Bed sharing with the baby: A mother’s experience
Created by Amrita Mazumdar Pokkunuri Updated on Jul 17, 2021
Post delivery, just before discharging us from the hospital, our paediatrician took a rather long session, with my husband and me, on baby care - dos and don'ts mostly. Still groggy from the after effects of medication and a first-time surgery, I remember the one point that he hammered on after almost every sentence - "No bed sharing and back-to-sleep". "Room sharing" was fine.
By "bed sharing" what I mean is that my baby and I sleep on the same surface. This is a highly debated topic in the world of paediatrics and therefore affects our world as well
Well, Coming back to my experience...that was it... for my husband and me! Apprehensive as we were as first-time parents, we decided to follow his instructions and for the first five months our baby slept in a crib! (Post that I have basically thrown caution to the wind and my cub and I now happily bed share.)
The first 5 five months I didn't bed share as my baby was too tiny to be fed lying down, forget sleeping next to me! However, now he has grown sufficiently for this arrangement. Also, I noticed a change in his feeding schedule since I began weaning. These days he feeds longer mostly in the late afternoon and around midnight. Both are very languid times for me and therefore it is highly convenient for me to have him lying next to me,and I don’t intent to mess with his cue for one year atleast So this is another reason why bedsharing works for us. Also, he seems to be sleeping longer with a bigger stretch of deep sleep. Again, there's no anxiety like before that he will wake up when I transfer him to his crib, which used to be a nightmare earlier when we weren’t bed-sharing!
The best outcome is that there's much less sleep deprivation for me which helps my energy levels and I wake up next to my smiling alarm clock... my baby... and that is a bliss!
However, there are multiple glitches with this arrangement. Firstly, you can't bed share without the air conditioner running, because of this hot, humid Indian summer. I also cannot change sides easily as he nestles into me most of the time. Mine and his sleep movements create quite a disturbance most nights to either's sleep. A slight movement or noise from him is enough to wake me up. The biggest challenge, however has been, if I need to get up, which is often... I need to have the stealth of a thief or else I end up waking him. But practice has improved my manoeuvrability.
That's been my experience till date. Now for some information: So what are the pros of bed sharing?
1. Breastfeeding mums and babies are better off together during vulnerable sleep periods. When they bed-share, the baby is happier and doesn't have to cry to get the mum's attention, and mum just latches the baby on (if the child needs a feed) and even falls back to sleep.
2. Babies are hardwired with the need to be touched and held. They enjoy the physical closeness day and night; and this kind of connection is essential for warmth, comfort and security of the baby.
3. Separation anxiety in children is lesser and there are fewer bedtime hassles.
4. Parents often get more sleep.
Most paediatricians are strongly against bed-sharing during the first 3 months of life of a new born and those born prematurely and/or with low-birth weight. These categories are at highest risk, mostly because of immature motor skills and muscle strength.
When I decided to bed-share, the guidelines from UNICEF gave me much relief from the anxiety of it being an unsafe practice. Listed below are simple precautions that are easy to follow -
1 Bed-sharing should be avoided in the early months of a baby's life, or if they are pre-term or of a low-birth weight. (A repeat of the above point as it is an important guideline)
2 Infants should be kept away from pillows to avoid the risk of suffocation.
3. # Parents should ensure that the infant will not fall out of the bed or become trapped between the mattress and wall.
4.# Older siblings or other children should not sleep with babies under a year old.
5# No need to swaddle your baby when bed-sharing. S/he may overheat (which is a risk factor for SIDS) and a swaddled baby cannot effectively move covers from the face or use his arms and legs to alert an adult.
6# Other potential hazards: Long hair should be tied up so that it does not become wrapped around baby’s neck. A parent who is a deep sleeper or an extremely obese parent who has a problem feeling exactly how close the baby is should re-consider bed-sharing.
7# Parents should also ensure bedclothes do not cover the infant's face, and infant should not be left alone on the bed.
8# Lastly, parents should not share a bed with their baby if they are a smoker or have taken drugs or consumed alcohol.
Interesting bed-sharing is a very cultural thing also across the globe. Often referred to as co-sleeping, it is an accepted practice in southern Europe, Asia, Africa and Central and South America. In many cultures, co-sleeping is the norm until children are weaned, and some continue long after weaning. Japanese parents (or grandparents) often sleep in proximity with their children until they are teenagers! In fact research seems to show that countries where co-sleeping is practiced, report the least number of infant deaths due to SIDS.
What has been your experience with this practice that's almost a part of India's culture? Share your experiences and views for more discussion in the comments section.
| Jun 27, 2016
Well good topic to share. In my case the baby was in crib till he completes 3 months and of course feeding was the major problem also that sleepless nights. The main reason many mothers choose to bed-share with their infant is to promote prolonged breastfeeding. I do advise sharing of bed after completing three months so that we are comfortable with baby nearby.
| Jun 28, 2016
In my case, I shared bed vth my angel starting from her birth, since hospital, though she was preterm and low birth weight. My gynac adviced, if mother sleeps along with baby, it's very good for both, especially baby. And anyways, earlier where such cribs were available with our mothers?
| Jun 29, 2016
mine case was totally opposite.. my baby never slept at night till 6 mnths... I used to walk or sit full night.. wen I bought crib she didn't like to sleep in it.. so crib was waste fr me.. nw she is sleeping full night but me nd my hubby sleeps in corner nd my baby takes full bed while sleeping... :P... it's my experience.. but Wat ever points u shared nice..
| Jul 08, 2016
Good topic to discuss. My baby is preterm and was tiny. I'm sharing bed with her since beginning but till 1 and half month I did not feeding her by lying down beside as It was not safe for the baby. Now she s 4months old and I feed her by sleeping beside .. Me nd baby are happy with this
| Jul 22, 2016
Bed sharing has worked wonders for me my loo seems to be sleeping longer with a bigger stretch of deep sleep. Anxiety as you said like before that she will wake up have to transfer her in the crib, which seriously used to be a nightmare but now as we are bedsharing she is more than a happy and healthy baby. Thank you for the interesting post.
| Aug 12, 2016
Bed Sharing is always good with baby and mother because they both feel happy and relaxed. As baby feels secured with the touch of mom same as mother also feels relaxed. Not only baby but mother also feels secured. And it increases the bonding between them. Such a lovely article.