Thursday, August 11, 2011

CO-SLEEPING: Me 'n My Moms Say It All

By Rivki Silver
Rivki Silver blogs at Life in the Married Lane, where's she's intent on finding kedushah in the dishes.

"I still remember telling someone who I genuinely thought would be on-board with the 
concept, and the incredulousness she reacted with.  I might as well have told her that
 I was taking my baby bungee-jumping or something."

Me 'n My Moms Say It All

Co-sleeping.  Chances are, if you’re not doing it, you know someone who is.

Co-sleeping is associated with attachment parenting, made widely known by Dr. Sears.  Sometimes it is also referred to as bed-sharing.  Basically, it means that the baby is sleeping in bed, with you, all night.  Oftentimes the baby is nestled in the crook of mommy’s arm, and other times, just within arms’ reach.  It is more common among women who choose to breastfeed.  

Some of the main concerns I’ve heard (from non-co-sleepers) are safety, of what to do with the other kids during naptime, and of the baby not learning how to sleep on its own.  Oh, and our husbands.  What about them?  

I asked a wide variety of women their opinions and experiences with co-sleeping, and, as you might imagine, I got a wide variety of answers.  One thing stood out, though.  All the women felt they were making the best choice for their family.

But first, my experience with co-sleeping.  Full disclosure.

I didn’t intend to co-sleep with my babies.  However, at three in the morning, as I was burping my little precious newborn, I would invariably fall fast asleep.  Sitting up, mind you.  After dozing off for who knows how long, I would jerk awake, my heart racing in absolute fear.   Was my baby okay?  Why couldn’t I stay awake?  I tried going into another room with the lights on and reading something, but then I would be awake for hours, falling asleep just as my bundle of joy woke for his next feeding.  It was fear or insomnia, and neither were having a good effect on me.

My doula had mentioned that it was possible to nurse lying down.  Nervous about my baby being in bed with me, but absolutely desperate for sleep, I did some research about co-sleeping, and it seemed like the solution I needed.  I followed the safety guidelines, and was finally able to function again.
However, it was like my shameful little secret.  How could I tell people that my baby was *gasp* in bed with me?  Surely they would call child protective services or something.  But then, when people asked how the baby was sleeping, I started to obliquely mention that he was sleeping with me (I’m sure I just needed some validation), something unexpected happened.  

Nearly all the mothers I spoke with admitted that they too brought their nursing baby in bed with them.   

The clincher was when my pediatrician told me that he didn’t know how nursing mothers didn’t bring their babies into bed with them.

That’s right.  My pediatrician.  Talk about validation.

Even though there was ample support from my fellow sleep-deprived mommies, I still faced criticism from my family, as well as random people who I mistakenly shared this info with.  I still remember telling someone who I genuinely thought would be on-board with the concept, and the incredulousness she reacted with.  I might as well have told her that I was taking my baby bungee-jumping or something.  Her reaction was that strong.  

That’s when I realized that, even if most of my friends were co-sleeping, it was still a controversial thing to do.  

Eventually, I realized that I’m a mommy who needs a little more personal space than co-sleeping allows.  I really love to sprawl, and to nestle down under tons of blankets and a huge comforter.  Can’t exactly do that with a baby in the bed.  With my second child I alternated co-sleeping with having him sleep in his crib.  So, as an erstwhile co-sleeper,  I was really curious to hear what other co-sleeping mommies, ones who were perhaps, more committed to the idea, had to say on the topic.  

For some women, it was a choice they made before they even had their first baby:
“My parents co-slept with my youngest brother so I always knew about it.  Then I read about co-sleeping and attachment parenting in Dr. Sears’s books while I was pregnant with my first daughter and knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Another woman chose to co-sleep with her children because one of her role models did so.  She saw how warm and loving their family interaction was, and decided that she wanted to do what she could to replicate that family dynamic in her own family.  So, since that family chose to co-sleep, she did as well.  And has done so with her large (and still growing) family, with great success.  

For others, it was a necessity:
“I fell into it.  [My son] had terrible reflux and screamed and screamed.  He finally stopped when I brought him into my bed…he was brought to our bed out of exhaustion.  With this shuddering little sigh, he snuggled up in the crook of my arm and went into a deep sleep.  He finally relaxed.”  

