Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bedsharing Past Infancy

Cosleeping and Bedsharing can be two very different animals.  Cosleeping doesn't have to be bedsharing but bedsharing is always cosleeping.

The best place for a baby to sleep is either in the same bed (bedsharing) or same room (cosleeping) as the mother.  Having spent 9-10 months inside their mother, near their warmth, breathing, and heartbeat, it can be a very rough transition to be away from that.  Listening and feeling the mother's breathing and heartbeat regulates the baby's heartbeat and breathing, lowers the risk of SIDS, helps establish a better breastfeeding on demand relationship, and can help both of you sleep better at night.

I started bedsharing with my daughter when she was 2 weeks old.  We really tried to have her in the crib because that is what "normal" parents did, and eventually I couldn't take the lack of sleep and the crying any longer.  I pulled her into bed with my husband and me and never looked back.

My daughter turns four next month and we still bedshare most of the time.  Last summer, when I was was pregnant with our son, she had just started sleeping in her own room, which was her own choice, and when I started having issues with my pregnancy, she came back with us.  When we lost the baby, I kept putting off getting her back to her own bed.  None of us were interested in her leaving.  She was a huge comfort when we needed her most.

Now that she is almost four, she wants to be her in own bed again, but doesn't want to leave our room.  So, we have a compromise.  Her mattress is on the floor right next to our bed, and she has free reign on which bed she wants to sleep in at night.  Some nights she will sleep in her bed all night, others she comes into our bed in the middle of the night, and nights which are fewer and fewer she sleeps all night with us all night.

Many would tell me that she is dependent on us to sleep, and it makes me laugh.  The truth is, it is the opposite!  Because of our losses and things that we have been through, I feel like I need her close more than she needs me close.  Loss changes a person, whether it's a baby, your sister, mother, father, cousin.  It changes it your perspective on life, and since our losses, my mind goes to places that make me uncomfortable.  I worry all the time about losing my daughter.  Having her in the same room with me, even if it isn't the same bed all the time, comforts me.  I think she knows that and hasn't chosen to go back to her own room because of it.

Many families have different reasons for bedsharing or cosleeping past infancy, one of the more popular ones in the natural community is that they are still nursing.  Just because your child is older than a year or two or three doesn't mean they have to be in their own bed in their own room, and that's okay.

The benefits of cosleeping and bedsharing don't end at a certain time.  It is the same as nursing.  Your child doesn't magically become "too old" to stay in your room or your bed.  Every family feels that age differently.  Some stop wanting to sleep with their children when they start to flail around at night as inevitably all toddlers do, others like their children to be out of their bed by the time they eat solid foods.  Still more don't like to have their children with them at all.

Cosleeping and bedsharing both have amazing benefits, but again, it's a choice for your family.  If your family chooses either of those, it is good to know that you can choose when to stop.  My daughter is so independent and strong, and personally I feel that knowing I am still just an arm's reach away helps that.  I think that growing up with that comfort helped her to feel more confident in herself.  She isn't going to always need me just because she is still in our bed sometimes.  She isn't going to be terrified to go to her own room when she is ready.  She won't be in our bed forever like some believe.

You can keep your child in your room and your bed even if you aren't nursing any longer.  You can keep them in your room when they talk and walk and are their own person.

There isn't an age where it is unacceptable.  This is your family.  Make the choices you need to make to raise happy, healthy, independent children.  For us, that is keeping her in our room just for peace of mind, though I know that those days are slowly coming to a close.


Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

I agree with you that it is up to your family. I have a great Aunt whose adopted daughter bed shared exclusively with them from the age of 6 months to five years (and then never really bedshared again) and an Aunt whose ten year old co-slept in a pack in play, and then when he was older until present day comes to sleep with his parents at least part of the night. It's all about what the family needs! Right on, mama!

Adrienne said... [Reply to comment]

Great post!! I agree with you that sometimes it's me who needs the cosleeping more than my baby! When I think about moving him out of our bed I get emotional and wonder how I'll be able to sleep without him snuggled up to me. Unfortunately, we only have a full-sized bed, so as he grows, we're going to have to get creative with our sleeping surfaces if we still want to cosleep! :)

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Exactly Shawna!

And Adrienne, if it helps, we only have a full size bed :) We have her twin mattress on the floor next to us, but when she sleeps with us, it does get a bit crowded, but we enjoy being cuddled up close when we can. But it does add a bit of intrigue to the "bedsharing with toddlers" perspective. They can be fiesty haha.

Tara said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for this! Beautiful! As you know, our second is coming anytime (2-4 weekish) and we just ordered a king size bed to fit all of us. My son is a tall 2 year old and he does occasionally have growth spurts or soccer dreams, so we could definitely use the extra space. But we love it - and we live in Brooklyn, where real estate can be a bit more - so we chose to have a yard instead of an extra bedroom, which was really the right choice for us. And of course, just yesterday my mother started in on the "Maybe this month you work on the transition to his own bed." We did talk of getting him a trundle but didn't and I want him to feel included in new baby bonding. Thankfully, mom quit - otherwise I would have been in the, "Do I need to tell you to mind your own business or do you want to stop freely?" zone. I don't worry about him never wanting to leave - when it happens it will be right for us.

Camilleta said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks, this was a good time for me to read a post like this. =) People always make me feel like a lazy, bad mother for having my daughter sleep with me because I'd just rather not have to get up and go to her in the night. But why do I need to add an extra battle just because of what other people think? Besides, I love having my daughter close, watching her fall asleep smiling, and stroking my arm. But sometimes I just really need to know there are others that co-sleep and bed-share and aren't ashamed!

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