Bedsharing – a topic I never in a million years imagined I would discuss so much, because I never, even for a second, thought I would bedshare. Contact Nap? Yes…I fully imagined my baby napping on me during the day. Toddler napping on me? Again, probably didn’t imagine that. But, by the second night of C’s life, every fibre in my gut was saying C and I were meant to be connected. After all, I was her food source, we both had gone through such a transformation together, and…she was used to being inside of me. Have you heard of the Mother-Baby Dyad? I felt that, instinctively.
Before I had Collins, I knew many people who bedshared (either full-time, or on and off) within my family and friend groups, and I had all the questions (and concerns) that you’ll probably read below. But, I believe now, that I was truly misinformed before. After all, bedsharing is the norm in many parts of the world, either by necessity, or by nature! It is for certain that when we were hunters and gatherers, we weren’t putting our babies in another cave to sleep alone. So, I did what I like to do…I researched, I read, I listened, I asked questions, and most importantly, I listened to my instincts, and, I started bedsharing! After saying all of that, I am not pushing bedsharing on anyone, I am not saying you should do it, and, I am not an expert. I will answer all these questions as I have experienced them, and please, if you decide to bedshare, do your own research, learn, and make safe choices. I follow the La Leche League Safe Sleep 7 Guidelines that you’ll see below! I also highly recommend their book, Sweet Sleep, if you want to learn more.
*Take note, that nursing mothers also instinctively sleep in a position curled around their baby, and breastfed babies instinctively sleep near their mother’s breast.*
Did you always know you would bedshare?
As mentioned above, I never did. I heard many devastating stories and knew that I would never put my child in danger. Little did I know that if I followed the safe sleep 7 (above), my baby being with me was the safest place she could be!! Also, once I had C, I knew I would never sleep train her – I have always followed her cues on when she has needed to sleep, and I know she knows how to sleep. Bedsharing has turned out to be the best way for all of us to get the most sleep happily, and we love it!
Does she sleep directly in the bed or in a DockATot? Do you use pillows/blankets?
Even though I said I wouldn’t give advice in this post, I do need to express that using the DockATot in a bed is not safe. If you read the DockATot guidelines, they themselves say this. The DockATot and anything like it should not be used for sleep of any kind, but should especially not be used inside a crib, playpen, or on a bed.
So, yes, C sleeps directly on the bed with me. I sleep in the “C-shape” around her. I make sure there are no blankets or pillows near her. In order to do this, I wear full long-sleeved pajamas to keep myself warm, and then use blankets tucked in around just my lower legs. I use a pillow above me, because C’s head is at my chest-level, so she is safely away from the pillow. The picture below is a great example (note that I personally keep my blankets even lower, so they don’t reach C)! All C needs on is a light pajama layer, because my body heat also keeps her warm!
Does your husband bedshare with you? What size bed do you have? Did you put a toddler railing on the bed?
Yes, when he’s in town, it’s all three of us. I truly don’t feel like it impacts him too much, since it’s C and me “attached,” so to speak, in the bed, and he is on the other side of us. We have a king-sized bed, so it offers us plenty of space. We also have a firm mattress [it would be the same firmness as a crib mattress (or more)]. Our bed also isn’t too high off the ground and I taught C very early on how to safely get down from the bed, by flipping onto her belly and then going feet first to the ground (even though I am always there to help her). We never added a toddler railing on the bed, so I can’t speak to that one. Going back to the most sleep for everyone, again, bedsharing has offered our family the most sleep for everyone – I haven’t said the words, “I’m so tired” since C was two days old, and I credit that all to bedsharing!!
How can you be intimate while bedsharing?
I feel like this is often the biggest question and concern for those who want to be a bedsharing family. What I will say, is that every bedsharing family I know has a different answer to this question, but the main thing to realize is that being intimate is not limited to one room of the house or one specific time (bedtime), so get creative! Creativity is fun!!
How have you handled any judgement from others about bedsharing?
I will be honest – initially there were very few people I told – only family or friends who I knew also bedshared. Once I started telling people, I could see, hear, and feel, people’s concern or judgement, or….the list of questions, like many in this post.
I handle it in three ways:
1. Knowing that their concern is likely coming from a place of love, and misinformation (the same misinformation I had been given back in the day).
2. Sharing my knowledge with them.
3. Being so confident in the decision that works for my family, and realizing it does not impact anyone else!
Do you own a crib?
We do. Maybe we shouldn’t have bought a crib until we knew if we were going to use it!! Okay, but in truth, I’m still glad we got a crib. It was used for some naps (will get to more about naps later). We will use the mattress as a floor bed in our room at some point. And, I’m glad we built it before baby came. Plus, we will hopefully use it partially for future kids as well!
Once you put C to bed, do you have to go to bed too? Is there always an adult present when she’s sleeping? What do you do once she goes to bed?
Okay, there are so many layers to this answer!! First off, yes, there is always an adult present when she is sleeping! I’m going to talk about night sleep in this response, and save naps for later in this post. I also realize those reading this may think this is easier, or more possible, because I only have one kid, but I can tell you that I know many bedsharing families who have many children and make this work. How bedsharing works looks different for everyone!
