Monday, January 26, 2009

Bed Sharing

I read an interesting article here about a study that says that sudden infant deaths from suffocation or strangulation have quadrupled in the United States in the past 20 years from parents sharing their beds with their infants.

I found this most interesting because my husband and I shared our bed with each of our 3 kids for a period of time. The article did not define the ages of the infants in the study, though most discussions of SIDS are generally restricted to infants age birth to 1 year.

I don't remember how old our oldest son was when we started allowing him to sleep with us, but I don't think he was very old. He was the absolute worst sleeper, so it was just easier for us to let him stay with us rather than for one of us to rock him or walk the house with him or any other desperate ritual to try to get him to sleep. He just seemed to sleep better with the warmth and comfort of both of us.

Our middle child was an awesome sleeper, so until she was out of a crib it wasn't really an issue, but once she was able to get out of bed on her own, she wanted to come sleep with us. And our youngest was not a great sleeper, but he was better than his brother and as I recall he slept fine in his crib as an infant, but once he was in a bed he would also come sleep with us.

When our oldest was a baby sleeping with us, we both seemed to sleep a little lighter because we were subconsciously mindful of his presence in the bed. We never had any problems with him being there and he always slept better.

We never really minded having any of the kids in bed with us. We always encouraged them to go to bed initially in their own beds, and we also had our own private time alone without kids, but they all took their subsequent turns when they were little, every night coming in to sleep in our bed.

We took a lot of flak from family and friends for letting our kids sleep with us for a lot of different reasons. Some people thought it was dangerous, some thought it was creepy, some thought it would make the kids weak and dependent. But we always defended ourselves saying that we took care to be cautious with them, there was definitely nothing creepy about it (we never let them in the bed or the room when we were having "married people time"), and it definitely did not make them weak or dependent. When they reached several years old we began to gently insist that they sleep in their own beds through the night, and they all transitioned without any problems.

Sharing our bed with our kids helped to develop a closer bond with them as children and provided them comfort when they needed it. What parent doesn't want that? It's scary sometimes for little kids to be left alone all night in a dark room. They think "why do mom and dad get to be together and they make me be all alone?"

But like any other parenting issue (i.e., breast feeding, toilet training, etc), there are going to be proponents and opponents. But we never doubted ourselves when it came to bed sharing. It was just the most normal thing for our family, and our kids have certainly turned out pretty darn good!

So what do you think? Did you share your bed with your kids? What was your experience like?


alana said...

I personally haven’t shared the bed with my son. He is only three and just recently started sleeping in a “big boy” bed so I can’t say for sure that will stay the same.

I doubt we will let him though. I can’t stand to be touched while I’m sleeping and shriek like a dying banshee if my boyfriend tries to cuddle. (Ok I’m not that bad, but it’s pretty darn close.) Holden already likes to climb all over us and sit on me for no apparent reason. I need my bed to myself.

I think this is one of those what ever floats your boat issues though. If it works for your family, perfect. Too often it seems us moms are busy tearing each other down for the simple choice of doing something different.

I only have a problem if you are sharing a bed with an infant while on drugs or intoxicated because you’ll be sleeping heavily and they aren’t capable of moving out of the way (an infant died in UT because of that a few years ago).

Embee said...

Alana - I agree. Much like breastfeeding, I think it should be an individual choice. Whatever works for each family!

Suldog said...

I would occasionally climb into bed with my parents when I was very young (perhaps four or five) but I don't think it was more than two or three times in a year, usually after having a particularly bad nightmare or something like that.

Some people consider me warped, but I don't know if they'd consider that to have been the reason.

kate said...

you know, I was dead-set against ever sharing a bed with our daughter since my husband is a very deep and often violent sleeper (and by that I mean covers often fly when he's trying to find a comfy position in the middle of the night) Then, as with many things, that all flew out the window when she was born. I insist our little girl starts out in her crib (she's 4 months) but every once in a while, especially when we're traveling, she'll get up at 4 or 5 AM and will absolutely NOT go back to sleep. the only solution is to put her between us and pray that my husband doesn't roll over on to her.

I openly admit that I really like being able to open my eyes and see her little sleeping face only inches from mine, it's one of the many many things I love about being a mom. Now I just can't wait for her to cuddle back! I think if you're smart about it, stay in a lighter sleep just in case and keep pillows away from their little faces then if it works, and if YOU actually get more sleep than why not?!