The Benefits of a Family Bed

When my children were babies, I found sharing a family bed with them was so important in getting enough sleep. One of the biggest shocks when you have a new baby is finding out how little sleep you have to manage with. If your baby sleeps with you it can dramatically increase the amount of sleep you get.

The reasons for this are:

• Your baby senses you are there, feels safe and sleeps for longer between feeds.

• When your baby does wake you can just roll over on your side and feed him/her. After a while, once you have breastfeeding well established, you will find that you can dose off while your baby is still feeding.

• You don’t have to get out of bed, so you don’t get cold and fully woken up which can make it very hard to fall asleep again.

• Sometimes dad can soothe the baby back to sleep again without mom having to wake up at all

• If you need to change a nappy, you can do it from the warmth and comfort of your bed. Neither you, nor your baby, will be so disturbed as if you had to get the baby out of a cot to do it.

• A very important reason for having your baby sleeping in a family bed with you is that the chances of cot death are greatly reduced. Mothers, especially, have a almost a sixth sense when it comes to their babies and, when you sleep with your baby, you often wake for just a few seconds to check that the baby is OK. I am also sure that the baby is gently stimulated during the night by the movements of mom and dad next to him/her and that this protects against the possibility of the baby stopping breathing.

There have been some scaremongering stories about the dangers of having your babies sleeping with you. You hear the occasional story about a baby having been smothered by a parent rolling on him/her or being caught under the heavy covers. As long as you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol when you go to bed, the chances of this happening are extremely small. Cot death is a much greater risk to your baby than this. If you do happen to go to bed having had a few drinks, then it would be a wise precaution to put your baby to bed on a small mattress next to your bed, rather than in bed with you. As far as the covers are concerned, a duvet generally has many air pockets in it so is unlikely to smother a baby. You can also ensure that your baby sleeps high up in the family bed near your face, and has his her own blanket rather than being covered with your duvet.

If you are worried about your baby falling out of your bed there a couple of things you can do. One is to put your mattress on the floor and put the bed away for a while (if possible). Secondly, you can buy a bed guard to put on the side of the bed your baby normally sleeps on.

With my first two children, I had a mattress on the floor which worked really well. It meant that, when my daughter was born, my son could continue to sleep with us on a mattress next to our bed. I am sure this is what helped him to accept her so easily into our family. By the time my third child was born we had had enough of sleeping on the floor, so we used a bed guard to stop her rolling out of bed, which worked very well.

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