Bed-sharing. It’s one of those things that elicits strong reactions of admonition from family members, co-workers, and total strangers alike. “You let him sleep in your bed?! You need to fix that!” I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard this and while it’s natural to feel doubt about parenting choices, I am here to unapologetically say that we have absolutely no regrets with our choice to bed-share. I am no scientist or doctor and while I am aware of the research on both sides of the debate regarding the benefits and risks of bed-sharing, the anthropologist in me continues to question the status-quo cultural presumptions (particularly American) that treat bed-sharing as an unfortunate lapse in judgement at best and potential child abuse at worst. Says who babies need their own rooms and beds to grow into independent, self-sufficient adults? And what kind of “independence” are we talking about? If that means being able to play on their own and let you leave the house without batting an eyelash then my son is as independent as they get.
I, however, did not write this as an argument for or against bed-sharing because I really believe only a parent can know what’s best for their family and lifestyle. I am writing this brief reflection to add my voice to a conversation on bed-sharing that has been particularly negative, a conversation that is built on fear and shame (as if new parents don’t have enough stress to deal with). I’ll never forget, as a new mom, feeling guilt whenever I had to reveal to people that our son slept with us. I would internally grimace in anticipation of the response, almost acknowledging that it was a problem we were putting off fixing. That is until I found comfort in friends (mostly anthropologists-surprise, surprise) who understood and had either bed-shared or knew someone who did. But I could never shake the thought of why I felt that sense of embarrassment and why it mattered to so many people where my baby slept. So here’s to all the guilt-ridden mommas and daddas out there that need a little reminder of something they know to be true deep down inside: bed-sharing is absolutely magical. And just in case you forgot, here are three reasons why you know you would do it all over again.
1) Welcome to parenthood where the work is plenty and the sleep is little. If you have ever had to wake up to feed an infant, you know that it happens several times a night. Interrupted sleep is the norm. So you can either make things harder on yourself by getting out of your warm, comfy bed and walk down a dark hallway to attend to your little one OR you can have your baby right next to you able to help him or herself and doze right back off so that you can too.
2) Babies make the best wake up calls. Dings and beeps on your phone or alarm clock are just dreadful reminders that it’s time to be an adult again. Babies, on the other hand, are the perfect reminders of all things beautiful in life: wondrous curiosity, a hunger for exploration, carefree joy. There is nothing more wonderful than waking up to the sound of silly babbles in your ear, soft little fingers playing with your face, and slobbery drool dripping down your cheeks. Nothing.
3) Baby cuddles. Enough said. My son is a keep-your-hands-off-me explorer by day and a snuggly, cuddle-bug by night. I can’t get enough of the smell of his hair and the way he kicks me at night to make sure I’m still there. I know this might sound super morbid but the average life expectancy of an American adult is 76 or 81 depending on your sex so if you do the math you’ll realize they’re only cute and small enough to snuggle in bed with for less than 5% of their life. Now if that doesn’t make your heart melt and want to hold them tighter, I don’t know what will.
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