When my wife and I had our first baby, I wasn’t so sure about co-sleeping. I read about it in conjunction with attachment parenting, and the idea made sense to me, but the thought of an infant in the bed with us brought up a bunch of different issues. It turns out that most, if not all, of these issues were a result of paying too much attention to the media and not trusting our natural family instincts.
We’ve been co-sleeping with all of our children (not all at the same time- we have a one-out, one-in policy) for almost 11 years now, and I love it. However, I do get asked about it by new dads who are not quite sure that it’s safe or beneficial for the child. “Cloth diapers, I get. Breastfeeding makes sense. Babywearing could work for me. But having an infant in the bed with us? I don’t know…”
Here’s my take on co-sleeping issues.
New Dads and Co-Sleeping: Got Fear?
- “Won’t we roll over on our baby and smother him?” Throw a tennis ball or two in your bed tonight and see if you roll over on one without waking up. The actual number of incidents of babies being accidentally smothered is quite tiny compared to “crib deaths” or other SIDS deaths. For more info, see University of Notre Dame’s Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory.
- “The baby will wake us up more often” The reality is that you and mama will get more sleep if your child is right next to you and not in a crib or another room. Your baby can nurse on-demand, and mama can sleep while she’s nursing. It’s much less disruptive to all of you when your child doesn’t need to cry out for food or comfort; she just roots for the breast and goes back to sleep.
- “What about pee in my bed?” Come on, it’s just pee… But seriously, get a wool soaker pad for under your baby and your sheets will be safe. We made several out of a wool blanket from a military surplus store, and put a baby blanket over it for softness. You can also cut smaller squares for changing pads that fit into a diaper bag easily.
- “How can we be intimate if there’s a child in our bed?” Well now, you’ve got to think outside the box (or outside the bed) on this one. You can regain some lost intimacy or excitement in your marriage by being creative (take a blanket outside under the stars, make a “love nest” elsewhere in your house, or hey, remember the back seat of the car?).
I used to be a little envious of the closeness of mama and baby, but co-sleeping has helped me to be closer with my children. I wake up to the sweet smell of baby’s breath and my child nestled right under my arm. You can’t beat that for bonding. One caveat: As your child gets bigger, little kicking feet are right at the level of the papa parts, so you may need to start facing away from them…
Don’t believe the doubters about co-sleeping. Humans have been co-sleeping for thousands of years; it’s a pretty new idea to put our children in a separate bed. Trust your natural fathering instincts and enjoy the snuggles!