Jan 7, 2011


Yes, there is no crib.
We are co-sleeping.

Why is there no crib? It is the question many have when they enter our bedroom or the nursery, and find this normal childhood furniture absent (not that I am in the habit of bringing all of our house guests into our bedroom!) I had always planned on co-sleeping as my mom and mother-in-law both did it with their kids, and it seemed to make sense.
Then I started reading those free baby magazines that continually tell you why co-sleeping is can be very dangerous, and with this new enlightenment, I changed my mind. Peter was born, and he slept in a cradle next to the bed. I was constantly waking up to check on him, even when he was peacefully sleeping. I regretted that he was so far away. The arrangement didn’t sit quite right with me. Every time I woke up to soothe my crying baby, I second guessed myself. Then I reasoned that at least for naptime, it would seem to be safe. So I did, and I immediately realized how aware I was of his breathing and of his needs, and before he was a week old, we began bedsharing at night. I got a lot more sleep this way, and Peter seemed to be more happy too. I finally had the energy to be alive again. For me, bedsharing was the defining moment for my recovery from childbirth.
“This must be right,” I told myself, “there must be something very right about this.” I searched for research to validate my decision. I didn’t have to look very far. William Sears, one of Americas leading pediatricians, has always been a proponent of co-sleeping. Here is an article by Dr. Sears about co-sleeping. If you do any research at all on co-sleeping, you are bound to find the name of James McKenna, a man who has extensively researched bedsharing and whether or not it is safe. This website shares many articles and videos sharing his research. I also read his book, Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Cosleeping , and found all of the validation I needed to be confident in my decision. So now, I'm very happy to be co-sleeping, and I think it's a very good choice for our family.

Breakfast in bed? The benefits for breastfeeding

There are three different kinds of mammals, and nature provides special milk for each. There are nesting mammals like puppies and kittens who can be left for hours as the mother gathers food. They are often born blind, hairless, and quite helpless. A nesting animal goes to the nest, not the mother, when danger arrives. Then there are animals who walk from birth like horses, elephants, and cattle whose needs are different. Thirdly there are “parent clingers”, those who are carried, who stay close to their mother and are highly dependant on their parents for safety. They nurse often.The truth is that mankind are part of this last category, and our babies need constant physical touch and nourishment. Co-sleeping is very conducive to meeting our babies needs. A breastfed baby will eat three times as much at night when they bed-sharing is practiced. We are more quickly able to pick-up on our babies cues when we are close by. Crying is one of the very last cues a baby will give when hungry, but it can be the last one we register when the baby is in a crib, especially if the baby sleeps in another room. The baby is upset and needs to be calmed down, in addition to being fed. When a baby sleeps next to its mother, other cues are given first, and mother and child go back to sleep much more quickly. I have a personal story to share that reflects this truth. My husband took a nap with our little daughter once, and as I worked in the other room I heard my husband call me. She was snuggling up with him, smiling, and playing with his face, which, in spite of the annoyance of his interrupted slumber, was quite endearing. After all, she is a cute little girl. “What does she want?” he asked, and I replied that she was hungry. “Really?” Indeed she was, and I learned to appreciate my ability to respond to he needs so quickly.
I have never had a sleepless night with Helen. From the beginning I recovered quickly as I got that precious sleep I needed, and I have a very happy baby. The only sleepless nights I had with Peter were the first few nights before I brought him into bed with me. Much of that is because of the security my children and I have knowing that we are in close proximity, but much of it is also because when they are hungry, they are fed faster, and neither of us have to fully wake up in order to meet those needs.

Co-sleeping with older children

Co-sleeping is when your children sleep in the same room as you, and is often thought to be synonymous with bed-sharing, which is what we do with our daughter. Peter is a pretty wild sleeper, and a few months before Helen was born, he started sleeping on a mattress on the floor in our room. This is actually a Montessori thing. It can help children feel independent because they have easier access to their bed. Also, falling off the bed is much safer. He goes to sleep after I nurse him, then I slip off to my own bed. The transition took a few months of my laying next to him and singing to him from my own bed to comfort him before he was comfortable with it. I didn’t want to ever make him cry it out, and I’m grateful that we found what was for us, a safe, and gentle transition. We went through a few bumps again when our second child was born. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, I sometimes lie next to him until he goes to sleep again, but usually I can offer comforting words from the comfort of my bed. At 25 months, bedtime is a solid routine, and he looks forward to it because he knows that he gets mommy’s milk at bedtime. He literally runs to the bed. It is very endearing. Overall, the mattress on the floor has worked well for us. Still, maybe I can talk my husband into putting a king-sized bed in our savings plan. We all slept in one when we visited Grandma and Grandpa, and I really liked it. I’m a big fan of the family bed.

The peace of mind afforded

I have heard stories about earthquakes or house fires, and co-sleeping made it easier for the parents to protect their children, even saving their lives. In the unlikely event of a natural disaster, it would indeed be very handy to have our children close, but for me the peace of mind that it brings me is worth even more. As a newborn I could hear my baby breathing. I can check on my son by a quick glance. Then I go back to sleep. If anyone broke in to our house, kidnapping without facing the wrath of papa and mama bear is quite unlikely. I can’t put a price on the comfort co-sleeping brings me. Recently I was scared because the storm door was open and it woke me up when the storm rattled it in the middle of the night. I woke up my husband and together we investigated. He wondered if the sound had come from the fireplace, and he whacked his head on the bird cage giving him a gash, and terrifying our poor bird. I felt so bad, but was grateful to find the sound’s source. I was still nervous when we went to bed, and I know I would have had a very difficult time going back to sleep if my children weren’t close by. In the morning I was able to laugh at the event, but there in the middle of the night I kissed my little girl and confirmed my desire to keep my children close.

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