In the first few days after Corwyn was born, he would cry if you put him down. he needed to be held all the time. I remember trying to stay awake in the hospital, holding him, because the nurses would come into the room and enforce the hospital's strict "No Bed-Sharing" policy. When they would come in I would force my eyes open and tell them I'd just finished feeding him, or was about to, or some such lie so that I didn't have to put him in the bassinet and have him cry.
When we got home, we planned that Corwyn would sleep in the Arm's Reach Co-sleeper that we purchased before he was born. (pictured at right) The three-sided bassinet handily scooted up to the side of our bed and I could easily scoop Corwyn out when it was time to feed. We used it, and it was handy, but it was obvious to us that Corwyn preferred to sleep closer to us, and once I figured out the whole breastfeeding while lying down thing, baby pretty much stayed in our bed all the time for the convenience of barely having to wake up to feed him. Once he got semi-mobile he'd find my breast and latch on by himself. I'd wake up with a little mouth sucking me dry. It was beautiful.
Once he started crawling, the co-sleeper wasn't an option, as he could crawl out of it, and it wasn't safe. We tried putting him in it while it was on the lower setting, but he would always wake up an he hated it. So we scrapped that, and he was just sleeping with us.
But I felt guilty. People ask the question all the time "Does he sleep through the night?" (No.) "That must make you really tired, getting up that often" (It doesn't really. I don't really get up, he just gets some milk himself, we have a kiss and a cuddle and we go back to sleep) "Oh, he sleeps in your bed?" (Yes) Then one of two things happen: they don't say anything, which I insecurely interpret as disapproval or they make some comment along the lines of "You must want to break him of that habit".
My doula friends all co-sleep with their babies. They wear their babies in slings like we do, they breastfeed into the toddler years like I plan to. They are unapologetic and confident. But I don't see them that often, and the majority of families that I am surrounded by have babies that sleep in cribs in separate rooms, they carry their babies in car seats and only breastfeed for six or twelve months, if they breastfeed at all. This week, a woman I trust and admire made extremely negative comments about a woman she had observed breastfeeding her three-year-old in public. When I responded that this practice was in line with the World Health Organization's recommendations, she said "yes, that's for the world, breastfeed the starving Africans for that long, but we don't need to do that here." People laughed. I left.
I realized, as I left after that encounter, that my feelings about bed-sharing with my baby were a reflection of the attitudes of disapproval that I get from people that surround me. I actually like bed-sharing with my baby. My husband absolutely loves it. He doesn't like it when Corwyn is sleeping in the co-sleeper. he likes him to be between us, so that he can look at him and touch and him and sleep nose to nose with him. While I have the whole day of cuddles and connections with Corwyn, Chris gets significantly less time with his son, and at night Corwyn reaches for him and pats his shoulder and buries his head in Chris's chest. When Corwyn is sleeping, he will often throw his arms out so that he has a hand on each of us. These small acts of affection are priceless to Chris. Having Corwyn sleep in another bed would mean that he would miss out on these treasured moments of connection. Corwyn wakes up to breastfeed two or three times a night, and it is so, so easy for me to roll over, give him milk and a kiss and then roll back over to sleep. Bed-sharing works for us. It not only works, it is enjoyable.
So, the secret is out: we have a family bed. We love it. It works for us. We will not apologize for our choices. I will no longer gloss over this fact in order to avoid judgement from people who oppose it. I don't judge them for putting their baby to sleep in a crib in a separate room becaus this is what works for them. As families, we have to find what works for us and then do those things with confidence. We have chosen to have a Family Bed and we are choosing to be confident with that decision.
Our cat approves the Family Bed. (NOT a safe co-sleeping arraignment, but so cute I had to take a picture before shooing the cat away!)