I tiptoed into this territory...at the hospital when Nicolette was in the bassinet next to me. I would hear her fidget and fuss at night so I would pick her up and go through all the checks to make sure that her needs were met i.e. check her diaper, try to nurse her, etc. If those were ok I would hold her until she quieted down and then lay her back in the bassinet. It normally took all of 5-10 minutes before I would hear her rustling again. Repeat check sequence, calm her down and lay her back in the bassinet. After 4 or 5 go rounds of this I would hold her on my chest and we would inevitably fall asleep together. She wouldn't budge until it was time for me to wake her up and feed her. It was instinctual for me to want to have her with me, not in her little plastic bin beside my bed. If you look at most of the animal kingdom nearly all animals co-sleep with their young. It's really just us humans in our highly evolved "civilized" society who have chosen to forego this practice.
Still, when we got home I would carefully place her in her bassinet by our bed to sleep each night and without fail she would wake up fidgety and restless several times but I was too scared to put her in bed with us so I just had many nights of little to no sleep which I thought was just typical of parents of newborns.
During this time I had started reading one of Dr. Sears's books (yes, he is the Attachment Parenting guru that was featured in "THE" infamous Time Magazine article - the one that was totally overshadowed by the photo of the gorgeous mother breastfeeding her 4 year old on the cover). He had a chapter that covered co-sleeping, sleepsharing, bed sharing or the family bed (whatever you want to call it). I mentioned it to the Italian figuring that he would think that it's just another one of my kooky, hippy-granola ideas. (I may not look "crunchy" but I'm definitely a stiletto hippy...I'm into as much holistic all natural stuff as I can get, but still wear makeup (organic kind), designer clothes and heels :)) He immediately was all for it. I asked him if he was afraid that either he or I might squish her and he said absolutely not. He knew that she would sleep closer to me than him and he pointed out that although it is different our cat-child, Sasha has slept in our bed at my feet for the past 3 years. He's noted over and over again that he would be awake and watch me in my sleep ever so gently move my feet around Sasha so as not to disrupt her in any way. He said he knew that it would be even more heightened with Nicolette and he was right. Nicolette sleeps nestled right beside me in the crook of my arm and I literally do not move at all throughout the night and she doesn't really move much either.
I've included the 7 Benefits of co-sleeping from Dr. Sears's book below (my comments are noted in italics and highlighted):
Sleepsharing babies usually go to sleep and stay asleep better. Being parented to sleep at the breast of mother or in the arms of father creates a healthy go-to-sleep attitude. Baby learns that going to sleep is a pleasant state to enter (one of our goals of nighttime parenting). Many mothers and infants are able to achieve nighttime harmony: babies and mothers get their sleep cycles in sync with one another.
Martha (Dr. Sears' wife) notes: "I would automatically awaken seconds before my baby would. When the baby started to squirm, I would lay on a comforting hand and she would drift back to sleep. Sometimes I did this automatically and I didn't even wake up."Most veteran breastfeeding mothers have, for survival, learned that sharing sleep makes breastfeeding easier. Breastfeeding mothers find it easier than bottlefeeding mothers to get their sleep cycles in sync with their babies. They often wake up just before the babies awaken for a feeding. By being there and anticipating the feeding, mother can breastfeed baby back to a deep sleep before baby (and often mother) fully awakens. Sleepsharing is even more relevant in today's busy lifestyles. As more and more mothers, out of necessity, are separated from their baby during the day, sleeping with their baby at night allows them to reconnect and make up for missed touch time during the day. As a nighttime perk, the relaxing hormones that are produced in response to baby nursing relax a mother and help her wind down from the tension of a busy day's work.
Over the past thirty years of observing sleepsharing families in our pediatric practice, we have noticed one medical benefit that stands out; these babies thrive . "Thriving" means not only getting bigger, but also growing to your full potential, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Perhaps it's the extra touch that stimulates development, or perhaps the extra feedings (yes, sleepsharing infants breastfeed more often than solo sleepers).
Remember that becoming connected is the basis of parenting, and one of your early goals of parenting. In our office, we keep a file entitled "Kids Who Turned Out Well, What Their Parents Did." We have noticed that infants who sleep with their parents (some or all of the time during those early formative years) not only thrive better, but infants and parents are more connected.
New research is showing what parents the world over have long suspected: infants who sleep safely nestled next to parents are less likely to succumb to the tragedy of SIDS. Yet, because SIDS is so rare (.5 to 1 case per 1,000 infants), this worry should not be a reason to sleep with your baby. (For in depth information on the science of sleepsharing and the experiments showing how sleep benefits a baby's nighttime physiology. (See SIDS)