Over the years, I have read blogs and opinions from parents about bed-sharing. Parents who are so-called attachment practitioners rave at the brilliance of bed-sharing, other parents refuse it, screaming that it encourages dependence and creates wimpy, weak children. Basically, bed-sharing fosters a sort of attachment to the parent that is both unhealthy and unnatural.
Well, I don’t know about all of that. All I know is my own experience, my own boys and my own household.
Before my oldest was born we created a nursery, as all expectant parents long to do. We purchased a lovely crib with Peter Rabbit bedding. It was so precious, so darling. I spent hours just staring at the bed, anticipating my little human loving it.
And yet, he never once slept in it.
It became the world’s most expensive laundry basket. Or dresser, really, because once the clean laundry went in, it rarely ever went anywhere but on our bodies. Folding was so passé in the early years.
What happened, which I believe happens with a lot of new families, was that my kid would fall asleep on me and was a terror to transfer into his crib. Exhaustion and laziness took hold and I would just slide him off my arm onto the bed and snuggle up next to him. Often, my husband would take this little bundle and allow him to sleep for hours on his chest. We didn’t mean to bed-share. It just happened.
The early months flew into 6 months, a year, eighteen months, and my oldest began to crawl, walk, and say little words. His bum still had not successfully slept in his crib, but by this point it was filled with laundry, so I guess we stopped trying.
The back of my mind itched with the worry that we were “spoiling” him, that he would be snuggled up with us at 16, a long 6 foot tall man, smack dab in the middle of our bed, still insisting to fall asleep on my dead arm. Yet, my heart said it was OK. Adults often search their whole lives for a mate: someone to snuggle with at night. We are social, snugly, loving beings by nature. There is no harm in being close. And independence is the result of security, of feeling safe enough to conquer the world. I am not saying that bed-sharing is the only path to independence, but it can be one route.
We went on to continue to bed-share until my oldest was close to three when his brother was on his way. We moved him into a “big boy” bed and he slept well from the first night on. Then, when his brother arrived, he (of course) wanted to come back to snuggle as a whole family. We brought a twin bed into our room and he slept alongside us. You may be thinking that is an awful lot of catering to his needs, but I believe that in this situation it was imperative that we compromised to not have him feel left out, tossed aside for his new sibling.
My youngest never had a crib. We gave up on that idea, the waste of space, and the loss of socks into the depth of the bedding. When my youngest was two we started having them both sleep in bunk-beds in their room. Every night one or the other would end up in our bed, snuggling like puppies.
So we traded the bunk beds for a queen sized bed. This was genius. The boys could sleep together, all warm and cozy, and we could even jump in for a cuddle before bed. They never again came into our room during the night.
When my oldest was about 8 he decided that he wanted his own bed, my youngest kicked him during the night and he was too old to sleep with his brother. So we got them twin beds again and then, a year later, they got their own rooms. They still sleep beautifully, restfully, and only come into our room to tell of a bad dream or if they got sick in the night. We all still snuggle our bed to watch movies, wrestle, or chat.
But, the details aren’t important, what is important is how my kids behave in the outside world: how at 8 and 11 they have been affected by the bed-sharing.
Who knows! Ha! I am not a researcher nor did I do any scientific control group with the exact same personalities in a non-bed-sharing situation. I can’t tell you how many other details affected their early years. But I can tell you that my boys are independent. At night they sleep well and have no issues falling asleep. They have bad dreams occasionally, they wake up cranky sometimes, and they have moments that are needier than others.
I think the only thing I can say with absolute conviction is that we did what was right for our family. We followed our instinct and loved in the way we felt was best for them and us. And because of THAT they turned out just fine.