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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Novice Mom: Bed-sharing

It's hard to believe that my child is 4 months old. Just 5 months ago I was pregnant; scratch that, extremely pregnant and miserable! That 38-week pregnancy seemed like it lasted forever. The last few weeks seemed like a year, especially with the swollen feet, terrible skin, aches & pains and the anticipation rising. Thankfully, I made it through with a smooth labor & delivery. Now I have a beautiful baby girl. I mean, she is just gorgeous. Jaw dropping. Stunning. But I digress ... anyway, the pregnancy trudged on slowly but it seems like her life is zooming by.

Now here we are at 4 months (5 is just a blink away) and I have learned so much! By no means am I an expert, but I have accumulated info that will help me with my next child and maybe someone reading this who is on their first. I did not learn everything I know now alone. There were many times I found myself reaching out to other moms on Facebook and desperately asking family members for help. No shame in my game! It really does take a village to get you through those first months.

But I wouldn't be helping anyone if I just held on the all the jewels I've learned from friends, relatives, Google and of course, trial and error. So I'd like to welcome you to my new blog segment: The Novice Mom. I want to share my experiences, failures, successes and everything in between with you as I embark on the wonderful road of motherhood.

Today let's talk about...

Co-Sleeping & Bed-sharing

Co-Sleeping & bed-sharing are extremely controversial. If you are pregnant you know this very well. At my very first doctor's appointment, they gave me an entire packet about proper sleep practices with your infant and the dangers of bed-sharing. Multiple times during my pregnancy doctors preached to me about not bed-sharing, always mentioning the "baby boogey man", aka SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).  As far as my doctors were concerned, co-sleeping is ok, but sleeping in the crib is best.
Honestly, after talking to them I was terrified and confused. SIDS seemed like a demon that would come and snatch my baby in the middle of the night. This is mainly because they really don't know what causes SIDS.
The more reading I did about SIDS, the more confused I became. Many websites say that babies should be sleeping in a crib or bassinet; bed-sharing is completely out of the question. Yet SIDS is also called CRIB DEATH, because this is where it happens the most. Many websites and your doctor will also tell you that your baby should be sleeping on their back at all times, which makes me wonder "Couldn’t my baby choke on vomit in the middle of the night?"
Then, there is the whole school of thought that the western world has it all wrong! Bed-sharing is the way they did it back in the day, like way back in the day, and there is no problem with doing it now. The whole "put-your-baby-in-a-crib-in-its-own-room" thing started here in the west, but is that the right thing to do? Your baby has been inside you for 9 months but now we expect it to sleep soundly, in a new world, in a room all alone?
All of this information is thrown at you before your baby is even here and you are stuck wondering. "Well, do I need a crib?", "Should I get a bassinet?" "Should I register for this $200 baby monitor?" Will I even use it?!" (I have one, used it once).

Well if you want facts, I recommend you do your own Googles and talk to your doctor, because I am by no means a professional or a pro in the parenting world. Again, this segment is called "The Novice Mom". But, from what I learned the main issue here is overall good prenatal care, the health of your child and eliminating the risk of suffocation.

My Experience

To be completely honest I was bed-sharing in the hospital. I was exhausted after the delivery and on our second night of Baby P waking up every 15 minutes (or at least it felt that way), I put her in the hospital bed with me and snuggled up. It was the best sleep I got the whole time. I was afraid that the nurse would scold me, but she actually didn't.
When we got home, I started her off sleeping in the rock n'play next to my bed. She would sleep in it peacefully but only for a little while. To be honest, during that little while, I barely slept because I kept thinking "Is she still breathing? Did SIDS get her? I can't see her face! Somebody turn on the light!" It felt unnatural to have her even two feet away from me.
From that point on she was in bed with me and we got a night light so I could see her face when I needed to. I never put her in between my husband and I. She was swaddled in her own blanket, not under our comforter, and clear of any pillows that could fall on her. And we both slept like babies! She only woke up to feed and once we got the hang of that, things went even better.

So, what you should do?

Many of the new moms I talk to about the sleeping habits of their baby’s say that they sleep best when in bed with mom. Honestly, I think doctors should talk to mothers about bed-sharing and how to safely do so, if they so choose. Many young and poor mothers don’t have ample funds for fancy cribs or bassinets that will grow with the baby or the space to have them set up. Bed-sharing may be the only option for them so why only tell them that their baby faces death by sleeping in the only place they have to sleep? Now that Baby P is almost 5 months old we do alternate between bed-sharing, co-sleeping and crib sleeping in the nursery. I do plan to have her sleeping in her own crib as soon as we get our night feedings down to 1 or none. So far we have not had any issues with bed-sharing. I feel that it has helped our bond, it has kept me breastfeeding longer and it helps us both get enough sleep at night.

For me, bed-sharing is the way to go for sure if you can do so safely. It all comes down to what works best for you and your baby.

Readings & sources
Please do your own research. Look into co-sleeping vs bed-sharing, the benefits of bed-sharing and safe sleep practices to find the best option for you and your baby. Thank you for reading!

The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
By Stephanie Meade
Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Bed-sharing with baby: the risks and benefits
by Honor Whiteman

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Bed-Sharing and Co-Sleeping: Research Overview
By Helen Ball, BSc, MA, PhD, Professor of Anthropology, Durham University

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