What I learned as a {pediatric resident}’s wife: Bed Sharing

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Let me start out by saying that the very reason I’m writing this blog is because these topics are HIGHLY controversial. This blog is for those who are looking to justify following doctors’ orders, not for those who want to prove conventional or Western medicine is somehow lacking. If you’re looking to justify NOT following doctors’ orders, scoot on; you won’t find what you’re looking for here. I am not a medical professional and the stories I recount for you are ones that were reported on the news or recounted to me by friends. My husband cannot and will not share stories with me of his patients. So, here we go.

Residency. The hell you hear about. This is a “boot camp” for nerds, if you will. This is where you find out if your fancy, medical-school book knowledge can hold up after 30 hours of work. I mean, tired. During one shift, my husband took a catnap, got a page (yep…on a beeper…see what I mean about the nerds???) and jumped out of the bunk bed provided to residents. The problem, he quickly realized, was that he had slept on the top bunk this time, not the bottom bunk like the last five-minute nap he’d gotten. Ouch. If you’ve had a newborn, it’s similar to that…for three plus years.

There are only two real lessons I remember learning as a residents’ wife. Here is the first one: I vowed that I would never let our babies sleep in the bed with us. For some people, I’m sure it’s awesome. But not for us. And, I mean, never. We don’t even nap with our babies; if one of us falls asleep, the other takes the baby. We do have our babies in the room with us until they start sleeping through the night, but they’re in their own beds. They’re in a pack ‘n’ play or a cradle. We don’t even do nap nannies or rocking sleepers. Just beds, but in our room, as that’s what’s called for to reduce the risk of SIDS. Not sleeping with our babies is the rule in our house, because of the following story (which was reported to me by the Houston news, not my husband, for all you HIPPA people out there).

One night, a grandmother was watching a baby for her over-exhausted daughter, who also happened to be a single mom. You can completely understand here. The baby was fussy, the single mom had literally been doing everything herself for three weeks. Awful. So, her mom comes over to take the night shift one evening, but only after a hard day of work herself. As she’s holding the baby after the sweet thing had {finally} fallen asleep, grandma nodded off. Grandma was slightly reclined on a couch and the baby fell between the cracks of the couch, unbeknownst to the grandmother, mom and baby. The baby was pronounced dead soon after the paramedics arrived. The grandmother reported that she was only asleep for five minutes. I’m not sure if that’s medically possible, but that’s what she reported in the interview that I saw.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was enough for me. I know that it might not be enough for you all, but it was enough for me. It was just so… innocent. The grandma comes in to relieve the mom for a few short hours, but she can’t help but fall asleep (as any parent of a newborn so easily does) and it doesn’t take long. You say you’ll know if your baby is under you, beside you, falls off of you, but it’s so easy to just stay asleep when you’re SOOOOOO exhausted. And, for a lot of parents, bed sharing (some people call it co-sleeping) is a choice you make with your first child, when you’ve never known a tired like that.

I don’t need a study to tell me that this is one statistic I want to avoid. The truth is that it could happen to me. And I’m not a horrible mom. In fact, there are days I feel like SuperMom. But, most days, I’m an average mom who wants what’s best for my kids. I don’t want my stupidity or pride (“It will never happen to me…I love my kid too much to not know that s/he has fallen.”) to get in the way of them having the very best life they can have. In this case, the decision was easy.

For those of you considering bed sharing that have read about the myriad emotional benefits, I’d just ask you to consider room sharing, or just being physically and emotionally present with your child in the times that they’re awake. After all, because you’re not sharing the bed, they have a better chance doing just that: waking up.

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