Tuesday, September 10, 2013

confessions of a bush mama part 1

I have a confession. Our baby still sleeps in our bed.

A few months ago we were traveling to Lusaka and stopped over at a guesthouse to catch a few winks before continuing on with our journey. Anna, the sweet Zambian lady who owns the place along with her American husband asked me which room we had been assigned. I told her ‘four’ and she said, “oh why don’t you just move into ‘six,’ it has two beds because I know American’s don’t like to sleep with their babies. I giggled and said, “No its ok, we sleep with her. We like it that way.” The lady almost hugged me – “Oh thank you, thank you!” she said, grasping my arm in solid affirmation, as if I were doing her a favor. (We‘ve actually been friends with Anna ever since she bailed Jeremy out of prison that one time – but that’s another story for another blog post. If you are ever driving through Serenje though and need a meal or a place to stay, let me know and I’ll give you her number.)

We never intended to be long term co-sleepers. We have this super-duper thingy called a pea pod. It pops up and zips closed and has good ventilation without mosquito entry. After our shower, we were almost more excited about getting to use the pea pod than we were bringing home the new baby. But… Ask me how many minutes she has slept in it so far – I think 27. Between her every-five-seconds nursing and absolute need to feel another’s body heat, sleeping alone has been a non-option for this child, bless her heart. Unfortunately it took me quite a while to stop stressing about this “situation” and realize that we are just fine, not a parenting debacle, and that our family could actually thrive in a bed-sharing environment.

I love it mom - but I don't think we can both fit in here, so don't expect a nap out of me

I’ve googled co-sleeping and bed-sharing, and holy-mother-opinionated-fire there are some VERY strong feelings on this subject. Everything from “if your baby sleeps with your bed you are going to kill her, and kill your marriage, and you are a bad person,” to, “if your baby doesn’t sleep in your bed or at least close to it, you are cruel and unusual and heartless and therefore a bad person.”  

I’ve talked with my Zambian lady friends a lot about this and in case you want to know, (hold your fire, please, my dear disagreeing friends) they totally side with the bed-sharing mothers of the world. Anna at the guesthouse was so relieved that we slept with our baby because she, just like the plethora of Fimpulu-folk I’ve polled, absolutely concurs that a child should never sleep alone. To stick a baby in a crib is borderline child abuse. Babies belong right next to the mother until they are at least weaned, preferably potty trained and then they should be moved into a bed with another child. We’ve already had people offer to send their children to our house at night to sleep with Bronwyn when its time for her to move out of our bed. With respect to safety, I’ve never heard of a single SIDS case here. Never even heard it mentioned. I have a feeling this would would make a phenominal research project for an ethno-pediatrics PHD candidate. 

Oh and, What about romantic time with your husband? I sure did ask. And they all looked at me like I was an idiot and said something to the effect of “What kind of freaky sex do you people have? Just don’t make so much noise.” There you have it. The co-sleeping debate can be over now.

For us, the logistics of keeping Bronwyn with us havd been more important than anything. With no temperature control, having her in our bed means I can check to see if she is cold or sweating without going out from under the safety of our mosquito net. I nurse her frequently during the night but if you were to ask me how many times, I’d have to say, I don’t know – BECAUSE I WAKE UP AND GO BACK TO SLEEP 30 SECONDS LATER – and for that priceless gift, sweet pea can sleep with us till she’s 30 if she wants to. As long as I get my zzz’s.

Are you a bed sharing family? Has it worked well for you? Your friends in Zambia are giving you a long-distance high five! 


  1. We bedshare & I love it. Like you, I don't know how often she wakes up. I actually sleep about 1/2 the night in a recliner with her (that's totally against the rules, but I know we're safe) because it's the best way I can have her more upright, which helps her tummy issues. We have a giant bed on the floor- queen size with a double hooked on because I just felt like the queen alone was too risky (my control issues). Joshua has the double- she & I have the queen when we're not in the chair. I can roll over to his bed to cuddle with him if she's sleeping & roll back over to be with her. She also takes 90% of her naps on someone. Me on the weekends, or my sisters during the week while I'm at work. And she's the calmest, happiest, thrivingest baby I know.

    Zambians are serious about that sleeping alone thing- they kept offering to send a kid to sleep with me in the village because I must be terribly lonely. They were shocked that I preferred it, especially in cold season.

    1. Gotta appreciate the concern, right? Congrats on making it work for you and your precious family!

  2. We totally are a bed sharing family! Never thought I'd do it and it's taken on many different guises in the 4 years we've been parents, but it's worked really well for us!

  3. Our compromise with the issue was that our babies were in our room for the first year or so and occasionally in our double bed, either between us or on my side near the edge. The problems were that my husband can have major problems with insomnia (like hardly sleeping for weeks at a time) and my hips just ached and ached when I slept with the kiddos. Maybe if I had learned the pillow-between-the-knees trick I use now, it might have worked better. It was a toss-up between nursing semi-upright in the rocker or being horizontal with achy hips. I generally thought of it more as a "me" issue (which way can I get slightly more rest) than a "them" issue. Plus, sometimes my nipples just needed a break. Since then, we've tried to make sure that each kid has at least shared a room, if not a bed, with a sibling. Plus, homeschooling, we've had plenty of time to cuddle on the sofa reading books together :)