There are a lot of decisions you need to make when you have a baby. What are you going to name them? What are you going to feed them? Who is going to be a part of the community that cares for them? And, of course, where are they going to sleep? For hundreds of years that answer "in the family bed." In twentieth century America, however, the answer has more commonly been "in their crib." But lately, bed-sharing has popped back into the conversation... and here are some things that moms need to stop saying about moms who bed-share.
Look, bed-sharing is not for everyone, and that's completely understandable. I'm well aware that the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) officially advises for room sharing but against bed-sharing because of safety concerns and and increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) associated with bed-sharing. But many other cultures practice bed-sharing —as the Los Angeles Times reported, Japanese parents routinely share their beds with their babies. And, even the APA has acknowledged that not everyone will follow their room-sharing guidelinesand released information intended to mitigate the risk of SIDS and support families.
Though the AAP strongly advises against it, there are lots of reasons I chose to bed-share with my children until they were 10 and 15 months respectively. And my stopping should not be taken as some tacit admission that I "saw the error of my ways." It was right for me... and then it wasn't anymore. Just as bed-sharing felt natural and instinctive to me, so did my progression away from it.
We're all doing the best we can, folks. The world is not kind to mothers: the least we can do is be kind to each other by avoiding the following accusations against those of us who choose or chose to bed-share.
Choosing something else doesn't make one "lazy." Especially since, in a lot of instances, bed-sharing isn't any "easier" than sleep training or putting the baby to bed in their own space. It's just difficult in different ways.
And also: so what if it is easier? Why does there have to be a value judgment in someone choosing an option that's easier for them? Like, if I baked a cake from a box instead of from scratch--it was easier, sure, but that doesn't make me lazy. I still baked a cake.
Look, can bed-sharing be dangerous? Yes, but there are absolutely ways to mitigate said danger. Kind of like how driving in a car can be dangerous (and is way more likely to be dangerous than sharing a sleeping space with your child). But, just as there are seat belts and car seats, there are lots of resources out there to help parents bed-share MORE safely. (As NPR noted, the AAP's most recent sleep practices advise mothers who choose to bed-share — or who fall asleep by accident while nursing — to ensure their own beds have a firm mattress and a tight fitted sheet, and to make sure that there aren't any pillows, blankets, or other hazardous items in their area where their babies are sleeping.)
"Bed-sharing isn't about the baby's needs," I've heard some people say. "It's about the parents' needs."
And by "some people" I mean "this is something crappy and judgmental I said about bed-sharing parents before I had children of my own."
A parent might derive contentment or happiness or emotional fulfillment from bed-sharing. That doesn't mean it's "all about" them or their needs. Slow your roll, past me.
Again, this isn't all about the parents and what they want or need, even if it is something they enjoy.
They're Spoiling Their Children
Just because we don't have this particular boundary or limitation doesn't mean we don't have boundaries or limitations. Just different ones than you.
Also I saw the picture of the presents under your Christmas tree this year, Stephanie, so calm down and meditate on glass houses and stones.
I'd fight you on this but... meh.
But no, seriously, it's very often a conscious choice to bed-share, not just the path of least resistance. And, again, if it is chosen because it's the path of least resistance who the hell even cares?! Parenting is hard, maybe this is just something you're not going to fight tooth and nail on. Jeez.
I mean... I am, but not all bed-sharing moms are. Besides, you say that like it's a bad thing...
They Don't Know What They're Doing
It's not like we don't know what cribs are or how they work: we're choosing not to use them. And even if we didn't know exactly how to go about transitioning them into said sleep apparatus, we all have these magical little devices we keep in our pockets that we can connect to all the information in the world and figure it out. So it's not like we're hapless schlubs who just can't figure out what else to do.
They're Being Unfair To Their Partners
Right. Because our partners couldn't possibly be involved in this family decision.
They're Trying To Be Martyrs
Sometimes, maybe regularly, we'll complain about bed-sharing. This doesn't mean we regret our choice or we want you to praise us for persevering in spite of hardships. We complain because we're humans and even good decisions aren't perfect, especially when you wake up to a baby fart in your face. We're venting. We're allowed to do that. Just like, if you vent, I won't say something obnoxious like, "Some people can't even have children: you should count your blessings."
Like, yes, perspective is important and you should know your audience, but whining to a friend is a god-given right of all moms.
They're Judging Non-Bed-Sharing Moms
My. Choice. Is. Not. An. Indictment. Of. Yours.
"Here's What They Need To Do..."
Nope. Stop. If we wanted your advice on how to stop bed-sharing we would ask for it. We have not asked, so just stop. Please.
They're Ruining Their Kids
*deep breath* OK. For the sake of argument, let's say you're right and bed-sharing is not the best sleeping decision. Are we really going to say that anything less than "the best" is ruining our children? Because here's the thing about playing that game: by that measure, we're all ruining our kids
According to some studies, the best country in which to raise a child is Denmark: are we all ruining our children by not whisking them off to Scandinavia? Are we going to ruin our kids because this one time they got three hours of screen time instead of one? There are so many things all of us are going to do less than perfectly and, nevertheless, our kids are going to be fine. They're resilient little creatures. (I mean, I survived the '80s, you guys...)
Getting sleep with a child in the house is hard, people. Not judging how we manage whatever sleep we can doesn't have to be.