After much research, I felt like there were two choices, bed share or cry it out. I was determined not to do either, and so I found a way that worked for me. I did want to co-sleep (or share a room with) my newborn, and I was concerned about the dangers of SIDS and of suffocation that bed-sharing posed for a newborn. We chose to start with a co-sleeper bassinet, which is a bassinet that attaches to the bed. The cosleeper made night time nursing easy, and I felt safe in knowing that Miriam had her own firm little mattress free of suffocation hazards or the risk of falling.
The cosleeper was great, but it was never a permanent solution since it was a bassinet, and bassinets have short walls and a low height/weight limit. They are designed for newborns, not for “all of babyhood”. When we moved to Plainsboro, we left the bedframe behind and created a low bed set-up with a crib mattress pushed up next to our bed for baby Miriam. She was about 10 weeks old at that point, and we also stopped using the swaddle when we moved.
There are different schools of thought about grouping big changes like that, but for us it worked. She slept beautifully, though she always wanted to be on our bed and not her little mattress. I tried to hold out until she crossed the “SIDS mountain” peak around age 4 months, and then we let her in our bed every night. That doesn’t mean we had a hard fast rule or anything, if I was feeling extra tired or unable to safely bedshare she went on her bed. If she was particularly upset and wanted to cuddle before 4 mos I would let her in bed with us.
I’m not worried about getting her out of our bed because I know we’ll do the same thing, as we have with so many other of our parenting decisions. Work towards our goals, gently, without giving up and without going crazy. The AAP recommends breastfeeding until at least 1 year of age and then “longer as mutually desired by mother and infant”. To me that was phrase was gold. As long as bed-sharing is mutually desired by mother and infant, we will do it. Same with nursing, same with everything.
I think the most important thing for me was this – do not make hard and fast rules, and do not give up on your goals. It was my goal to keep Miriam in her bassinet at first, and I did it, but we let her in our bed when she really needed to be. I didn’t give up or stop trying, even if I had to settle her a few times before she was really comfortable. If settling her down became more difficult than it was worth to me, in she came with us.
My instincts agreed with this gentle and flexible way of sleeping, it worked for us and it worked for her. She trusted that if she needed me I would get her, and I trusted that if I took her in, it wouldn’t become something I HAD to do every night if it wasn’t what my heart felt.
For those in it, I say follow your instincts, treat each other gently, and stick to your goals in the long term. In the short term, do what you can to gently work towards them, and don’t drive yourself crazy.
***Disclaimer*** We made our decisions after plenty of research and consulting LLLI’s guide to safe co-sleeping, research from the Notre Dame Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, and Dr. Sears. Please do your own research and consider consulting a pediatrician about whether this is the right choice for you and your family. It is not possible for every family to practice safe bed-sharing.