The Family Bed

Family Bed

One example of a family bed

Throughout my pregnancy I had this vision of a baby sleeping peacefully all snuggled in a bassinet. I had no idea that some babies didn’t just stay asleep when you put them down.

I also had no idea that newborns had a Moro reflex or even what a Moro reflex was! We never intended to bedshare, but our family bed has become one of the most rewarding, comfortable, and natural part of our night-time parenting arsenal. I’m thankful my daughter was persnickety enough to insist on sleeping right where she belongs, next to me.

I borrowed a co-sleeper from a friend of mine to use while J was a newborn with every intention of using it. I thought it would be so great to have my little peanut just an arms length away from me at night so we’d both get rest and closeness. As it turned out though, my daughter only slept in the co-sleeper for a collected 45 minutes total her whole life. J would have nothing to do with swaddling; she would wake up if I moved my arm the wrong way while putting her down; she would startle herself awake if I were lucky enough to put her down, and any flat surface was just out of the question.

On day two home from the hospital I fell asleep sitting straight up on our couch while nursing J in the cradle hold. My husband was there the whole time but when she startled and woke me up I felt a surge of panic.

I knew that it was not safe to have fallen asleep with her on a couch. I decided to listen to Dr. Sears’ suggestion of lying down with her to nurse and it was like a giant light bulb went off over my head. So, this is how we’re supposed to do it!

It was all so natural and easy. I never had any fear that I would roll over onto her. I was so keenly aware of her, myself and my husband that I never had any doubts. We were in sync again; two made into one as if pregnancy was continuing on after birth.

Though, as quickly as we became in sync and found our groove the looming day of doom was upon us. I had to go back to work.

Going back to work was (and still is) one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Birthing a baby is nothing compared to the heartache I felt leaving my daughter during the day. Sure, she’s in loving arms all day with family but she’s not in my loving arms all day. What keeps me going are the snuggles, the baby sighs, and the little hand that reaches out saying ‘mama, I need you now’ in the middle of the night. Oh do they melt my heart.

I spend my days at work anticipating cuddling with my daughter at night and I need that time. Not just to reconnect, but because my daughter needs to nurse at night since this mama does not respond well to a pump. No matter how often, how long, how short, what kind of pump or what size flanges I use it, doesn’t change my output. Neither does listening to water, massaging my breasts, looking at pictures of J, picturing milk fountains, galactagogues. No matter what; I just can’t get more milk.

Naturally, I have a reverse-cycling baby and I thank my lucky stars for that. If I hadn’t discovered how wonderful a family bed was for getting some much needed rest, my daughter and I probably wouldn’t have as strong of a breastfeeding relationship as we have now at one year. I don’t know if we would have made it this far without “having” to supplement since I don’t pump well.

If you can’t seem to get enough milk during the day, don’t listen to anyone telling you bedhsaring/co-sleeping is bad, unsafe or that nursing at night is a bad habit. You can bedshare/co-sleep safely. You can breastfeed at night and it’s NOT a bad habit.

Start enjoying nighttime parenting by having a family bed and use nighttime nursing to reconnect, to stay connected, and so you can keep your breastfeeding relationship going strong.  Plus, you’ll sleep better and probably more, too. We definitely do.

Photo Credit: Simple Whimsy


Sara is a Wisconsin mom living the “Halfway Crunchy” life. She advocates for natural birth, breastfeeding, baby wearing, and cloth diapering, all while working outside of her home and practicing attachment parenting with her 1 year old daughter.

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