Many of the people that read this site are bedsharers. We love it. We love the closeness it brings and we love the ease that it provides in terms of dealing with night wakings and all that. Bedsharing isn’t for everyone though, and luckily, often all members of a family are on the same page, making it a moot point. But what if you and your partner aren’t on the same page? What if you want to bedshare and your partner doesn’t? It may be a new partner, it may be the other parent of your child, it may be right at the start, or it may be after a period of bedsharing, but regardless, it’s bound to cause tension and stress in a relationship.
I’ve had people ask this very question on Facebook and they were met with some rather harsh answers, to say the least. Often these questions were in response to a new partner where bedsharing was already established and the partner didn’t want it. Responses often included comments like the new partner has to “earn” his/her spot in bed or leave. I’m going to say now that as much as that may be a gut reaction for many of us (I can admit it is for me personally), when we step back, hopefully we realize it may not be the best way to approach the issue.
Why? First ask yourself: Is this attitude really conducive to a long-term, healthy adult relationship (which I hope we are all aiming for in our relationships with our partners)? Probably not. More importantly though, what about the possible resentment that your new partner may feel towards your child because of this? If you want a happy home, you need to make sure that everyone is happy, or at least on the same page. Does this mean you give up bedsharing? Not necessarily, as your wishes should matter too. It really comes down to discussion and compromise.
So what do you do?
First and foremost, you need to talk to your partner about why he or she does not want to bedshare. It may be that your partner is afraid for the safety of your child (after all, how many times do we get bombarded with the idea that bedsharing is never safe), for what it might mean for your sexual relationship, for what it might mean for your quality of sleep, and so on. If you can either go into this discussion with information on these possibilities or ask your partner to talk again after you’ve gathered information to try and help assuage the fears, you may be able to change his/her mind. But you have to be open to hearing your partner’s thoughts and respect them as valid.
You also need to make sure your partner is aware of what bedsharing means to you. This is important regardless, but particularly important for a pre-existing bedsharing relationship; you have built up a routine and presumably something that works for you and your child. Abrupt changes are not going to be in the best interests of your child, or you for that matter. Your partner needs to hear your side of this. If it helps deal with night wakings, you need to be clear. If it helps your sanity, you need to be clear. And if you just love it and your child loves it, you need to make that clear as well. Just as you should consider your partner’s perspective, I would hope a healthy relationship means that your partner also considers yours. I believe many times the other partner is simply unaware of either the benefits of bedsharing or how much it means to their partner and perhaps just being aware of that is all your partner needs to be supportive of it.
If your partner really is against it but it’s an act that is saving your sanity, talk about the possibility of sleeping separately for a period. I know this may not be ideal for anyone, but for a mother who is breastfeeding and has a baby who wakes regularly, bedsharing is sometimes one thing that saves the day (or rather, night) in terms of allowing mom some sleep and function the next day. If you are in this situation and your partner won’t bend (perhaps because the arrangement negatively affects his/her sleep or feels too much anxiety or fear about the situation), then you need to discuss alternatives.
Regardless of what’s happening at night, make sure you have some touch time with your partner every day. Sometimes bedsharing resentment stems from a loss of night touch and if that connection can be made during the day, your partner may be more willing to accept the little ones in bed at night or alternate sleeping arrangements. In our society we often consider separate sleeping arrangements to be the cause of problems, when sometimes they may result in problems if people aren’t aware enough to make sure touch and appreciation occur during the day. And this isn’t just for bedsharing as families have alternate arrangements for myriad reasons including snoring, shift work, sleeping disorders, etc. and this type of awareness is key for all of these relationships.
All this probably assumes that the person who is supportive of bedsharing is mom, but what if mom is against it but her partner is for it? We know safety wise that the lowest risk of any problem is a baby bedsharing with a mother who is breastfeeding. When this is not the case, I would recommend that the partner arrange for a side car crib or Arms Reach Co-Sleeper to have the baby next to him or her for safety and the proximity that it allows. As the child ages and the risk of overlay is diminished, then the discussion of bedsharing can resume, with both partners communicating to find a solution that works for them. However, if the partner wants to bedshare and feels it can be done safely, the same above thoughts apply; after all, it is entirely possible that a partner is the one who wants to bedshare, especially if he or she is the one who is working and wants some cuddle time with his/her child at night to make up for the time away.
In sum, bedsharing should not be treated as a “my way or the highway” issue, even though it may feel that way for many of us at first. Our children need our help more than our partners, but that doesn’t mean we ignore our partners. Their thoughts and fears and ideas have to matter as well, just as we hope and expect that ours will; to ask them to ignore theirs without us even hearing them out is simply unfair. Like with a lot of things, if we are able to communicate with our partners, often a lot of things that seem problematic can be resolved, including bedsharing.