There's no arguing that co-sleeping riles up arguments in even the most even keeled moms (and dads of course). People across the board seem to feel so strongly about this topic. Babies and sleep: an issue close to our hearts. It's often broken down to responsible vs. irresponsible, but to be honest I don't think it's clear which side each falls on.
For us, the decision to keep our babies in our bed was less cerebral and much more visceral. It felt safe and normal to have them with us through the nights. The closer they were to me the quicker I could respond to their needs.
And from that a beautiful thing seemed to happen. A bond between mom and baby formed. I was somehow aware of where they were at all times regardless of how deep asleep I was. The funny thing was, whenever they were out of arms reach, not touching, was when I'd get startled about rolling over them (of course that never happened!). The closer they were, the more comfortable all of us were.
Keeping them in the bed allowed me to nurse through the night without to much disturbance to anyone (a HUGE plus). It allowed each of us the most amount of sleep (read: a few hours at a time at best;)). Getting up to pick them up to nurse and put them back down in the middle of the night, a few times, seemed like insanity to me. Entirely impossible!
That said, I have both friends and family (including my own parents) who kept their babies in the crib from day 1 (meanwhile I was sneaking Bar into my bed in the hospital while the nurses weren't looking, ha!).
I think the answer to the major debate though, is you need to do whatever is the most comfortable for you and your family. A happy mama is a happy baby is a happy family! If you do anything that doesn't feel right, your baby is going to feel that immediately and respond. Babies have such limited communication capabilities that things become super visceral for them (and us). If we can't find a way to feel our way through this crazy gig called parenting, then we certainly are bound to screw something up! Go with your gut and you can't go wrong. That's what I have to say.
Recently my Aunt Bonnie gave me some wise words of advice that have stuck with me. She told me that a good mother is not the one who does all her research, decides what she wants to do, and stick to it with a vengeance (me...), but the mother who rolls with the punches and makes changes according to situation for the betterment of her children (the me I'm trying to be...).
We had Avital in the bed for a full year (until she was done nursing) and it worked fabulously. We all three slept synergistically and it was a perfect set up. As for Bar, things have panned out a bit differently. She was in our bed every night until about a month ago. It was working great in the beginning! But as she got bigger, she wasn't sleeping longer. She would be up every hour and a half to nurse. It got to the point where I was delirious, she was constantly overtired, and Richie was losing his sh*t on a nightly (oh and morningly) basis. It was not a healthy situation for any of us. I was short with Avi by 8:30 in the morning and couldn't find the energy to much more that nurse and rock in the chair with Bar for most of the day (ok exaggeration, but it felt that way).
I spoke to our pediatrician about the safety of sleep training and a pared down version. She agreed that it was time to take action as not only us (Richie and I), but Bar needed longer deeper sleep.
After 2 weeks of putting Bar down in the crib at night and having Richie go to her when she cried to rub her back and give her the paci (read: many long nights), she's finally sleeping through most nights (read: 8/9p to about 5/6a).
My fear was the raised cortisol (stress hormone) levels from crying, but my presumption is that the damage they were doing from being present due to the over tiredness was comparable. I needed to break the cycle. And the result is amazing. She is happier, we are sleeping more, and the tension in the house is deflating.
Only problem: my milk is decreasing, but that's a story for a whole nuther post.