After reading about the atrocious ads the Milwaukee Department of Health is running (see “Fear Mongering at Its Finest” at Kaia Magazine), my defenses went up about the subject of co-sleeping or bedsharing. In an effort to spread positive messages about co-sleeping, I thought I’d share our story.
It’s no secret that I take a natural approach to life and parenting is no different. I believe that our bodies and minds were designed to function in a certain way; interference with those natural processes can be detrimental to health and spirit. Therefore, I always knew that co-sleeping would be a part of our parenting. (If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of co-sleeping, please see the article I reference earlier.)
The first night of The Bear’s life was spent in a hospital. We had planned to deliver at a birth center but things do not always happen as planned. The emotions surrounding the fact that we were in a hospital caught up with me, as did the warnings from the nurses NOT to sleep with my baby, so Bear spent his first night in a plastic tub of a hospital bassinet between my bed and the fold-out chair my poor Hubs had to sleep on. To write that breaks my heart. He cried often, as I am remembering. That little boy was recently warm and comfortable inside of me 12 hours earlier and now he was lying alone in a strangely-made bed! I don’t know why I didn’t just hold Bear instead of putting him back in the bassinet every time. I suppose it was because I hadn’t envisioned being in a hospital and I completely forgot about listening to my instincts. I was exhausted and afraid he’d fall out of my arms and that cold, metal-sided hospital bed, but looking back, I know things would have been fine.
Thankfully, the hospital was packed and I didn’t have any health issues to monitor, so we were sent home the next afternoon. Bear slept in a bedside co-sleeper bassinet. After many nights of sleeping sitting up (which I can barely do effectively), I realized that sleeping with the baby next to me in our king-sized bed was infinitely easier. If he woke hungry, I’d roll over, allow him to nurse, and he’d go right back to sleep. Often, I’d fall back to sleep, too, while he was nursing. I’d either roll back to my space or move him into the co-sleeper bassinet if necessary. Never once was I afraid that I’d roll onto him or injure him in any way. Bear and I slept under a separate cover from The Hubs. It was always a safe situation.
Once Bear got a little bigger, he began sleeping between The Hubs and I. The co-sleeper bassinet went completely unused. My husband loved this because he got to experience the closeness with our little boy that I had been hogging 🙂 We knew who ruled the bed, though. Bear often slept with both arms spread-eagle and liked to roll towards a warm body if he got chilly. I remember waking one morning to a tiny little boy “nursing” the small of my back (I was lying on my side) because he was so warm and snuggly, and, well, probably hungry!
I figured this co-sleeping would continue until Bear got old enough for his own bed and room.
But an unexpected thing happened. One evening when he was probably four months old, Bear needed a late nap. We were changing the sheets of our bed, so we placed him on his crib mattress (placed on the floor) of his room, instead. Bear was still sleeping after a number of hours and The Hubs and I ended up falling asleep for the night. At some point, I woke to the sounds of the baby crying on the monitor. I ran to his room, snatched him up, and brought him to our bed. It was only then that I realized the time: 5:00 am. Bear had slept through the night!
As amazed as we were at his independent sleeping, we continued to co-sleep with Bear. He did, however, take naps in his own room, versus in our bed, where he had been doing so. After about two months, we realized that Bear simply liked sleeping in his own bed better than in ours. When he slept with us, he tossed around. He got frustrated. He wanted to nurse constantly, but not really. He wanted to sleep.
So, our co-sleeping family became an independent-sleeping family. My visions of waking with my guys by my side disappeared. There have been times when Bear has been brought into our bed and he hates it. He just prefers his own space.
This may seem as though I am advocating crib-sleeping. I am not, especially not for small babies who are breastfeeding. Especially not for small babies who need to connect with their parents. I am advocating, however, for providing parents with appropriate information. I believe that every parent has the right to listen to her instincts without the bombardment of contradictory media. The ad campaign by the City of Milwaukee is, in a word, wrong. Let’s promote empowerment!
Did you cosleep with your child(ren)? Please share your story or your favorite part of cosleeping in the comments!