There. I've said it. And I'm saying it enough in public these days that I'm not feeling bad about it any more. And I've communicated with enough other moms in my neighborhood that I've learned I'm BY FAR not the only one. So there it is, we're doing it.
I feel strongly that just like teaching parents to safely travel in a car with their baby, it's our responsibility as a community to teach parents to sleep safely in a bed with baby. As such, I wanted to let you know 5 things I think you should all know about co-sleeping.
1) Put your bed low to the ground - As baby gets old enough to roll, crawl, and move on her own, she WILL attempt to get out of bed. Both while you're there and while you're not. As such, the safest place for your bed is as close to the ground as possible. We were already planning on sizing up to a queen soon (see #4 for why we haven't yet), so we just threw out our frame and box spring and put the mattress straight on the ground. For those of you who have a bed you love, you might rather put that frame and box spring in storage, the basement, at grandmas for a while until baby gets a lot older. I know it seems totally un-cool to have a mattress straight on the ground. But I promise you, you'll get used to it. I also promise you that you'll appreciate it the first time you hear "THUNK, WAAAAH!" while you're in the shower while you thought baby was asleep.
2) Use a barrier of some kind when you're not in the bed - I've recently learned that there are many options for this. The cheapest option is to simply re-arrange your pillows in a square/circle around baby when you walk out of the room (e.g., when she's napping during the day, when she goes to sleep at 7pm but you're not going to bed until later). Even amongst co-sleepers putting pillows near your child under a certain age will garner some raised eyebrows due to SIDS risk. So if you do this, make sure they're nice, firm pillows that can't suffocate your little one.
Another option is foam bumpers. Here's just one example of them, but there are lots of companies that make 'em. They seem like a nice, firm, sturdy option. And I like that you can put them under the fitted sheet, so that they're less of a suffocation risk. Of course, that means you're leaving them there while YOU sleep in the bed too. So make sure your bed is wide enough for all 3 of you AND the bumper before you commit to this option.
A third option is inflatable bumpers. The benefit here is that you can pack 'em up and go to grandmas and your sleeping situation doesn't change much. Ben seems to think that the inflatable option is less safe (I think it's the idea of sleeping next to a balloon). But under the sheets, I don't see why this isn't just as safe as a foam bumper.
3) You have to be creative to stay warm - I used to be a curl-up-under-the-covers-bring-'em-all-the-way-to-my-neck kinda girl. But oh, no more. When you co-sleep, it's important to keep your adult blankets out of baby's way so that she doesn't get covered by/tangled in them and suffocate. If baby's head is about at chest height, that means, her legs/toesies are about at my waist, which is really just about as high as our blankets go anymore. During the summer, this wasn't a big deal, as we don't have air conditioning and the house is fairly warm.
But as the fall coolness comes on, Ben and I have to be a bit more creative about ways to keep warm. Some moms I've talked two simply use two blankets, one for mom and one for dad, leaving a chasm in the middle. Others use a blanket that is larger than their bed (e.g., king for a queen sized mattress) and leave a loose spot in the middle that gets pulled down for baby. And some people just wear more layers themselves so that they don't rely on blankets as much. Honestly, Ben and I are still figuring it out. We leave a loose spot, leave the blankets down a little lower, and have used our space heater a little sooner than we usually do-- that way we can heat the bedroom a little warmer at night without heating the whole house. I think I might make my first million dollars by creating a co-sleeping blanket-- connected at the bottom but divided at the top. Why not, right?
Oh, and incidentally, invest in sleep sacks for your little one-- they're a great way to keep baby warm while she stays away from your adult blanket. Our day care prefers them too, even though they're not co-sleeping. :-)
4) It's gonna get messy - If I haven't mentioned other places or you haven't read in other places yet... infancy is WET. I expected O to be the wet one... wet diapers and wet spit ups. And we do have some of that. But there's so much other wetness I wasn't expecting. Immediately post partum, my milk supply was out. of. control. That was wet during feeds and between feeds. There's recovery and wetness in other areas of your new mommy body too. That's wet. And even now, after those wetness things have settled down, Olivia has the STRANGEST head sweat! She can leave a puddle in about 5 minutes while she's sleeping! Oh, and now that we're working toward teething, the new wetness is drool. Drool coming out of the mouth, dripping off the fingers... even on her toes. Yes, she puts her toes in her mouth. Bottom line - Messy. Wet and messy. Get used to it.
Thus, you should be prepared to do laundry more often. Sometimes we can space out the laundry a bit by putting a receiving blanket UNDER baby O. That way if all we have is a little head sweat, we only have to wash the receiving blanket, not all of the sheets. But even the receiving blanket won't catch all of the wet every time. So be prepared for more laundry. Either that or adjusting your definition of "clean" when it comes to sheets.
It's this messiness that has kept us in the smaller bed thus far. I know that new beds come with mattress pads to keep wetness off the mattress and thus in cleaner, longer lasting condition. But Ben and I agree that the older O gets, the less messes we're gonna have. Less diaper blow outs, less drool, etc. Thus, we're trying to stretch our current old mattress for as many weeks/months as we can tolerate before we get a new one. At some point, O's size and space she takes up in the bed will outweigh the mess, and we'll size up to a queen. But for now, we cuddle nicely in our full sized bed.
5) Some nights will go better than others. - If you're a mom reading this and have tried co-sleeping with result of a horrible, sleepless, cold, wet night, you might be thinking "UGH! Why does it go well for them and not me??!?!?!" Please don't. Yes, most nights, we sleep comfortably, sleep deeply, and sleep warmly. But this process, just like all other parts of parenthood, has it's ups and downs. Some nights, O tosses and turns way more than usual, smacking us in the face with each wiggle. Some nights, she cries more or is just more awake and wants to play. Some nights, I just can't get warm enough and I whimper all night while Ben tries to toss more blankets on me. But I promise you, once we got used to the systems and routines, these things are the exception, not the rule. Each family needs to figure out what works best for them. And you'll figure it out for your family too!
Who else out there has advice for snuggling with little ones?