You will see the family bed referred to as "night time nurturing," or "family co-sleeping." Hey come on - let's call it what it is: The lazy parent's bed.
And I don't use the word lazy pejoratively. (Everybody else does but they're wrong.)
With my first baby, I was vigilant. I wouldn't let him sleep in the bed.
I'd nurse him and my husband would whisk him away like an efficient nanny.
"He has to be able to comfort himself," I told my husband. "He has to learn to fall asleep by himself."
The second child slept at a basket at the end of my bed.
And spent most of the night.
The third child, well, she was right in there with us - in the bed.
The fourth child...well, he didn't even have a crib.
Learn from my experience. Please.
If you don't trust me, listen to an expert:
Anthropologist James McKenna of Pomona College believes that the family bed provides advantages for the baby. He has found that babies sleeping with mothers spend less time in the deepest stages of sleep, which is when they are more likely to stop breathing.
Apparently all infants stop breathing several times a night. But Mom's presence can help rouse the baby and may help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Thank you, Professor McKenna, for providing empirical evidence to support my instincts.
The family bed saved my life.
Nursing the baby in bed in the middle of the night has many advantages and the lazy woman soon finds them.
You can fall asleep and nurse your child and wake up in the morning refreshed. (To a sleep-deprived mother, that can be the difference between life and death. Before indulging in the family bed, I remember feeling like there was no point in going to sleep because I was just going to be awakened anyway. )
But if you've got the baby in your bed, you turn to him in sleep and soothe him and there you are asleep again.
Of course, in the morning your breast may look or feel like a wilted flower. (The baby sometimes nurses all night.)
Your sex life may suffer. But it's hard to have a sex life anyway when all you're hot for is rest. (Anyway doing it in the kitchen might spice things up a bit.)
Some experts will say: Get that baby out of the bed. It's dangerous. You could smother the child.
It depends on what kind of sleeper you are. If you're one of those who close your eyes and sleep through an airplane landing in the next room, well then, yes, it is probably dangerous for you to sleep with your child.
But I am not such a great sleeper.
The experts will also caution you not to over-nurse your child. (Whatever that is). Why not give a crying kid your breast? Just put those experts in the room with you at 3:43 AM and then see what they tell you to do. They'll tell you to nurse like the Kung San, a tribe of hunter-gatherers in Botswana who nurse up to four times every hour. Take that, all you Dr. Spock wannabes. (If I remember correctly, he said not more than once every three hours.)
Yes, the family bed may be dangerous -- but not for the baby.
You may wake up with a stiff back from being curled around the little one.
The baby may kick your husband in the ribs.
You may wake up at certain times of the night and panic because you can't find the baby. She's crept to the foot of the bed.
Sometimes the bed can get wet or soggy. But that's only if you use the cheapest generic diapers.
But there is a worse danger. The baby may like it in the bed so much that you will not be able to get him out of there. That baby may be there until he graduates high school.
Not to worry. At least you'll know where he is.