler because that's what we've done since the day he was born. While it definitely doesn't work for everyone, bed-sharing certainly worked for my family. It also helped me grow as a mother. In two years I've realized there are more than a few bed-sharing habits that make you an amazing mom, and actually prepare you for the endless road of trials and tribulations (both the hilarious and the frustrating) that only motherhood can provide.
Prior to bringing my son into the world, I didn't even consider bed-sharing. As a matter of fact, my partner and I purchased the most ridiculously expensive crib we could find, all in an effort to provide our son with the safest, most comfortable sleeping space once he arrived. Little did I know, the safest, most comfortable space for him would be right next to me. After he was born he had issues regulating his breathing and body temperature, so my team of doctor's and nurses suggested we sleep skin-to-skin the first night of his life. My body helped his body stabilize, and we never looked bad. Now he's a 2-year-old toddler and we're trying to convince him that his Cars toddler bed is really where he wants to sleep. So far? Yeah, he's not buying it.
Not only did bed-sharing give me peace of mind, made breastfeeding substantially easier, allowed my entire family to get more (very necessary sleep) and helped my son's body find neutral, it also showed me what I was willing to do in the name of motherhood. It taught me to find and fight for my personal boundaries, compromise with both my son and my partner, and prioritize my own self-care. So, if you're contemplating bed-sharing or currently in the throes of baby punches and toddler kicks, know there are more than a few habits you can adopt as your own, that prove you're one kick-ass mom.
You Still Find A Way To Gain Some Bodily Autonomy
While I loved (almost) everything about bed-sharing, the continued loss of true bodily autonomy was a touch metaphorical pill to swallow. Between constantly breastfeeding and having a little one skin-to-skin every night, I was pretty touched out on a few months postpartum.
Still, I found ways to get my "alone" time. I demanded I have the ability to take long, hot showers. I took a few hours to myself every once in a while and sat down for a manicure and pedicure. I pumped, and let my partner feed the baby so I could just sit; completely untouched. There are ways to find bodily autonomy, even when you're bed-sharing, and those ways are worth exploring.
You Don't Listen To Bed-Sharing Horror Stories...
The moment I shared that I was bed-sharing (I think I made some post on Facebook, not even thinking twice about it) I was inundated with horror stories from someone's sister's cousin's best friend's aunt. It was horrible, and honestly the last thing I needed to hear as a brand new, bed-sharing mama.
The truth is, co-sleeping and bed-sharing are extremely safe when done properly. As long as you prepare your bed, don't drink or do drugs, and make a few minor adjustments, you and your baby will be safe, sound, and probably fast asleep for the majority of the night.
...And You Don't Spend Too Much Time Defending Your Decision To Bed-Share
I have a reason for bed-sharing with my baby (and now my toddler). However, I don't really think it's worth regurgitating over and over again, and certainly not worth talking about every time someone tells me I'm "putting my kid in danger."
However, if people must know, I simply tell them that bed-sharing was actually recommended to be by a highly-trained team of doctors and nurses, directly after my son was born. He had trouble breathing and regulating his body temperature, so sleeping with him by my side and our skin touching allowed my body to assist in stabilizing his. Once we started, we didn't stop, and it's honestly that simple.
You Handle Bedtime Accidents Like A Boss
You can certainly call it laziness (because, sometimes, it was) or simply say it's inevitable. Either way, a few pee puddles on the family bed is bound to happen. I wasn't always the best with changing my son's pee-filled diaper every time I woke up to feed him (because, you know, I was exhausted) which usually meant he would pee through the diaper and on me.
Whatever, sh*t happens. My partner and I never once freaked out, said it was gross, or lamented about the amount of laundry we did. We simply chalked it up to one of the downsides to bed-sharing, that was vastly outnumbered by all the positives. We were sleeping more, so if a little pee means I get another few hours of rest, well, bring on the pee.
You Keep Diapers And Wipes At The Ready
Like I said, I'm not ashamed to admit that from time to time I was "lazy." I didn't want to get up and find the diapers and the wipes that would be in the other room. I mean, that's one of the pros of bed-sharing: your baby is right there so you don't have to move to feed them or tend to them in any way.
So, to make things even easier, I basically slept next to a pile of diapers and warm wipes for an entire year. Motherhood is so glamorous, right?
You Get Creative When It Comes To Sex (If You Want It)...
Just because you bed-share doesn't mean your sex life goes out the proverbial window. I mean, I don't know about you but I'm well aware there are more than a few places one can get busy. So, if sex is something you're interested in postpartum, take the time to find alternative spots in your home to get yours.
#ProTip: the kitchen. Oh, and also the laundry room (if you have one). Oh, and the living room is always a win, just make sure (if you have windows) the curtains are closed (unless your exhibitionist, in which case, have fun).
...And Find Other Ways To Connect With Your Partner
My partner and I have been bed-sharing with our son for over two years now. That means, for two years, we've had a little person in-between us (or some other, very safe variation). There's no more cuddling. No more sex in our bed (sometimes, although that's changed as we're working to transition our toddler to his own room). No more late night and early morning sessions of just laying next to one another and talking.
So, we have found alternative ways to connect throughout the day, that don't involve the family bed. Sure, sometimes it takes a while
You Take Turns Co-Sleeping (If You Want To)
Bed-sharing became such a quintessential part of our parenting lives, that we really weren't willing to give it up for much of anything else. That meant, when our baby grew and the family bed got a little crowded, my partner and I would switch off sleeping in bed or sleeping on the couch. This, of course, was made much easier when my son was no longer breastfed, but still: my partner would take the couch one night and on the next night, we would switch.
Really, we just wanted our son to sleep and we wanted the extra room. It wasn't a difficult decision and we didn't (and still don't) see it as a burden to our relationship. We know our priorities within and without of our partnership as both lovers and parents, and sleep is high on both those lists.
You Remind Yourself That, Before You Know It, You Won't Be Able To Co-Sleep Again
While bed-sharing was definitely the right decision for my family — and not only aided my son physically, but saved us from an endless line of sleepless nights — it wasn't always pleasant. I mean, who enjoys getting kicked in the face by a tiny toddler foot, or having a baby projective vomit all over you int eh middle of the night?
Still, it's worth reminding yourself that while it's sometimes a total pain in the ass, it'll be over before you know it. Now, I'm not telling you to love every single part of it, including the sh*tty parts, because you don't have to enjoy every aspect of something to fully appreciate it. What I am saying, however, is that a time will come when you'll look back at bed-sharing and miss it. I certainly am.