The Adoption Transition to Parenting: Bed Sharing
March 19, 2013 § 4 Comments
Our first kid was 5 years old when we became parents. Obviously, this isn’t typical and so we had to do some not-so-typical parenting. Here is one of our experiences from transitioning to being parents:
Ben and I had initially talked about whether we would want to share our bed with our future child. Initially, we had the image of a baby. This then implies that you need to do night feedings, sleep training, worry about the safety of sharing bed together, and get the child used to sleeping in their own bed. Adoption an older child with special needs turned that idea upside down.
As soon as Nathaniel came home from the orphanage, he slept in our bed that same night. After all that debate, suddenly there was no question. Instinctively, both Ben and I knew that he needed that closeness with us. Whereas you worry about an infant becoming “too attached” to sleeping in bed with his parents, we had the exact opposite worry with Nathaniel. We worried that he wouldn’t want to be with us.
I still remember the wonderful feeling of my first night as a mother and feeling his little body wrapped up against mine. I was thrilled to open my eyes and find our son laying between me and my love. I remember the three of us just looking at each other as we woke up together that chilly Saturday in cold season.
Ben and I spent a lot of time bonding with Nathaniel in many ways in those first few weeks. He slept with one or both of us every night (Nathaniel and I even shared a twin bed when my parents visited). As a mother, it was a wonderful way to nurture and my son. Nathaniel responded well to the comfort and eased into being in our family. Bed time was hard at first and he would often cry. Ben or I would stay with him until he fell asleep so that he wasn’t alone in a dark place by himself. We sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” to him more than 1000 times. It was a big transition from sleeping in a room at the children’s home with lights and 25 other kids.
Research is controversial in the Western world about bed sharing and I’m not going to comment publicly either way regarding bed sharing with infants. Interestingly enough, most mothers and infants in Zambia share their bed. I shared my parents bed as an infant and often remember coming in to “snuggle” with Daddy and Mama. It was especially comforting when I had a bad dream. All my fears melted away when I had my parents next to me. On the other hand, I have also taken care of babies that had severe brain damage from SIDS and so the danger is real.
Purely as a personal anecdote, Ben and I found bed sharing to be a wonderful way to bond with our son and to help him transition into our care. Nathaniel will still come in during the early morning hours to be with us until the sun comes up. I treasure these days when he is still small enough to want to sleep with his Daddy and Mama.