“[With] my second I thought I would keep him out of my bed, and I dutifully sat in the rocking chair nursing, until one night I fell asleep and almost dropped him.  Not only did I almost drop him but I did one of those jerking back awake movements and almost flipped him over the armrest.”  (See, I’m not the only one!)

“Before [my daughter] was born, I was totally anti co-sleeping.  I knew I would have her in a carrier and wanted some space at night.  When she was born I realized I would get more sleep with her in my bed, so that’s what I did.”  

So, what about the safety?  Do real mommies actually follow all those guidelines?
“The bed is on the ground.  Our mattress is firm with no additional pillow tops.  I used to be very careful with blankets and pillows near him.   Now, at two, not so much.”

“[I] make sure there are no gaps between the bed and wall.”

“With our eldest we had a bed rail on the bed…they make bed rails that clamp on the top of the mattress so the child cannot get stuck in it.  We also make sure to keep blankets and pillows away from where the baby is sleeping.  That means I’m not always as comfortable as I could be, but it is worth it to be safe.”

What about naptime?  What about older children during a co-sleeping nap?
“I nurse [my son] down for naps.  Sometimes I stay with him.  I put [my daughter], 3.5, down at the same time.  So thankfully, that isn’t a problem at the moment.  When she does cease napping, that will become Starfall (computer) time.  We no longer have a t.v., and her computer time is strictly limited, so a little extra time will allow me to put him to sleep.”

“[My baby] naps alone, mostly.  The other kids always did.  Kid #3 has medical issues and often will only sleep on me for naptime.”

“I take a nap in the middle of the day with my baby while my older daughter watches a movie or listens to audiobooks.  For the rest of her naps my baby usually sleeps in a baby carrier.”

Do children who co-sleep have a more difficult time learning to settle themselves when it’s time to sleep on their own?
One mother of many children shared that her children all learned to go to sleep on their own, and that co-sleeping did not seem to affect them adversely.  

“[They sleep] pretty good.  They go in cycles depending on what is going on.  I think they are pretty normal.”

“She sleeps well and wakes up usually just to go to the bathroom.”

And, on a more personal note, how does co-sleeping affect time with your husband?
“To be honest, it has trashed time with my husband.  For a long time, [my son] did not sleep at all unless I was in bed with him.  Now I can get him to sleep and then roll out.  Sadly, [my husband] does not sleep with us.  He can move quietly which woke [my son] who in turn woke us…no one was sleeping.”

“[It] hasn’t really.  If the baby is awake, he’s awake no matter where he is.”

“My babies have always slept pretty well, so we can still have our late night chats about the day in bed without waking up our little one.  For marital activities we just go to the living room or guest room.”

“We would just use my husband’s bed and be very quiet.  It wasn’t always the easiest situation, but I don’t think it ever is when babies are that little, is it?”

And now, what are some of the perks of co-sleeping?
“I love seeing my little man sleeping.  He is two and so strong-willed.  The days can be tough, so seeing him like that helps keep the big picture.  Also, I love being woken up by cuddles and hearing ‘Awwww, my mommy.’ “

“There is absolutely NOTHING like shunggin with your little babe!”

“It’s nice to have some alone time with my baby without also taking care of my other kids.  It’s our quality time.”

“My favorite moments co-sleeping are getting to enjoy my babies’ very first smiles in the morning.  There is something completely magical and joyful about that moment when your sweet baby looks at you with an adoring smile that shows their pure joy at seeing you.”

So there you have it.  Co-sleeping may not be for you, but it may be for someone you know (and probably is).  At the end of the day, we all just want to do what we think is best for our family.  
Sweet dreams!  

3 LadyMama voices:

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I decided not to co sleep with my baby...but then she got her first shots and was a wreck. That whole night I held her in my arms in my bed, and in the morning was rewarded with the most incredible smile. From then on my love multiplied and we were inseparable.

Diana T. H. said... [Reply to comment]

Love co-sleeping! We fell into it as well because of our breastfeeding relationship. Thankfully my husband is completely supportive and all of us are getting sleep!!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I have a 4 month old baby, and sometimes I co-sleep with him (especially during the night when I have to breastfeed 3 times and that I am very tired, or sometimes for nap time). It is such a pleasure to feel one's little warmy baby in our arms!
But I must tell you that I co-sleep during the night only when I am nidda. I don't agree with the girls in the article who just go in another room to be with their husbands. I think that there is a place for everything and that the husband should'nt be neglected or thrown out of the bed for the sake of the baby