When it comes to nighttime waking (and all healthy babies will wake throughout the night for quite some time), we basically have these two choices:
1. Hear a baby crying down the hall or over a baby monitor, wake up fully, get out of bed, walk to the other room where the baby is, pick up baby and move to a feeding location, and feed and rock that precious love back to sleep. Then get up, put baby back in this far-away crib, hopefully not waking her (requiring a repeat of the rocking or even feeding), walking back to your bed tired as all get out but now awake, and getting back to sleep before the next wake up. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat... for how many months? Not to mention the trouble we may have getting ourselves to sleep in between these wake ups wondering if our baby is okay, breathing well, warm enough, not too warm, still covered, etc. etc. Wowzer!
The alternative, as practiced by mammals over millions (or is it billions?) of years, backed by science, and recommended by conscientious pediatricians like Dr. Sears, is...
2. Snoozing soundly side-by-side with or at arm's reach of your baby, you sense her breathing change, feel her move a little, or hear a tiny pre-cry grunt. You free a breast and pull babe to it laying side by side. Your deep mothering instinct keeps you slightly aware of your baby at all times (making it basically impossible to roll over on top of her) while you both doze back to sleep mid-nurse. You may rouse again to scoot your baby back to her co-sleeping side bed, or just prefer to will yourself awake until after you've moved her back. You may even stay in this position together the rest of the night. Some co-sleeping moms prefer to sit up in bed leaning against pillows and holding baby. Dozing can ensue there, too. Even if you want to move to a rocker next the bed, you're still way ahead of the nursery set in the sleep department. Studies show that co-sleeping mothers and babies get more quality sleep at night. Contrary to wayward popular belief, safe co-sleeping also reduces the risk of SIDS, which makes those early months a lot easier emotionally, too (making it even easier to sleep at night, mama).
Myth debunkers and support abound. There have been some outlandish marketing campaigns in recent years in some parts of the U.S. labeling all co-sleeping as dangerous. This just is not the truth. Sometimes bringing a baby to bed can be dangerous. It is dangerous for a mother to sleep with or very near her baby when the mom is on mind-numbing drugs or alcohol, or so unwell that she doesn't have the natural capacity to stay aware of her baby. It is also dangerous to have a young baby in a bed next to someone that isn't his mother (even sleeping next to dad or a sibling is dangerous). There's more, but it's kind of obvious (no covers that could fall over the baby's face, prevention from falling, etc.). Here's a helpful list of safe co-sleeping habits to use if you're taking this easier sleep path.
I'll share a little story that illustrates creative sleep sharing and following mothering instincts. I have a friend who is a brand spanking new mom. Her newborn daughter doesn't like to sleep away from her. In fact, she sleeps best right on top of mom. She sleeps so well there, that by following her baby's lead, my mom friend often gets a full six hours of un-interrupted sleep at night. Now, what new mom do you know that gets that kind of sleep at night? Is it unusual to let your baby sleep on you? We think so, but she's not the first person I've heard recount this advantageous arrangement. My own daughter spent her first weeks nestled right atop my chest. It was restful to say nothing of blissful and oh-so-connected. Food for thought.