The Family Bed

Costco Memory Foam Bed: delivered from Anchorage by the Greens $649.

If you’re like me, you cringe and get a little embarrassed if someone in polite company starts to discuss “the family bed.” Then after the initial embarrassment wears off, you’re nowhere to be found, having moved off to any conversation where topics are more familiar, and the ground a bit more solid.

Lately, it’s been a little too crowded in our queen sized bed.  If it were just Holly and me there’d be enough room… but it’s not. When she was expecting our first boy, Holly read a lot!  I am NOT kidding. She read a ton of books. I’m talking on the order of eight to fifteen books a day.  And if hindsight were the equal of foresight, I’d have removed a number of books from the house which had overstayed their welcome, as far as I was concerned.  One, or perhaps many, of these books detailed sleeping arrangements.  After many months of discussion, Holly eventually convinced me that the easiest night-time routines would be achieved with the baby sleeping next to a warm body in a “Family bed.”  The primary advantages of the “family bed,” she said were:

1) It’s warmer in the big bed than in a crib, so the baby would be all warm cozy (we keep the house at 65 degrees F).  When a baby is born, he or she is shocked by the coldness of the world outside and likes to be nestled in to a big warm body—preferably the maternal unit.

2) The baby would sleep more soundly because they’d be right next to their mother, and they’d be hearing the soporific breathing of the parents.

3) There would be less chance of crib death.  Barring accidental suffocation, the baby would be less likely to forget to breathe in and breathe out, while in the close company of other biological units that were carrying on a steady tempo of breathing in and breathing out.

4) It’s easier to feed a baby who wakes up hungry or thirsty, all a mother would have to do is nurse the baby right there in bed.  Everyone concerned would have a minimum of fuss.

5) If the baby was NOT in the main “family bed” the father would have to take the baby to and from the crib all night as the baby’s needs were met—that’s all I needed to hear.  I suppose this was where I might have put my foot down and decided to tell her how things were going be under my roof, or some such talk.  But the time for that has long since past and at the present time we’ve got two good sleepers and a third one due in November.

In reality “the family bed” is NOT as far ‘out there’ as some might suggest.

Imagine, for a second, that there exists a spectrum of sleeping arrangements for families with kids.  On one end, is the most traditional: parents in the “big bed” and each of the kids in their own individual beds, cribs, or bunk beds, and perhaps in a separate kid’s room or even an individual room for each child.  This has worked well a for great long time, for as long, I suppose, as people have had the wherewithal to build houses with multiple beds and rooms—and is the type of sleeping arrangement with which I am most familiar.  The traditional model allows varied bed times for all those in the family.  Parents can watch the late show, enjoy the occasional chick flick, watch a drama from time to time, or even take in an action film, all the while pretending their lives haven’t changed ‘too’ much with the addition of the offspring.

On the other end of the spectrum is the “family bed” where everyone piles into a big bed and goes to sleep at the same time. 

Somewhere in the middle of these extremes are the families that have a “big bed” and then have a crib on the floor next to the bed, or adjacent to the bed, or a toddler bed, or even bunk beds in the same or different rooms.  In this happy median, I would imagine kids going to sleep at various times and sleeping soundly through the entire night and waking up bright eyed and ready to take on a new day—right. 

Actually, I’d be willing to bet that in many homes the kids and parents struggle over bed times and wake-up times; kids sometimes go to sleep when they’re told to. More often than not the ‘big bed’ gets piled with people in the mornings as kids climb into the warmth of the parent’s bed at, perhaps, inopportune times.

In our ‘Family Bed’ we’ve reached a critical point: Luke is all over the place; sleeping this way and that, pitching and rolling, arms flopping forward and aft: really it’s been a mess.  Don’t get me wrong. He’s a cute little guy and when he’s asleep, he looks like an angel—don’t all toddlers look angelic when they’re asleep?  Sometimes, I wish they’d sleep a bit more… I digress.

I guess I said all of that just to say, “WE JUST GOT A FREAKING KING SIZED MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS from COSTCO!!”  I’m hoping that my back is not as sore tomorrow morning. 

Sleep tight