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The Family Bed

Jan 24, 12:56 PM · from the mouth of Tyler

I thought this warranted it’s own posting. I mentioned that Jess and I are planning on cosleeping (also called the Family Bed), and Andy had some very good questions. So I’ll use this opportunity to answer those and more, with knowledge I’ve learned from a book I’m reading on the subject called, Good Nights: The Happy Parent’s Guide to the Family Bed (And a Peaceful Night’s Sleep)

Here are Andy’s questions:


1. How do you take care of your “adult needs” (SEX) with baby in your bed?

2. At what point do you move junior to his/her own sleeping quarters, and how do you deal with the instant separation anxiety that ensues?

3. (I know I said there’d only be 2. Crap) What happens when you have Optimus Prime? Is that when Megatron gets kicked out? Or do both of them stay around and feud for your attention?


Glad you asked! All good questions, and I think the answer to most of them is “We’ll see.”

1. Sex: There’s a whole chapter devoted to this in the book. The book says that the Family Bed opens up a whole new world of possibilities in your love life, such as: the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the back yard, the front yard, the roof, the car, public spaces, etc… But the way I see it, when the baby is young, it’s pretty much a meat loaf (as a coworker informed me). So I say, just move Meg over, and let the fun continue… S/he won’t know the difference! Plus, we’re considering getting a “sidecar,” like a mini-crib that you put right next to your bed and lower one of the walls, so it’s like part of the same bed. If that’s the case, we can always move Meg over, raise the wall, and be extra quiet. We’ll see.

2. Transitioning to a big kid bed: Again, there’s a whole chapter devoted to this. Apparently, there are a variety of answers here. Diehard Family Bed parents say, “when the kid is ready, he’ll go on his own.” And that could be anywhere between 3 months and 13 years (to mention the extreme examples in the book). But the norm seems to be between 1 and 3 years. You mention separation anxiety, but according to the book, cosleeping actually tends to produce children with a greater feeling of independence. The theory is that children who have all their physical and emotional needs met when they’re babies tend to grow to be more trusting of their parents and the world around them, and thus, more independent. The very idea of moving to a big-kid bed in their own room is exciting for them, and they often do so without complaint. We’ll see.

3. Optimus Prime: The aforementioned chapter on transitioning also mentions that the addition of a new baby often motivates kids to get the heck out of Dodge, so to speak. However, some families choose to have everyone sleep in the bed. (Sounds crowded to me). Many people set up a twin bed either right next to the parents bed, or at least in the same room. Again, we’ll see.

Many “traditional” sleep books, those that suggest the kid has a crib in a room down the hall, promote the “cry-it-out” technique. In this case, the baby, who’s used to nursing every three hours or so during the day, is forced to go without food or affection for a full 8 hours in the dark of night. Baby of course is hungry and scared, and begins to cry. The technique here is pretty self-explanitory. You just let the baby cry it out. Many babies cry so hard they end up vomiting, and all the “experts” recommend that you just leave baby alone and let him fall asleep in a pool of his own vomit. When they become toddlers, many kids get into crying fits and bang their heads against the wall until they fall asleep. This is apparently quite common. Again, you’re expected to just let them cry it out. Proponents of these methods claim that THIS is what teaches independence. But many psychologists are beginning to find that the opposite is true. And it makes perfect sense. Babies are born 100% helplessly dependent on their parents for survival. So when they are ripped from the security of their mothers for long periods of time at night, they become clingy during the day.

I’ll point to the animal kingdom, and mention that almost ALL mammals cosleep. Think of any nature shows you’ve seen… you never see an infant chimp sleeping soundly in a tree somewhere, all alone. They’re always in their mothers’ arms (or on their mothers’ back!) Baby animals make an excellent meal for predators, and thus depend on their parents for protection until they develop their own survival skills. And evolutionarily speaking, we’re not that removed from chimps in the jungle. In the days of cavemen, the scenario was the same: leave the baby to sleep alone in a remote corner of the cave… instant sabertooth food.

It stands mentioning that much of the rest of the world cosleeps. It’s really not a new hippie idea at all. Cribs are an invention of 20th century America, and are rarely found in the rest of the world. Cosleeping is standard protocol in Japan. Much of Europe does too, although American influence is starting to change this unfortunately.

One of the most common questions new parents get asked is, “Is he sleeping through the night yet?” It’s become commonplace in our culture to expect that a new baby will mean months of sleepless nights. With cosleeping, this isn’t the case. The new baby does indeed wake up a few times during the night, but rather than screaming for 20 minutes, they just nurse on their half-asleep mothers, then go quietly back to sleep.

According to the book, (which is based largely on research, not hearsay), children raised in the family bed tend to be healthier. The thoughts are that since the amount of stress hormones are dramatically reduced, their immune system is stronger and physical, mental, and emotional development is unhindered. Family bed kids sleep better, as do their parents. Most family bed graduates go on to become incredibly confident, well adjusted people. They, and their parents, look back on their cosleeping years fondly.

This isn’t to say that crib sleeping is evil. Most of us were probably raised in cribs, with the cry-it-out technique. And we’re all happy, normal people. (Okay, well we’re all happy anyway). But cosleeping is a very attractive option for us, and we’re excited about beginning our adventure!

How’s that for a book report?!



Comment [6]

  1. Jess responds with:

    Wow. That’s an edumacated man I found! Lucky me. While I think that his “book report” is wonderful, he forgot two important things. One, a very essential survival aspect and the other a partially ridiculous paranoid-mom-to-be line of thinking. I’ll start, logically, with the logical one.

