Many of us find that bringing our newborns into bed is the only way we can get any sleep. Find out why we don't need to hide it anymore and how co-sleeping may actually benefit the mother and baby.

It seems like every time I visit a friend who's recently had her first baby, there comes a point in the visit when she leans in close and says, “Um, the baby's sleeping in my bed.”

Of course, I immediately respond, “No worries, everybody does it.”

Now I realize not everybody does it, like technically everybody. I'm sure there are women who don't. But in my experience, it appears that the vast majority of mothers, at some point, particularly if they're breastfeeding, bring the newborn into bed with them, at least for part of the night.

At 3 a.m., a way more appealing option is to bring the baby into bed and get some sleep.

As fun as it sounds to sit in a rocking chair and nurse, I don't know about you, but at 3 a.m., a way more appealing option is to bring the baby into bed and get some sleep. Plus, two of my three kids only slept nuzzled against me. Bassinet by the bed? No way. They needed me (apparently).

Our "dirty little secret"

And yet even though a ton of mothers bring their newborns into bed with them, it remains the “dirty little secret” for so many of us.

“You're going to roll on your baby.”

“The crib or bassinet is safest.”

“The best place is a crib or bassinet in the same bedroom.”

Studies show…

Blah blah blah.

Let me tell you something (and this is going to make some of you want to call CPS): I don't buy any of it, and I'll tell you why:

The studies are always changing!

Put your baby on her tummy to sleep. Don't EVER put your baby on her tummy to sleep! Formula is best. Breast is best! Circumcision is healthier for the baby. Circumcision has no health benefits.

How do we know which of the big theories of today will be debunked in subsequent generations? We don't, and that's one of the reasons I refuse to blindly follow the latest “study.”

I don't know who funded the studies

Frankly, I'm unconvinced. Companies with very powerful interests often fund research, and you'll never convince me that money doesn't affect the outcome of that research.

For example, crib companies often fund co-sleeping studies.

For example, crib companies often fund co-sleeping studies. Even if it looks like the research emerged from a university or independent researcher, the fact is we're usually not told where the funding came from, and therefore we have no idea where the researchers' biases may lie. For example, as noted in Deborah Jackson's book Three in a Bed, studies that find co-sleeping dangerous sometimes do not differentiate between safe co-sleeping and really unsafe co-sleeping (also known as "stupidity"). For example, they call sleeping on a couch with a baby “co-sleeping,” or sleeping in waterbeds “co-sleeping.” But of course this insight isn't readily available to the consumer — we only get the take-away: “Co-sleeping is dangerous.” But there's a whole story behind that statement which has been strategically omitted, probably to benefit some party's interests.

The A study vs. the Z study

For every study claiming “A,” there's another one claiming “Z.” Some studies are better publicized. Others are shoved under the rug. It's more about who's got the power and who's got the money. Co-sleeping is a perfect example of that: There are numerous studies claiming co-sleeping is unsafe. An equal number of studies claim the opposite, even that it may be safer. Which side of the story you get depends on who you're asking.

The closeness of parents may also help the baby's nervous system learn to self-regulate, and co-sleeping babies also nurse more.

“Studies have found” (hahaha!) that co-sleeping may help prevent SIDS by preventing the baby from entering the deepest stages of sleep. The parents' exhalation of carbon dioxide may help trigger the baby's breathing reflex, which cuts down risk of apnea. The closeness of the parents may also help the baby's nervous system learn to self-regulate, and co-sleeping babies also nurse more. Co-sleeping babies and mothers generally get more sleep. (All of this information and the citations to the studies can be found here.)

My own bias...

I know where my baby is every single moment of the night.

Now as you may have guessed, my own bias clearly favors co-sleeping, and I'll tell you why: It's the only way I got any sleep, and it felt good and safe and right, and the idea that I'm going to “roll” onto my baby is so absolutely absurd it makes me want to laugh out loud.

I know where my baby is every single moment of the night. If my baby moves an arm, I'm awake. If my husband even thinks about moving, I'm awake. My newborn and I are connected on a level that defies any “study.”

Maybe that's just me. But there's science backing this up, too. If interested, please read this article by Dr. James McKenna.

Reality told me that co-sleeping was best for me and my baby.

And I'll tell you something else: The day will never come when I allow any “study” to override my own experience of reality. REALITY told me that co-sleeping was best for me and my baby, and sorry, but I'm this baby's mother. I know where my baby is safe. I know where my baby belongs.

Isolated baby blocks

I'm the only one who knows how to parent my child.

You are the only one who knows how to parent your child.

As mothers, this fact should be a source of empowerment, of confidence-building, and the studies should serve as added information, but they should never replace us, the mothers. We are the ones who “know.”

Period.

More on baby sleep

Getting your baby to sleep through the night
Discover the benefits of co-sleeping
The co-sleeping family

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