I Know The Risks, But This Is Why I Still Choose To Sleep With My Baby

by Brandi Jeter Riley
Originally Published: 
A baby sleeping on her mother
NataliaDeriabina | Getty

I have two children, ages 13 months and 9 years old. Between the two of them, they have spent a combined total of three hours (yes, hours) in a crib. Although I never planned for it to be this way, it’s safe to say that I’m a bed-sharing mom.

Before my children were born, I went through baby care classes, and I was told by plenty of doctors that I should not sleep in the bed with my babies. They were okay with co-sleeping — where the baby is in the same room or in a co-sleeper attached to the bed, but in a bassinet or crib — but bed-sharing is a no-no.

And that just didn’t work for me.

When I first became a mom, I gave birth via C-section so my mobility was a bit limited. I was also a single mom, so it wasn’t like there was anyone around to help me out when my daughter cried at night. She slept in her bassinet for about an hour when I first brought her home. After that inaugural nursing session a mere 60 minutes later, she stayed in my bed from that point on.

There were tons of perks to sharing a bed with my baby, too. While other new moms complained about waking up to feed their newborns, my little one had quickly learned to latch on in her sleep. Smelling her little head throughout the night made me feel calm. I really believe that having her so close to me so often was the reason why I felt at peace even during the first couple of really stressful months of being a mom.

I knew it was important to follow all the rules of safe bed-sharing, and I took them seriously. I took care to make sure there weren’t any pillows or blankets near her. I didn’t drink alcohol, so I didn’t have to worry about rolling over her and being too inebriated to notice. I didn’t take medications that would impede my ability to wake easily. Honestly, I never went into a deep sleep when my kids were little babies anyway.

Even though I took precautions, whenever I took her in to a doctor’s visit, I always felt nervous about telling our pediatrician about our bed sharing arrangement. I know it’s their job to protect babies, but my gut told me that sleeping with my child was the right thing to do. So, I kept doing it up right up until she turned 3 and I got married.

Now, my 13-month-old sleeps in bed with my husband and me. He has a crib that sits empty on the other side of our bedroom, because this little guy wants no part of it. Truth be told, when he was first born, I didn’t want him in the crib either. The plan was always to keep him in our room for the first year.

During our baby prep class, the nurse suggested that our breathing helps to regulate the baby’s breathing and reduces the risk of SIDS, and encouraged all of the parents to room with their little ones for at least the first few months. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports babies sleeping in the same room as parents, although they don’t advocate bed sharing. After a couple of hours in the bassinet when I first brought him home, I put my newborn in the bed with me and he’s been there ever since.

My husband and I definitely have to get creative when it comes to sex, but it’s worth it to be able to bond with my son in this way. I believe that it makes him feel cared for and safe, and that’s important to me. A few weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night because my little guy was burning up. I got my husband up so we could take his temperature and it was 103. He never woke up or cried, and I wondered what would have happened if he was in his crib and not next to me.

I would never do anything to purposefully harm my children. I waited until they were both the recommended 6 months of age until I introduced solid food. Their carseats were professionally installed. Our televisions are all mounted with anti-tip straps. We choose to bed-share because I feel like it’s the right thing for our family. There are a lot of things that I follow the experts’ advice on, but this is one issue I’m not willing to budge on. Sometimes you just have to trust your maternal instincts. Mine told me to keep my babies close.

If you’re going to co-sleep or bed-share, there are a few safety tips that you’ll want to keep in mind. The baby still needs to sleep on their back, and should not be covered with blankets or have any pillows near them. You should never share a bed with a baby when you’re on medication or have been drinking. Also, believe it or not, breastfeeding helps because neither you nor the baby tend to fall into a deep sleep.

Now, as a more experienced mom, when the doctor asks me about how the baby is sleeping, I tell him that we chose to sleep in the same bed without wavering. It’s my choice, it works for us, and I’m not ashamed.

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