    It has been scientifically proven that when humans sleep in close proximity to one another, their bodies synchronize in a sense. Heartbeats mimic one another, breathing patterns, even sleep cycles. We have personally experienced this phenomenon. When I had an irregular heartbeat one day, Tyler laid next to me and his heart starting racing. This is real stuff. So with babies, who are still working on breathing and keeping themselves alive, come into the bed, they can use mom and dad as models for good life preservation behaviors, thus, theoretically, reducing SIDS cases in co-sleeping newborns. (SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is where a baby basically forgets to breathe). Pretty cool, huh?

    And the second thought process that he left out (probably because he isn’t neurotic like me) is what I will call the “what if?” line of thinking. What if when we are sound asleep with our baby two doors down the hall, someone breaks in to steal all of our worldly possessions, and when they realize we don’t have any they steal our baby! What if there is an earthquake and we can’t make it to baby in time to save that little life? What if there is a fire and we don’t make it? What if? What if? What if? I could go on all day here. (You get a little crazy when there is a bun in the oven!)

    Not to mention, our dogs sleep with us, it would be pretty messed up to keep the dogs with us in the bedroom and put the kid down the hall!

    Well, that is enough of me.

    Thanks for reading.

    · Jan 24, 09:57 PM
  2. TyTy responds with:

    One other thing I neglected to mention. We probably won’t just put the baby in the bed, pull up the covers, and say good night, as you may be fearing. We’ll be getting a device called a Snuggle Nest, where the baby sleeps securely in a little bed all it’s own right between Mom and Dad. Rest assured, we will not smother our baby. :)

    · Jan 24, 10:32 PM
  3. Jimmy's Girlie responds with:


    Is the diaper that you have mentioned the gDiaper? I haven’t gotten to use it (of course), but when the time comes, this hippy will be using these: (I don’t know how to do the fancy links and I’m too lazy to look and even if you tell me how, I’m too lazy ;oP)

    I also am very interested in non-medicated birth when the time comes. I talked a lot about it with the lady I nannied for over the summer, and it just sounds all-around great. Apparently you loose a lot of your muscle control when you’re put on the meds… and that’s why it’s harder to get the baby out, because you need your muscles then the most, DUH! Why is it that we have to have so many c-sections now-a-days, eh? We managed without them for so long and now everyone’s ready to go with the knife. Yech, no thank you. Also, apparently the drugs make labor take longer. I’d rather it be quick with some natural pain rather than long, kind of painful, and with a giant cut on my tummy. Also, water births are intriguing. But I’ve got a long while to figure that much out ;o)

    And I was cribbed with the “cry-it-out” method. I’ve always hated sleeping alone, maybe this is the fault? Ask Jimmy… I hate it. I’m very clingy and he gets the brunt of it ;oP Maybe it’s not bull… I wouldn’t say I’m a completely happy independent person. I’m not a F***-Up, but yeah…

    Anymoos… I’m proud of you guys. Parents-to-be after my own heart.

    Just please tell me that you’re going to let your kid eat dirt and roll in grime and build a good, healthy immune system. Please? ;o)

    Also, tell me that when baby falls instead of screming “ARE YOU OKAY?!?” and freaking it out so that it cries, you will say “You’re okay!” and inspect the bumps and scrapes calmly. K? K. We’re good.


    · Jan 30, 11:50 PM
  4. TyTy responds with:

    As a matter of fact, we are going with the gDiapers! (There’s your link for ya!) We already have a starter set of g’s that we got at our local health food store. It’s basically a cloth outer diaper thing that Velcro’s closed, then you put these little flushable inserts in the business part of the diaper. Then when they’ve done their duty (heh heh, duty), you just pull out the insert and flush it. Brilliant! And they’re adorable too.

    We are actually quite intrigued by water births too, but unfortunately there’s nowhere in the Richmond area that does them. So we’re just gonna try to stick with a natural, albeit traditional, birth. We are thinking about hiring a doula though.

    Believe you me— I got plenty dirty when I was a kid, and I’m sure ours will too. I don’t want them getting superbacteria or peanut allergies or anything! But Jess is a bit of a germophobe, so we’re gonna have to balance it somehow.

    Hey guess what? We’re gonna find out if it’s a mini TyTy or a mini Jess tomorrow!! I was torn for a while… I always thought it’d be fun for it to be a surprise, but the logical side of it won me over. Keep your fingers crossed! (For what, I’m not sure. I just hope it’s not a hermaphrodite. But even if it is, I’ll love him/her anyway. Of course.)


    Love Ty.

    · Jan 31, 01:06 AM
  5. Jimmy's Girlie responds with:

    Ooooooh I can’t wait to hear what it is! Post here ASAP! That’s worthy of its own big ol’ fat post. SO happy you’re using gDiapers… the #1 variety are compostable too! (thanks for the link)

    See… you should come out here because there is a water birthing center in Boulder (of course!!). I guess we’re just spoiled ;oP

    Doulas sound interesting. I didn’t read much but a little bit so you’ll have to tell us all about it if you decide to hire one.

    Jim and I were just talking about that last night, surprise vs. practicality. We’re both of the mind that it’s just easier to not have 30,000 sets of yellow pajamas. So we can’t wait to hear!!

    Okay mommy and daddy, I should do some work.

    · Jan 31, 03:40 PM
  6. Jess responds with:

    Well, it’s a….......... baby! yup. A baby. We don’t know any more than that, though. Baby did NOT want to cooperate! But we go back in two weeks, so maybe we will be able to tell then.

    · Jan 31, 06:59 PM
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