Let’s be really honest about this—Most moms have had their baby sleep in bed with them at some point. Yeah, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says babies should be in a separate, but proximate surface, like a crib, to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). And, yeah, bed-sharing can be dangerous, especially if measures aren’t taken to make it safer. But, the bassinet just doesn’t work out for everyone. Or a mom finds she gets an extra hour of sleep in the morning if she brings her baby to bed after that 5AM wake-up. Some moms swear they’ll never have their baby in bed with them, until the baby’s up all night for the third night in-a-row on a family trip, because he doesn’t sleep well in the pack n play. And, some families just believe the Dr. Sears’ family bed is best. Whether you’re the mom who swears you’ll never have your baby in bed with you, or you’re planning on a family bed from the start, there may be some things you can learn from five mamas, who bed-share full-time. Here are their tips along with some safety tips from the American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine on bed-sharing:
- Take steps to avoid anything soft or fluffy near your baby’s mouth: Bed-sharing pros encourage moms to place their baby on her back and to use a firm mattress. Remove pillows, stuffed toys, blankets and fluffy comforters. “We short-sheeted our bed so our covers only came up to our waists.” Bella explains of her family’s strategy for keeping their daughter safe from fluffy bedding, “Our baby slept with her head in line with my breast, for easy breastfeeding but also to keep her away from my pillow. I also only used one pillow and made sure my head was only on one corner of it and the rest was behind my head not near the baby.”
- Prevent anyone rolling onto the baby or knocking sheets over baby’s face: It’s a good idea to avoid sharing a bed with your baby if you have consumed more than two alcoholic beverages, taken medicine that makes you extra-tired, have had any drugs, or if you’re over-tired. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid bed-sharing with other children or pets in the bed. Denise also offers that “It’s totally normal to kick your husband to the couch occasionally if it’s just too much.”+
- Side-nursing is glorious: For some, it takes a little figuring out though. “Side-nursing takes practice, especially with large boobies! I couldn’t figure it out till a few months in,” explains Nancy, “I had to rest baby’s head more on my forearm rather than my elbow and lean back a little to get the right angle.”
- Dress for success: “Keeping your top half warm is a negotiation,” Ilana shares. She wears button front PJs, and just leaves a few undone at night. Some moms also wear a nursing tank underneath a button-down top. Natalie took bed-sharing attire to the next level—she cut holes in her shirts. When her baby, Tara, wiggles at night for food, she just leans towards Tara and she can just latch on. Natalie likes that she stays warm and doesn’t even have to move her shirt.
- Study up on safety tips: “I was told that if I was going to co-sleep I had to read James McKenna’s book, “Sleeping with your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping“, and follow safe practices as outlined in the book.
- Beware baby falling (or crawling) off the bed: “Talia crawled off the foot of the bed once. She was fine and didn’t even cry,” shares Natalie, “But, if you’re really committed to co-sleeping, and you’re scared about your baby falling on the floor, you can just put the mattress directly on the floor.” The other moms echoed that putting the mattress on the floor was a life-saver. Moms also found it helped to teach their babies how to climb off of their beds feet-first.
- Get comfortable: Ilana shared that she got a lot more rest but that it took some tweaking to get comfortable. “I have really broad shoulders, so I needed extra support under my neck to keep my head from rolling uncomfortably. Definitely a long pillow (or a partner!) supporting your back helps,” Ilana explained. “I found that sleeping on a Luna Lullaby nursing pillow was ideal! I recently found a high end “side sleeping” pillow that was just like a smaller Luna— it was almost $300!!!! I felt pretty smart about sleeping on the nursing pillow after that, lol!”
- Consider a few other safety tips: Second-hand smoke increases the risk of SIDS, so it’s a good idea for you and your spouse or partner to avoid smoking if you’re bed-sharing. Try to avoid sleeping with your baby on a couch or in a recliner, as these are considered especially high risk for SIDS. Also, try to eliminate any gaps between the bed and bedframe or bed and wall. If your husband or partner is a deep sleeper, some moms suggest keeping their baby between mom and a crib or bed-rail attached to the side of their bed.
Whatever you think of co-sleeping, I hope these mamas have had some tips that can help you and your family to stay comfortable and well-rested. Thanks to these mamas for sharing their tips and experiences. If you want to receive Mama Lovejoy articles automatically through your Facebook feed you can, by liking the Mama Lovejoy Facebook page.