When C was 0-4 months, her bedtime was between 9-10pm, so it was truly no problem to go to bed with her. I’d wash up, put her to sleep, and read in bed for a while. When she turned 4 months, she decided on her own that she liked a 7pm bedtime, so that made the situation a little trickier. Once she dropped to two naps a day, she started following a 2-3-4 schedule (awake for 2 hours, nap, awake for 3 hours, nap, awake for 4 hours, bedtime…sometimes making her bedtime later than 7pm!) but, this is what we do…
- If I’m teaching (because I often teach until 9:30pm), and my husband is home, my husband will take her to bed, and I’ll take over once I’m done work.
- If I’m teaching, and my husband is out of town, C will come to work with me, and she will start her sleep in her carrier on me while I finish work, and then we will transfer to bed after I’m done (I will stay up in bed reading or working afterwards).
- If I’m not teaching, I will take her up to bed at 7pm(ish), put her to sleep, and stay up working on my computer/phone, reading, or my husband will come join me with the iPad and we will watch a documentary together. C goes to sleep with the lights on, so doing all of these things while she sleeps works for us!
When C was younger, I did have her in a basinette for the start of the night, and when she had to be transferred out of that, I had a Pack-N-Play in our room. Sometimes I would get her to sleep, and put her in the Pack-N-Play, and then be able to leave the room for a bit to go do more laundry or dishes or what not, but now that she’s directly in the bed right from the get-go, I make sure I am always in the room! C is a very light sleeper in terms of transferring, but some kids transfer from one location to another with no problem!
Another thing I will say, is that when we started bedsharing, I naturally did something that I didn’t realize was “a thing,” until I read Sweet Sleep – we “front load” our days. That means, as soon as we are up in the morning, we are prepping dinner, doing laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, and doing all those things that make the day run efficiently (and for there to be less to do at night, and after work).
How would it work if you eventually left C with your mom or a babysitter at bedtime?
When C was younger, my mom did babysit her during the day sometimes while I worked, so my mom would have C for her naps. My mom would support her to sleep and hold her, or she would take her for a walk and C would sleep in the stroller. My husband is able to get C to sleep at night, so I believe each child has a different response, and a different way that they fall asleep with each caregiver. But, if I ever did leave C at night, I would make sure I had someone who would support her needs to sleep. By the time that she does have anyone watching her at night, we will likely have her on a floor bed!
When do you expect C will transition to her own bed/own room? What are your long-term bedsharing goals?
So, I don’t have a great answer to this! Like I said, I have always listened to C’s cues and let her pave the way for when she has been ready for various transitions. When she showed me she wanted an earlier bedtime, we made that switch; when she showed me it was time to drop one of her naps, we made that switch. So, I’m planning on listening to her fo this one too. That being said, I may gently nudge her to start the night on her floor bed come summertime…stay tuned! Long-term, if my future babies are up for it, I think bedsharing (at least partially) for the first year of life when there is significant breastfeeding in the middle of the night will always be my preference. For all kids, I don’t see there being a strict “your bed/my bed” policy, and allowing flexibility for when kids are going through transitions or need more support. I know the amount of dependence C has on me now will change as she grows, and I will let that flow naturally.
What do naps look like?
Naps…once again, a lengthy answer. If you want to see what a day in our life looks like, including naps, you can read this post. Let me try and quickly go through the transitions for you.
When C was a newborn and she was napping all the time, my husband and I happily loved up on the cuddles all day long. She would have about 5 naps a day, so this is usually what a nap day would look like: 1 in my arms, 1 in my husband’s arms, 1 in a carrier, 1 in a stroller, 1 lying next to the piano or laundry room or kitchen or where ever I was getting other things done!
By the time that decreased to 3 naps a day, I was usually putting C down for her first nap of the day in a Pack-N-Play or crib…but never, ever, were these naps as good as her naps anywhere else, so usually she’d nap in there for 30-45 minutes, enough time for me to possibly shower, get ready, prep some food, and then I’d support her back to sleep and hold her for the rest of her nap. Eventually she said, “no, thank you!” to any sort of nap in the crib, so, this is what we do now….
For her two naps of the day, if we are home, I put her in her carrier, and she naps for up to 1.5 hours each nap. I use that time while I cuddle her in her carrier, to be handsfree and I get all my computer work done! If we are on-the-go, no stress, she can take a quick nap in the car, and we just roll with it! Eventually, this may need to change, so I may nudge C to take a nap on her floor bed. Up until now, this routine has given C the best naps possible, while allowing me to get all of my work done stress-free!
Here are my tips for contact naps:
1. Take a bathroom break before you sit.
2. Prep snacks, water, phone/computer, chargers, earphones, books, and whatever else you need, so it’s all at an arm’s reach.
3. Stretch your body daily!!
*If you have other kids you’re chasing after, you may be able to do contact naps in the carrier moving around just fine…I did that will Collins for a huge chunk of time!*
What will you do with your future children?
It’s funny, because I find people often say things like, “You won’t be able to do that with future children.” or “How do you plan on keeping that up with other kids?” and I’m often confused by this, because I think the way we do it will make even more sense the more kids we have. It will be much easier to allow my future babies to sleep on me in a carrier or on-the-go, while I’m chasing around other kids. And any method where the whole family can get good sleeps seems like a pretty good system to me!! However, stay tuned…maybe I’ll be doing bedsharing Q&A part 2 when other kiddos come along!
There it is! How we bedshare. How we contact nap. These answers are really only a recipe for bedsharing…one way to do it. I know many bedsharing families who do it all sorts of ways. I know many people who contact nap and also take a nap with all of their kids in one big bed. I know many families who keep all their kids in bed with them until they are 3, or 4, or 5-years-old. There’s no one right way, there’s just a way that works for you!