The Evolution of a Bed Sharing Family

We’ve had several sleeping arrangements in our home since the birth of our first son, Jack. Sleeping was a huge source of stress for us, as it is with most new parents. And right when Jack started to mostly sleep through the night we had another baby! Since the birth of Exley many people have asked how we can possibly still bed share with all these people. But we do! And we love it! Let me show you how we got here.

(Co-sleeping means you sleep close to your baby. Maybe the baby is in bed with you; maybe she is in a bassinette or maybe in a crib, a co-sleeper or basket in the same room. Bed sharing refers to the specific type of co-sleeping where the baby and you are in the same bed. There are many types of co-sleeping. Bed-sharing is a type of co-sleeping.)

The Evolution

bedhsaring

Stage 1

When Jack was first born we were bombarded with all of the fear mongering over bed sharing. “Never put a baby in an adult bed, they’ll die.” We heard this loud and clear and I was terrified to sleep. Ever. I only ever placed Jack to sleep in the bassinette. If I ever ended up holding him or lying next to him I forced myself to stay awake, sometimes even forced my husband to stay awake to watch us just in case I fell asleep by accident. I was scared. Scared to death. (Here is the full story)

Stage 2

The thing that made me start to look into the research about bed sharing was that it seemed Jack slept so much better when he was next to me. Nursing to be exact. It was at this time when I started to learn about how human beings sleep naturally. Turns out human beings are wired to sleep near each other as protection against predators. We can’t escape evolution. So imagine my relief when I realized Jack was normal and it was also safe to share a sleep space with him. After all of the terrible breastfeeding information I had received I wasn’t surprised to learn that the sleep information was crap too. But I still felt nervous about it, I mean how could I not considering the fear that professionals are working to put into people? I decided to sidecar the crib to our bed. This way I could lie with Jack and then slide him onto his own sleep surface when he was done nursing.

Stage 3

Little did I know at the time that Jack wasn’t just nursing to eat and then falling back to sleep. He was actually comfort nursing his way through the whole night. When I tried to slide him into the crib space he woke up and fussed for my boob. And even when he did stay asleep he couldn’t care less about his space versus our space. He naturally gravitated closer to me during the night. The crib ended up just being a place to let my butt spill over into so we had more room. He also started to crawl around more and I had a fear that he would fall out of bed. This is when the mattresses hit the floor. Now we really were just trying to make more room for all of us to share the same bed.

Stage 4

When I turned up pregnant with Exley we knew we wanted to continue to bed share as it has been a positive experience for us. It has been the least stressful arrangement for our home. We would need even more space. We finally made the ultimate family bed by getting a twin mattress to make a ton of space for all of the toddler sleep antics one could predict. Now Exley goes to sleep for the night in the bassinette. I nurse Jack to sleep on the mattress. Jack doesn’t want Exley in the room while he is nursing to sleep, which works for now since Exley still fits in the bassinette, but soon Jack will need to get over it. Then when Exley wakes for the first time of the night I bring him into bed next to me and basically nurse him all night. From far left it goes my husband, Jack, me and Exley.

Some safe co-sleeping guidelines. Please see a complete list here.

  • Formula fed babies should sleep on a separate surface from mom
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t drink or use drugs
  • Some medications can be dangerous
  • Firm mattress, no fluffy blankets or pillows
  • No spaces between walls

***This post exists to share my experience. This is not advocating for bed sharing. Each family will choose which method of sleep works best for them.

Do your research.

Dr. James McKenna

Infant Sleep Information Source.

If you must ask about sex click here (for funnsies).

Abby Theuring, MSW

About Abby Theuring

Abby Theuring
The Badass Breastfeeder is a mother, writer, social worker, attachment parent, proud breastfeeder and advocate. Her career as a social worker has shown her that gentle and connected parenting is vital for life-long emotional health.You can find her blog at www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheBadassBreastfeeder.

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21 comments

  1. Abby, Thank you so much for this post!! It made me cry and it just confirmed our journey too. I have been bedsharing my my baby Jack, he is 3 months now. Of course the came after realizing the fears they put into you about are not real and it is the ONLY way for a ebf mom and baby to get sleep. I side cared our crib and we tried it last night and it was nice but your experience hit home. He always tries to get up close to me at night and when I had him on the crib part alone he just slept really fitfully kicking and punching, it didn’t really work. I was wondering if we just needed more time to get used to it before going to the floor and after reading your post I don’t think so. I think my instinct is correct and I just need to do it. My poor husband has been sleeping on the couch and I think this is the only way to get him back in the bed. Again thank you so much for writing this and validating my feelings.

