People always seem concerned when they find out that our 14-month-old daughter still sleeps in our bed with us. When she was a newborn, the ignorant comments revolved around safety (“won’t you roll over on her?!” What about SIDS?!) But now, I get the sense that people are more concerned about my imagined lack of intimacy with my husband. (Co-sleeping and sex?) Which is dumb, because it’s none of their damn business, plus I don’t go around asking about how frequently they get it on.
Though my family and friends haven’t said much my face, I’ve been on the receiving end of some attacks from readers here on Mommyish. When I wrote about how my husband would sleep on the couch in the newborn weeks so baby and I could have the whole bed, Pashmina64 responded:
Why would you kick your husband out of his own bed for some pseudoscience crap? My mom didn’t AP and I was the best reader in my class, and my parents didn’t end up divorcing because the mom neglected the dad, like another AP parent I know…
Um, I’m sorry, but that “pseudoscience crap” you speak of? Yeah, it’s how our bodies are hardwired to care for our children. Humans have been bed-sharing with their babies for thousands of years. If we’re going to talk pseudoscience, crib sleeping fits that bill much better.
It’s also pretty presumptuous of this commenter to suggest that a few weeks of sleeping separately would lead us to divorce. We now all sleep and cuddle together in one huge bed, but even if my husband and I slept apart, I wouldn’t worry. My relationship with my husband goes much deeper than our physical connection.
But apparently it’s a pretty common belief that sharing the bed with baby and other aspects of attachment parenting are toxic to the marital relationship. When devout AP mom Mayim Bialik announced her divorce, commenters blamed AP calling it a “crazy parenting style” and even “child abuse.” While I don’t know the details of Mayim’s family dynamic, it’s stupid to assume that AP practices like co sleeping caused her divorce. I personally know way more divorced non-AP parents than otherwise.
But I’ll admit I was worried about our sex life at one point in time. The vadge trauma that follows birthing is the ultimate anti-Aphrodisiac: I don’t think we even attempted sex for at least six weeks after baby’s birth. And from there we probably only got around to doing it once or twice a month. But this had nothing to do with our sleeping arrangement or attachment parenting. It had much more to do with the shock of our new responsibilities as parents and the stress of waking up at night to tend to baby—stuff that happens to all new parents, regardless of their parenting styles.
But what really bothers me, aside from the myth that co sleeping equals divorce, is that there’s this bizarre American notion that having a child in the “marital bed” is somehow gross or obscene. It’s not like we’re doing the nasty with our baby right next to us, folks. And what kind of Puritan must you be to believe that the bed is the only place where sex should take place?
Since co-sleeping, now we have a good romp on the couch. Or the living room floor. Without getting too graphic (my mother knows how to work the internet, after all) putting baby to sleep in our bed keeps us from slipping into that undersexed slump that’s supposed to arrive when you’re with someone for a long time. We don’t have the option of falling into some humdrum nighttime-missionary position sex routine with baby there. Instead, we use the afternoon, or the morning. We shift around cushions and blankets throughout the house like Tetris blocks.
But the thing to realize is that the bed, first and foremost, is for sleeping. And let’s really stop and think about what it means to sleep with another human being. Married couples, just-started-dating couples, long-term couples, gay, straight and everything in between share their sleep space. Why? Because it’s comforting. It’s reassuring to have someone next to you. And I can’t think of any type of human who needs reassurance and comfort more than an infant.
I often hear, “but if not now, when will she ever leave your bed?”
True, she may be in our bed well into grade school. Or just in our bedroom, on a separate mattress. But I’ve never heard of a teenager who wants to sleep with her parents. Her autonomy will strike when the time is right, and that’s when she’ll get her own room. Until then, she’s happy, we’re happy and our sexing is just fine.