Last week I saw lots of posts flying around Facebook about Safer Sleep Week, and specifically the fact the Lullaby Trust have released information about how to co-sleep and bed share safely. As someone who has always felt like bed sharing with my babies has been a dirty little secret, I’m so relieved to see the correct information being provided by a trusted source. The Lullaby Trust is a charity who raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), provides expert advice on safer sleep for babies and offers emotional support for bereaved families. The main thing the Lullaby Trust promote is that baby sleeps on their own, in a cot, on their back with a clear space (so no teddies, loose bedding, sleep positioners or cot bumpers). However, they are recognising that more families are choosing to bed share, and so they have released advice on how to do it safely.
The main points to remember when bed sharing with your baby are:
- keep the space around baby clear – no duvets or pillows
- baby should sleep on their back
- do no bed share if you or anyone else in your bed smokes or has drunk alcohol or medication that makes you drowsy
I wanted to share my story today because so many more people seem to be co-sleeping or bed sharing for longer, and I for one think it’s great. I understand that it isn’t for everyone, and some people don’t agree with children being allowed in their bed as a regular thing, and that’s absolutely fine. But don’t judge me for allowing my children to sleep in our bed. It works for us, and I get fed up with having to justify myself to people all the time.
Something I see regularly on social media is photos of parents sleeping on the sofa with their babies on their chest – this is actually much more dangerous than sharing a bed with them. It’s likely that you’ve fallen asleep because you are so exhausted, and therefore you are more likely to be in a deep sleep which is not good for the safety of your baby. The baby is more likely to roll off the sofa, or you roll on to the baby. Of course, if you are sleeping on the sofa and there is someone taking a photo of you, it’s likely that there is another adult around to keep an eye on you both – it’s definitely something Craig and I have both done in the past, but it is certainly something to be more wary of.
Admittedly, I never intended to bed share. Before I had children, I would heartily agree with people who said letting your children sleep in your bed is making a rod for your own back, that children need boundaries and letting them sleep in your bed is the worst thing you can do. Then I had children that don’t sleep and that was the end of that idea!
People often get co-sleeping and bed sharing mixed up. Co-sleeping is sleeping with your children in their own cot/crib/moses basket in your bedroom. The NHS recommend you do this for at least 6 months, but up to a year is even better. One reason for this is that babies can’t regulate their own breathing, so sleeping near you, they learn from you how to breath properly when they’re asleep – pretty amazing, right?! The biggest reason of course it is reduces the risk of SIDS.
Bed sharing is sleeping with your baby next to you in your bed. I can completely understand why, on the face of it, people think this isn’t safe. I completely understand people who worry about rolling over and smothering their child in their sleep, or the baby rolling out of bed, and getting stuck under pillows or duvets. This is why I think it’s so important the Lullaby Trust has released this new information on how to bed share safely. The key points to remember are listed in this brilliant infographic:
I started bed sharing with Alfie on the odd occasion when he was a few weeks old – I was breastfeeding and often Craig would wake up to find me fast asleep, sitting up, with Alfie in my arms. On a few occasions, I would wake up frantic because I thought Alfie had fallen out of bed because I’d fallen asleep with him in my arms, and woken up to find him gone. In fact, Craig had just put him back in his cot. It was at this point we decided it would be safer for me to feed lying down and Alfie to sleep in our bed. We didn’t do it every night but on the occasions we needed to.
Alfie went into his cot in his nursery at 8 weeks old. To this day, I deeply regret doing that, but he outgrew his moses basket and his cot didn’t fit in our bedroom so I felt like I had no choice. I was up every 1-2 hours feeding him and would average about 4 hours broken sleep a night. Luckily he slept well during the day and would have two long naps so I could rest and nap then if I needed to. When I returned to work however, I was broken. I couldn’t keep up with the constant nightly wake ups and as much as my husband tried to help, he was worse on no sleep than I was. After I stopped breastfeeding at 15 months, it was even harder to settle Alfie back to sleep! So from about 14 months, Alfie was a regular bed invader. He would always start off in his cot, but upon the first wake up he would be brought in to our bed. I needed my sleep in order to do my job and this was the only way we could all feel rested the next day.
When Henry was born, I was determined to do it differently. I was no longer ashamed to bed share and no longer worried about what anyone else thought. I would be in charge of a newborn and a 2 year old every day, which I was already struggling with, so I needed my rest! We did have a bedside crib and Henry would often start the night in there, but never lasted longer than an hour or so. I learnt to feed lying down this time round a lot quicker, so once he was latched on, I could go back to sleep. I would switch sides every so often in the night so he wasn’t only feeding from one side, but apart from that I would get about 6-7 hours of mostly unbroken sleep (it didn’t stop him from waking for the day at 5am, but that was just another reason to ensure I got as much sleep as possible during the night).
14 months later, and we are still bed sharing. We have what most people would probably consider an unusual set up in that I sleep with Henry and Craig shares Alfie’s bed. Henry goes in his cot at around 8pm and will sleep until about 11pm. He then wakes up, and either Craig and I will go and try and settle him back down. Sometimes he’ll go back down until around 1pm, at which point I’ll bring him in our bed, but sometimes he won’t go back down so he comes in our bed at 11pm. Craig and I go to bed between 9 and 11 depending how tired we are or what’s on tv, so most nights Craig starts in our bed and then will go in Alfie’s bed when Henry comes in – or when Alfie wakes up! So it can be a bit of musical beds most nights, but we’ve found a routine which is currently working for us.
I often get asked about our bed set up because I think the thing most people worry about is baby falling out of bed or being covered by the duvet/pillow at night. I’ll admit, Henry has fallen out of bed once when he was small, but fortunately there was a big blanket on the floor so it was a soft landing and he was absolutely fine! Since then, I added a bed guard and it’s solved all worries about him rolling out of bed. So this is our current bed set up:
- – Double bed
- – Two pillows on my side, none on Henry’s side
- – Bed guard on Henry’s side
- – Duvet over me
Now Henry is over 1, I do put the duvet on him up to his chest. He also sleeps with a duvet in his cot. Before he was one, I used to put him in a sleeping bag (which he hated!) or he would just have warm pjs on and no cover. Even now he mostly kicks the covers off! If Craig is in bed with us, Henry or I will sleep in the middle (usually me to give Henry more space). If I have Alfie in bed too, he sleeps by the bed guard and Henry sleeps in the middle.
The point of this post is not to tell you that bed sharing is the best thing in the world and everyone should do it. Honestly, in an ideal world Craig and I would share a bed, Alfie would sleep in his bed and Henry would sleep in his cot. But right at this moment in our lives, sacrificing a bit of bed space in order to have enough sleep so we can function. I think when you are breastfeeding, bed sharing is the solution to getting more sleep (unfortunately bed sharing isn’t recommended for those formula feeding, however that’s not to say that you can’t do it, you just need to be more aware). Bed sharing also doesn’t work for everyone, just like having your baby in their own room doesn’t work for everyone. I strongly believe in doing what works for you and your family. I know so many people that bed share with young children and older children but don’t admit it to people because they get judged for it. I see people’s faces change when I mention I share a bed with Henry (mostly non-parents!) and that they think we’re crazy, but I don’t care anymore! It used to be a very common practice, and I’m not sure why that changed, but hopefully people’s attitudes will change in years to come and more people will do it if they want to, and those who don’t do it or want to do it, won’t judge others!
The most important thing to remember is safe sleeping. Whether your baby sleeps in your bed, or their own bed/cot, a clear sleep space is a safe sleep space.