Against the advice of medical professions everywhere, I bedshare with my five-month old daughter, and I love it.
This, however, was not always the case. The repeated warnings from our neonatal team about the increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) left me too frightened to consider it. Per their descriptions and informational pamphlets, I was terrified of accidentally suffocating her by rolling over on her or covering her face with the comforter in my sleep, so when I brought my daughter home after spending almost three weeks in a NICU, I immediately placed her in a side sleeper next to our bed.
Unfortunately, Lennon did not do a lot of sleeping in her isolated sleep space. The week after she came home passed by in a sleepy haze as I stumbled from my bed, changed her, bottle fed her, burped her, and pumped. Bags grew below my eyes, and each night I became more robotic as exhaustion wore away my ability to function or think rationally.
It was during one of these sleepless nights, the one of the accident I had imagined almost occurred - though not in the comfort of my bed. My daughter was having a particularly challenging evening, and I found myself awake for much of the night. After repeatedly unsuccessful attempting to set her in her bed, I found myself sitting in my couch with my daughter on my chest around 3:30 a.m. One moment I was rocking her gently as she fussed and an hour and a half later, I jolted awake in a panic to the sound of my daughter’s cry and discovered her face partially pressed into the leather of our couch. As I pulled her away from the stiff leather, I realized that the greatest hazard to my daughter’s safety was not accidently rolling on top of her or pulling the covers over her - it was the near Narcolepsy type effect long-term sleep deprivation had on my body. In my mind, it was far more dangerous for me to avoid my bed and risk falling asleep than it was for me to cuddle her in bed.
I moved her into my bed the next evening, carefully placing her partially swaddled body above the covers in the center of our king size bed for optimum safety. After our first couple of nights, I stopped worrying about the perceived hazards of bed sharing - I was hyper aware of her presence and immediately awoke if she expressed discomfort by wiggling or fussing as I had on the night she had the potentially fatal encounter with the couch. Although she was still a tiny, colicky premature baby, she seemed comforted by my close proximity and began sleeping in longer intervals. Even when she wasn't sleeping well, the ability to nurse her and bed and rest my eyes was life altering. I know longer felt the sandpaper eyelid, bone-wary level of fatigue that I did during our first few nights.
While at first my decision to co-sleep was made out of fatigue driven necessity, now it is something more than that. I love when she nestles against me at night, her tiny hands holding my fingers possessively. Each morning, I awaken to the content cooing sound she makes when she nurses and her toothless grins of thanks. In the not so distant future, she will desire things that I cannot give her. But, in this tiny window of time, I can give her everything she wants in the world by simply holding her close. So, for now, I will keep cuddling.