Safely Co-Sleeping Worked for Us

11 Jan 2018

When pregnant, if you asked me what I thought of co-sleeping, I wouldn't have had much to say. We planned to use the SnüzPod2 3-in-1 Bedside Crib, but that was our entire plan - to have Willow next to our bed. Moving her to our bed, what I like to refer to as bedsharing, wasn't in the plan at all, but it turns out it was the best decision we ever made.

How to safely co-sleep and bedshare

Co-sleeping gets a lack of criticism in the media, parents are often made to feel guilty for letting their babies and children into their beds and mothers are portrayed as unable to let their children be independent. Yes, co-sleeping carries huge risks and you should always seek professional advice, but there is a huge fear factor around co-sleeping which is exasperated by negative media coverage that places unnecessary shame on co-sleeping families.

The fear of criticism can even prevent parents from being open about their sleeping arrangements; I have lost count of the number of mothers who have told me they were too scared to tell anyone they co-slept with their baby, for fear of judgment. We should be helping parents learn how to safely co-sleep, it's completely natural and is still the typical practice in many countries around the world.

So I wanted to share our positive experience of co-sleeping and bedsharing, the things I have learnt through bedsharing as well as a couple of resources I used when we first started to bedshare. Although bedsharing may not be for everyone, I hope that by sharing our own experiences bedsharing as first-time parents, that it may make any expectant or new parents feel less anxious about something that, actually, is incredibly natural and safe if carried out responsibly.

"I co-slept from day one. It wasn't something I planned to do but physically the only way to get sleep we so desperately needed. I didn't tell people because those I did mention it to were very negative. I couldn't explain why it felt safe, I slept but I was very alert to baby and there was just one night I couldn't do it. We carried on with both kids until they were happy in their own rooms. They're now three and six and I love it when they wander in for a night time cuddle!" - Laura from Wafflemama

"I co-slept on and off almost from birth. I didn't want to admit it. Everyone said it was wrong and bad and made me feel like I was going to kill my child by doing it. But I was a single mother from 3 weeks into pregnancy and had a baby who didn't sleep without me. Scared and exhausted I gave in sometimes and thank goodness I did or I'd never have slept. Now I'll happily admit to it. As long as you're safe, do what you have to do for you and your baby." - Katie from Mummy in a Tutu 

If you read my birth story, you'll know I wasn't quite with it after Willow was born, there is very little I remember about those first few days. One thing I do remember is trying to co-sleep the first night in the hospital, that was until a midwife came in and told me I shouldn't do that, taking her off of my chest. She was right, of course; co-sleeping in the hospital bed was not a good idea.

When we were back at home, Willow was not the best sleeper at night. Those first few nights, Willow ended up sleeping on my chest. I propped myself up with pillows and positioned myself so that I couldn't physically move, but I did unintentionally fall asleep from sheer exhaustion a couple of times and brought it up with my midwife and health visitor. They suggested that should I wish to continue with bedsharing, I should check out the 'positions' and guidelines online, to make sure we're doing it safely, so we did.

I checked out, there's a very good section on advice and information regarding co-sleeping. There are some definite no-go's; you shouldn't co-sleep if either parent smokes, has drunk alcohol or taken any drugs or medications which can make you drowsy as a side-effect, if you are extremely tired or your baby was premature or had a low birth weight of 2.5kg or less. Co-sleeping on a sofa or chair, or with your baby on your chest (like I did those first few nights) should be avoidable at all costs, as this is an extremely dangerous way to sleep with your baby.

"I co- slept with both of mine over 30 years ago. It was frowned upon (rods for your back and all that) the only rule then was never when you had been drinking or any drugs that made you drowsy. Before I had my first child I was a really heavy sleeper, nothing would wake me, but afterwards even a slight change in their breathing used to rouse me." - Sally from Teddy Bears and Cardigans

"I loved co-sleeping with my babes. There was nothing better then feeling them snuggled into me through the night and it made breastfeeding them much easier as I could just latch them on and doze. Even now at 7 and 5 my children occasionally get in with us when they have a bad dream." - Louise from Pink Pear Bear 

There's also a few environmental factors to consider when making sure your bed is a safe space for co-sleeping. As with your babies crib or cot, you should make sure the area is clear of any soft toys, blankets, bedding sheets, pillows and the duvet. On chillier nights Willow wore her Grobag sleeping bag, otherwise, she'd be in her sleepsuit and we used our Gro-egg room thermometer to ensure the room was at a safe temperature. I slept in the 'C' position, which I found on the BabyCentre website. It's not as uncomfortable as it sounds, promise!

Whilst using our SnüzPod2, I would sleep with Willow between me and the SnüzPod2. If she was put to bed in her SnüzPod2 and then woke up, all I had to do was scoop her up and bring her next to me. Sometimes during the day, she would struggle to nap, so we'd bedshare in the day too, a perfect excuse for me to listen to everyone's advice and 'sleep when the baby sleeps!'.

Willow out-grow her SnüzPod2 at 7 months, so we moved her into her own cot and room, but for a good 6 months, we still bedshared a few nights a week. As the SnüzPod2 was no longer at the side of the bed, Willow would sleep between Martyn and I and often, it would be just me and Willow as she'd quite literally kick Martyn out of bed in the night, so off to the sofa he'd go!

"We co-sleep with both of our children. I really didn’t want to bedshare with my son because of all the stuff people said about it (the risks, you’ll never get them back out etc) we fought it for 17 months. Once we finally gave in, everything got easier. I don’t make sleepers. Once my second came along and wouldn’t let us put her down either we immediately bedshared and it’s been so much easier. My kids are now almost 3 and 6. Whilst I’m looking forward to more space and better sleep I’m in no rush to get them out. My parenting vibe is child-led and they’ll get there when they are ready. These early years are so short, it will be gone in the blink of an eye. I’m not worried about it at all." - Nyomi from nomipalony

"I co-slept with my twins until they reached the age of 3 and they decided they wanted their own space. For us it was a very positive experience and we all loved it. It's funny that years ago I was so anti co-sleeping until we did it. I think back with very fond memories and I love it now if they crawl in during the night for a cuddle." - Lynne from A Day in the Life of a Mum of 6

Willow is now nearing two, with her 2nd birthday at the end of this month, and I think our bedsharing days are behind us. I can't tell you the last time she had a full night in with me, she has settled wonderfully into her own room and big toddler bed. I, on the other hand, miss bedsharing an incredible amount! Cosleeping and bedsharing is something I truly believe hugely contributed to the special bond that Willow and I have, it helped me get through postnatal depression without feeling like a complete failure as a mother and it was just absolutely lovely getting to cuddle all night long.

I know it's not for everyone, but for me, it was just perfect. The memories I have of Willow as a tiny baby curling up into me to cuddle, the memories of when she was older and on the move, reaching to find my hand in her sleep, the closeness that you experience with your baby when you bedshare is, for me, absolutely magical and it's definitely something I would do it with any future children.

I'd love to hear your experiences of bedsharing and co-sleeping, did it work for you or did you find your baby wanted their own space for sleeping?