Co-Sleeping: Part 1

Wednesday, February 8, 2012
To preface this post, I want to say that co-sleeping is something we do, but does that mean I think it something you should do.  Co-sleeping is not an issue of parental morality, but rather preference.

I should begin by saying that never in my life did I think we would be co-sleeping or “sharing sleep” (as Dr. Sears calls it) with our children.  It happened one night…on accident.

When Hannah was only a few days old I took her out of her bassinet in the middle of the night to nurse her and then proceeded to fall back asleep with her in my arms. When I awoke the next morning and looked down to find my sweet newborn babe asleep in my arms, I panicked. I was afraid the parenting police would be after me. How could I have been so careless as to fall asleep with my baby in my bed? What kind of mother was I? Yet, there she was unscathed and perfectly content. After my initial shock, I began to realize that I too was feeling happy and rested.

Following this little incident I began playing a little more fast and loose with co-sleeping. Some nights she would sleep in our bed for half the night, sometimes for the whole night. One thing I began to notice was that on the nights she did sleep in our bed, we both slept much better

However, what really sealed the deal for me was after Hannah’s surgery. I couldn’t bear to have her apart from me, so from then on she was by my side…in our bed.

Again, co-sleeping is not for everyone, but here are a few aspects of it that we enjoy:

1) More sleep for both Mama and baby. Sleep deprivation seems to be a complaint of nearly every new parent. Subsisting on only a few hours of sleep each night for months at a time is considered a rite of passage in American parenting. However, and you may hate me for this, I have never suffered from lack of sleep caused by one of my babies. I believe I can attribute this to co-sleeping. When my babies need to nurse in the middle of the night or need the comfort of their Mama, I am right there. There is no need for them to cry out or for me to even get out of bed. We are both comforted by the close presence of one another and we both sleep better for it.

 2) Breastfeeding is easier. Abby still nurses at least once in the middle of the night, maybe twice. The beauty of co-sleeping is that I really don’t know how often she nurses because neither one of us is fully awake for it. Our sleep rhythms are in sync and we both wake when she needs to nurse and then doze off as soon as she’s done, if not before. Doctors often remark that co-sleeping mothers and babies share the same sleep cycles, meaning they go through periods of light and deeper sleep at the same time. I can attest to the truth of this. It’s quite amazing that I will wake up about 30 seconds before Abby when she needs to nurse. Naturally this makes breastfeeding in the middle of the night much easier. It also helps encourage a longer breastfeeding relationship between mother and child (which in turn can keep the return of the mother’s fertility at bay). I’m not in any rush to wean Abby from her night feedings because it really does not require much from me. If I had to get out of bed to nurse her at 2am every night, it would probably be another story.

3) Comfort. I’ll admit it, I love having my sleeping babies cuddled up next to me. People like to say co-sleeping families are too indulgent of their babies, but in all honesty, I’m indulging myself.  To have their chubby little bodies pressed up against mine or to hear their little snores or to get to hold their hands while we drift off to sleep, it’s lovely. I also take comfort in knowing that we’re giving them a sense of security and safety while they sleep.

4) Family closeness. This is purely speculative, but we like to think that we are a closer family-- both literally and figuratively--because of our co-sleeping. We spend our days and our nights together and we enjoy it and each other.

Of course, co-sleeping is not always bliss. It certainly has its challenges and drawbacks, but I will address those and other concerns in a separate post.

Any questions?

3 comments:

  1. Great post!
    I have shared sleep many a time (usually she runs in halfway through the night)
    But do you has any issue with next stiffness, getting kicked, or just generally not having enough room?

    That's been my issue lately..I wake up and don't feel as rested bc of a crick in my neck bc of the awkward way I was sleeping w her in between us. (then again...I have a bigger kid now..)

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  2. So weird, my post today is on co-sleeping too (and in response to an online "debate" about it). Must be a hot topic right now!

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  3. How funny, Mandi! I had no idea there was an online debate going on. I'll have to check that out:)

    Kerry~ yes, yes and yes. Haha. Sometimes we have to rearrange Hannah in the middle of the night, so we don't have stiff necks in the morning and sometimes we have to sleep with our backs to Hannah to prevent the kicks. And we had to buy a king size bed because we were running out of room. Even now with our king size bed, we're running out of room. I fear co-sleeping gets much, much harder when the babies get bigger;) We are currently trying to plan on how to get Hannah out of our bed. We plan to get both of the girls out and into their own bed together. I've heard having a mattress next to your bed can help transition little kids out of your bed. Do you think that would work for Isabel? Kids aren't dumb, they want to be in your bed, not near it. Haha.

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