Yes, I'm one of those moms that judged others before having kids. I looked at other parents and thought I'll never do that with my kids. I feel like that is the kiss of death because sure enough bedsharing was on that list. I thought it would negatively affect the marital relationship, I thought it wasn't safe, I thought it seemed like an inappropriate relationship between parent and child. I just assumed I wouldn't do it (other than on special occasions, like we did with my mom when my dad was out of town). Well, guess what, we bedshare.
We started with Henry in a rock n' play next to our bed. There were times when he would only sleep on me, but over time he got pretty good at staying asleep when I set him down after breastfeeding. Once he got too big for the rock n' play, once his crib and room were set up (after our moving troubles), and once he was out of the third trimester, I decided it was time to transition him into his crib. Well, that didn't happen. At most Henry would give us about 45 minutes of asleep time in his crib before waking scared and crying. Once he awoke I would bring him to bed with us. Now, I don't even set him in his crib.
I've been conflicted for a while. Should I try to crib train him? Is it bad that he sleeps in our bed? I surely don't want to be judged for it. But, I've finally come to a conclusion: It's what's right for Henry and our family right now. It doesn't matter if it's not right for others. It doesn't matter if it's not right for us in a week, a month, or a year. Right now, it's what's right for us. That's all that matters.
How do I know it's right for us? For one, I'm not okay with the cry it out method of sleep training. That was never on the table. For me, my job as a parent is to create a safe environment from which Henry can feel comfortable exploring the world (attachment theory). I also stick by the belief that you can't spoil a child under the age of one. The world is still a new and sometimes scary place for Henry. Imagine being suddenly dropped in a completely new world where you don't speak the language and you are essentially helpless. Then, imagine that the one person you trust completely, your source of life, comfort, and security abandons you. I can only assume it must feel like that for Henry. The fear I can hear in his cry when he wakes up alone is enough for me to recognize that him sleeping along does not align with my goal of providing a sense of safety for him.
Just now as I am typing, Henry awoke. He had a brief moment of startle and then looked left and right and immediately saw me. Right away he started smiling. This reaction illustrates one reason that I decided to bedshare. Often when Henry first awakes he appears startled. When he scans his surroundings and sees me, he calms.
Moreover, he is a restless sleeper. Whether it's gas or dreams or just his sleeping style, he often kicks and flails in his sleep. Alone he usually wakes himself, with my hand on him, he often returns to a restful state.
Another reason for bedsharing is the ease of breastfeeding. Henry rolls on his side to face me when he needs to breastfeed. He may be hungry or he may be searching for comfort, but either way, he knows I am there. Some may view it as a crutch or an inability to self-soothe. I choose to look at it as the first signs of self-soothing. Even half asleep, he knows that he can roll to one side and I will be there. Just as an adult turns to what he finds comforting, Henry seeks breastfeeding to soothe himself.
And last, but equally important, I enjoy the view when I open my eyes. I may sleep more soundly and comfortably if Henry slept in his own room, but what a view I would be missing. I open my eyes to see him nestled up against me and his father a few feet away. Both my boys, my loves, my heart, right there, perfectly safe, perfectly calm, perfectly content. My world within an arms reach.
So, while one day Henry will sleep on his own, that day isn't today. I believe that when he is ready he will transition naturally and easily. Until that day, my job is to prepare him for that transition by teaching him that the world is safe, and bedsharing is one of the ways that I will do it. In the meantime, I will cherish the sweet baby snuggles that he so freely gives.