The Family Bed
An increasing number of couples do not use a bassinet or crib. Instead, they let their newborn sleep in bed with them. This is called “the family bed”—Mom, Dad, and baby, all sleeping together.
How does this work out? Well, it depends on the family. Some fathers love sleeping with their infant children. They may be gone at work and not see their family all day long. Being able to share a bed with them at night makes them feel connected to them.
Family bed advocates believe that it promotes family togetherness as well as a greater sense of well-being for the child. The child is not alone in a crib or bassinet; he is cuddled up with his mother and father, sharing their bodily warmth. This, say the family bed people, comforts him and makes him feel more secure. Some parents like sleeping with their child because it is truly something you can only do when he is little. When he grows older and bigger, he will likely have to move into a crib.
Many men, however, are not too keen on the family bed concept. They are often the ones who have to get up early in the morning to go to work. They need a good night's sleep—as good as they can get, anyhow—and they do not want to hear every peep and cry and gurgle their newborn makes. Family beds frequently turn into fatherless beds because the man leaves to sack out on the living room couch.
Men worry about possibly rolling over on top of their child. Even if it doesn't happen, the thought of it causes them to lose sleep. Some men also see their time in bed with their partners as precious. Even if they do not make love, they can talk and be intimate with her. The baby's presence in bed can interfere with this.
Never let your newborn sleep on a waterbed. The mattress should be firm, with no folds or spaces in the bedding that might affect her breathing. Remember that alcohol can deaden your senses when you are asleep. You should not sleep in the same bed with an infant after you've been drinking.
If either you or your partner care to sleep with the baby, you may want to give it a try to see how it works. One advantage is that when the baby cries in the middle of the night and needs to be fed, neither of you has to stand up to get him. Your partner slips him her breast, and he quiets down. A device called a “co-sleeper” could be a good compromise. It sits next to your partner's side of the bed. When the baby is done nursing, she slides him onto the co-sleeper, allowing him to be close to the two of you but in a separate space.