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Why Bed Sharing is Even Better the Second Time Around

Poor Eleanor is learning to crawl.  I say poor because she has hit the rocking on hands and knees stage in a furious but so far futile attempt to move.  It’s the first thing she does when she wakes and the last thing she does before falling asleep.  Heck, she even tries to “sleep crawl” in the middle of the night!  As you might imagine, her sleep is suffering a bit.

Last time I wrote about why so many parents feel pressure about sleep…and why they shouldn’t.   My sleep advice boils down to “patience and co-sleep or bed share.”  On a practical level, bed sharing equals more sleep all around; even 3am motor skills practice doesn’t impact my sleep all that much.  While I certainly enjoy the practical side effects of bed sharing – including more sleep – lately I’ve found myself appreciating more and more some of the less discussed benefits.

Before Callum was born, I knew that I wanted to co-sleep (as in have him sleep in our room).  I didn’t have a sense of how long that phase might last, and I really didn’t intend to actually bring him in the bed with me.  At first, we had an Arms Reach co-sleeper set up beside the bed.  But after a month or two I realized that snuggling right beside him was really the best choice for us (see our post here on how to bed share safely); we happily snuggled together until about 15 months or so when we decided to transition him to his own sleeping space.

When Eleanor was born, we settled in to bed sharing right from the start.  While I realize that bed sharing (as in sharing the same sleep space) isn’t right for every family, it has been a wonderful way to tackle nighttime parenting for us.   Babies wake up at night and often want to eat; bed sharing allows me to nurse and fall right back to sleep.   Plus, since she doesn’t have to wake up fully before I help her back to sleep, we generally avoid those lengthy nighttime wakings that make for a very tired mama and a cranky baby.

The other night as I was working to coax a trying to crawl Eleanor to nurse to sleep for the night – and failing as I kept laughing at her adorable antics – it occurred to me that bed sharing serves another important function – it gives Eleanor and I some one on one time that is often lacking during the rest of the day.   Sometimes I feel a bit guilty that Eleanor doesn’t get all of the focused attention that Callum did at her age.  Sure, she gets to see and do lots of stuff, but much of what we do is centered around Callum’s activities.  Eleanor is our cheerful little tag-a-long who soaks it all up.

When I go to bed some hours after Eleanor has fallen asleep, I often spend a few moment just soaking her in.  When she rustles in the night or when I wake for no reason at all, I have the luxury of drifting back to sleep with the sweet scent of baby by my cheek.  And every morning I am greeted with wonderful grins and giggles before I ever have to get out of bed.

Sure, Eleanor and I spend the majority of these nighttime hours together asleep.  But I can’t help but think snuggling her close is an important part of laying the foundation for her own independent spirit to emerge.  And while I do miss being able to snuggle under my covers up to my chin on a cold winter’s night, I’ll never regret the hundreds of hours I spent snuggled up with my babies.

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Published in Parenting Sleep