  2. He he! So glad to read this article! We are now at the stage where I spend most of the night in my daughter’s room, feeding, and sharing the single bed with her, periodically trying to get her back into the cot while she’s asleep, but we get frequent “cot refusals” – if left, she screams til she’s sick, so I’m just trying not to worry about it, or the fact that I rarely get back to bed with my partner before getting up time! Teething and colds don’t help, of course. I have a pillow at each end, for feeding on different sides while keeping her on the wall side. I worry about leaving her on the bed in case she rolls onto the floor, maybe lowering it would be the way forward… Hmmm! Food for thought, thank you!

  3. One out of 3 kids shared the bed during night feeds because it was warmer in bed. I kept going to sleep during the feeds though and would wake up hours later with baby asleep and lights burning and husband asleep. Would turn over and feed baby on the other side and it just dragged out all night.

    Although I fed him in bed during the night he went to bed in his bassinet. However, he slept through the night by 3 months, just like his brother and sister did. 12 hour sleepers from the time they cluster fed they slept in the late afternoon/evenings, they would sleep then wake up for their late night feeds. By 9 weeks/3 months all 3 slept through the night. Have to say the 2 boys did suck their thumbs from 3 months onwards.

  4. Get muslin blankets, if you wanna keep baby warm, its completely warm but most of all breatheable, completely safe :) our baby boy loves it and can be covered with it, and no worries the thiness and holes he can breathe through safely.

  5. This is sooooo us!!!! I lived fearfully in Stage 1 for months!! OMG!!! I was convinced that if my daughter touched me in the night, she would suffocate and die. Thank you to my dear OB. HOW ABSURD!!! Now, we are blissfully in Stage 3.

    Thank you for sharing!!!!

  6. This is very similar to our evolution, except that my partner works overnight at a factory, so I’ve been on my own at night since the first night we were home from the hospital after an emergency C-section. We fought bed-sharing, but for a week and a half I only got a couple of hours of sleep each night and baby was losing weight; I started to understand why some new moms lose their minds. Although we ended up having to supplement with formula, I still nursed and brought her into bed with me, and it saved my sanity. A year and half later, we still love bed sharing, especially since her dad isn’t home at night. I cherish all those snuggles so much.
    The toughest part of it for me has been that I basically have to go to bed when she does (she goes to bed late for a little one) because she won’t fall asleep without me close. So, I don’t have much of that desperately-needed time to get things done without a toddler underfoot, or even to do the things I enjoy but rarely have time to do. But we make do, and ultimately, those snuggles are everything and I can read or knit or quilt when she’s older.

  7. I’m curious to know what your sleeping arrangement are now that Exley is one.

    Are they both nursing during the night?

  8. Just curious why formula babies should sleep on separate surfaces than mom? I love cosleeping my baby is exclusively breastfed I was just curious the difference

    • I formula feed and my kids sleep with me ;-)

    • With formula feeding you don’t have the same awakefulness than you do when breastfeeding. There’s a study that women who breastfeed skip a cycle of sleep that puts them into a deep sleep.

    • Breastfeeding puts a woman’s brain into a lighter sleep mode. A woman who does not BF wakes less frequently. Both the mum and the baby sleep heavier and have less frequent feeds. This makes artificially feeding a risk for sids. Add this to the co sleeping risk …..

      • I wish that was true for me. I breastfed and slept soundly through the night. My husband had to wake me to let me know the baby was crying! I guess I was just plain exhausted after my unplanned C-section but I remained that way for at least 3-4 months.

      • I was curious about this too when I was reading. I exclusively pumped and bottle fed my first. I wonder if the same thing applies?

    • I agree. Our little one wouldn’t sleep anywhere but with me, and he was formula feed. I think judgement comes from all angles and this is just another “piece of advice” or scare tactic. If you don’t smoke, drink or take narcotics or drugs and feel comfortable with your sleeping patterns then good for you, sleep with your formula feed baby!

  9. I love how even though you have loooads of space in pic 3 Daddy is still right on the edge heehee! Bedsharing is a lifesaver for me

  10. Bedsharing definitely worked for us. Three kids, it just works waaay easier.

  11. We had an extremely similar bedsharing journey. I just skipped step 3 and added a queen instead of a twin. My master bedroom is like one huge bed. Lol

  12. “The crib ended up just being a place to let my butt spill over into so we had more room.”

    That is exactly the situation at my place right now. lol. My 13 month old nurses all night long and I am pretty much in the crib. I have no room. We are looking at getting a twin mattress soon!

  13. Good post! Another thing is that if you are a heavy sleeper you probably shouldn’t bed share and the no smoking is not just no smoking in bed but no smoking at all. If you do these one or both of theses things bed sharing is probably not a good fit. It’s ok, Bed sharing isn’t for everyone. We happen to love it! My 2 kiddos snuggle with me while my husband is at work. When my husband is home we a snuggle together. It works for us. :)

  14. I am going thru stage 4 except I am contemplating not having the second kid! Too exhausted!!!

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