Bed sharing with your children seems to be a controversial issue. I’m not sure why it tends to be such a hot topic for debate. Over the years I’ve come to be a strong proponent of the family bed – and a few weeks ago it literally saved my daughter’s life.
Before I had children, bed-sharing was the one and only thing I swore I would never, ever do! No way! Not ever! It seemed unsafe and I had read all the warnings about babies being suffocated in their sleep under hazardous conditions. I was going to do everything in my power to keep my baby perfectly safe and sound! We had a lovely, ultra secure bassinet next to our bed and I planned for our first child to sleep there – within reach but out of harm’s way.
Except he wouldn’t sleep. We couldn’t put our baby down without him shrieking and screaming at the top of his lungs within seconds. We tried everything we could: swaddling, not swaddling, white noise, vibrations, rocking, lullabies… you name it, we tried it. NOTHING WORKED. I wasn’t about to let my precious newborn baby cry – so we gave in and held him. We held him around the clock in shifts. By the time he was 6 weeks old my husband and I hadn’t spent a single moment in our bed together. We were exhausted and near the breaking point. My mother even came over to hold our son through the night once when we were both ready to collapse from exhaustion and didn’t know how we’d survive.
One day my husband looked at me and said, “You’ve got to just find away to breastfeed him in bed.” So I did. Out of sheer necessity we began sleeping with him in our bed. I told myself I’d still try to get him in his bassinet when he feel into a deep sleep – but I didn’t. He slept so well! We were rested, and sane, and happy!! And so was our baby!
When baby #2 arrived we kept him with us in our bed from day one! Same with baby #3. I love having them right next to me where I can hear & feel them breathing. I sleep without pillows & use only very light blankets up to my waist, while keeping baby up near my head – we’re practically nose to nose.
I understand that this arrangement doesn’t work for everyone, nor is it recommended for everyone. For us, it works! Especially when I return to work. I love the aspects of nighttime parenting after being away all day. I might miss out on their daytime activities, so I feel better being present and close throughout the night. Plus, there’s the added benefit of reducing nighttime wakings. At the first sign of baby stirring, I can breastfeed him/her and we both go back to sleep. Nobody has to get up! And that is essential to me being able to get up at 5 a.m. and being at least moderately productive at the office!
When baby #3 arrived it was a given that she’d sleep with us, just like her brothers had – and I’m oh-so-thankful she did! When she was a week old we were getting ready for bed, I swaddled her in her blanket and set her next to me. My husband and I were chatting about the day & I heard her burp. I happened to look over at her and saw a tiny bit of spit up on her mouth. I leaned over to wipe it away and noticed she was wide-eyed with a panicked look on her face. I yelled at my husband, “Turn on the lights! I don’t think she can breathe!”
My husband turned on the lights and my baby girl was quickly turning purple!!! We flipped her over and patted her back but she wasn’t breathing. I jumped up and got the bulb syringe they give you in the hospital (best thing EVER!!!) and suctioned out her nose – nothing. I stuck it in her mouth and suctioned out her throat. FINALLY a cry!!!! Praise God!
Then it happened again! She started turning purple a second time!!! We repeated the suctioning and she was breathing! It took about 15 minutes for her to start breathing normally again. During this time we put in a call to her pediatrician’s on-call line. The nurse we spoke to urged us to call an ambulance to bring her to the ER. Several minutes later baby and I were on our way to the hospital while hubby stayed home with the older two kids.
At the ER, the doctor said she had an “apparent life threatening event” (honestly, could they call it something a little LESS traumatizing???). She was admitted for two days and they ran all sorts of tests. A children’s hospital is nowhere that you want to be! It’s sad and it’s scary and it’s just heartbreaking! But after you’ve seen your baby turn purple and stop breathing you will watch that oxygen monitor like a hawk for 48 hours without blinking!
All test results came back normal! They diagnosed our sweet girl with a really bad case of silent reflux. Over and over all I could think about was what would have happened if I hadn’t been looking at her. She was so quiet! If I had gone to the other room, if I had been in the shower – would we have seen her? Would we have intervened in time? Could the outcome have been tragic?
It took awhile before I felt like I could sleep again. We bought a Snuza monitor that clips onto her diaper and will sound an alarm if she’s not breathing. This helps me feel a bit more secure. Every night, when we snuggle up, nose to nose, and I hear her breathe, I am filled with so much thankfulness and awe. I am so thankful to have our baby girl with us and I know not one moment should ever be taken for granted.
For more information on the benefits of co-sleeping and how to do it safely, check out this link.