Co-Sleeping: My Story

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Co-sleeping in a double bed while on vacation- shockingly it worked ok!

A few nights ago, Alex spent six hours sleeping in his co-sleeper bed.  That hasn’t happened in, well… it’s never happened.  Since he was a couple of weeks old (well, earlier than that, but that’s when I caught on), Alex has only wanted to sleep smack dab next to me or his daddy, preferably with his little face right against us.  For awhile after we brought him home, I struggled to get him to sleep in the bassinet in the pack and play that we’d set up right next to my side of the bed.  Finally, after yet another night of trying in vain to put him down without him waking himself up 10 minutes later when he startled or had reflux or hit the end of a sleep cycle, I had an epiphany.   “He’s overtired, I’m overtired…. How can I expect to work on him sleeping on his own when he’s already missed so much sleep?”  I decided to work on sleep location after we were both a little more rested.  I put him into bed beside me, where I knew he would sleep beautifully, and we both slept until he needed to be nursed again.

I never planned to be a co-sleeper.  Well, I never planned to be a bed-sharer.  Co-sleeping actually includes any arrangement where the baby’s bed is in your room, and I’d always planned to do that.  I never planned to have my baby in bed with me, though.  In fact, when the concept first came onto my radar sometime in early pregnancy, I was very firmly against it and even ridiculed the idea a bit.  I thought it was a horrible arrangement, and imagined couples who never had sex anymore or got a decent night’s sleep ever again.  I also imagined kids who slept with their parents until they were forced to leave for college.  And, of course, I imagined dead babies because that’s the real clincher for any avid c0-sleeping opposer: Your Baby Will Die!

Ha.  Like many many parts of my parenting philosophy, my feelings toward c0-sleeping (specifically bed-sharing) have changed drastically since I actually became a parent.  Real field experience will do that to you.

So jaundiced in this picture, which makes me sad :( but sleeping peacefully at least :)

So jaundiced in this picture, which makes me sad 😦 but sleeping peacefully at least 🙂

Feelings Change

I’ll be honest.  At first, having Alex in my bed was not all peaches and cream.  I like to toss and turn a lot while I sleep, and you cannot do that when you have a baby next to you.  For the first few weeks or months, I felt pretty stiff from sleeping in the same position all the time, and I looked forward to the arrangement changing.  I even tried on occasion to have Alex sleep in his pack and play again, but my efforts grew more and more half-hearted as I realized that we both definitely got much less sleep that way.  On his own, even after he grew out of the startling, he’d wake up every time he ended a sleep cycle and be unable to go back to sleep without assistance.  Next to me, he’d wake up a bit, be comforted by my presence (or, if needed, a soothing hand), and fall back asleep.  We would sleep for hours as opposed to minutes.  When he was hungry, I would know because I’d be aware of how long he’d been fidgeting and realize that he wasn’t just trying to go back to sleep.  Because I was able to respond to his needs so quickly, he stopped crying at night.  He also began to go back to sleep right away after nursing, so we weren’t awake for hours during the night anymore (which was, of course, EXCELLENT!).

If that was the end of the story, I would probably be writing this post to say that I like co-sleeping, but don’t love it.  Well, sometime around 3 months, things got amazing!  I’m not sure why, but I stopped being so stiff at night.  Perhaps it was because Alex got a little bigger and I felt more comfortable putting him between me and my husband (who is a very heavy sleeper) for part of the night, allowed me to lie on my left side some as well.  Around this time nursing also suddenly got super easy.  I’ll never know why, but I’m guessing it was that Alex’s mouth grew or that he figured out how to latch correctly, but suddenly he could latch on himself and we could nurse lying down.  No more sitting up at night ever!  He also quit pooping during the night and, recently, quit peeing so much.  Now, I put a “nighttime diaper” on him (prefold and hemp doubler with a Thirsties Duo cover that has leg gussets), and we leave it on until morning.

So, basically, Alex sleeps for about 11 hours at a time every night.  Yes, he nurses during the night, but he doesn’t even fully awaken.  Sometimes I don’t either.  It’s wonderful.

I’m not trying to convince anyone to bed share with their babies; I’m just sharing what worked for us.  I understand that it’s not a good fit for everyone.  I didn’t think it would be for us at first either.  And it’s not perfect.  I do disturb his sleep sometimes when I am restless, and he does sometimes disturb my sleep when he cramps my position, fidgets, or makes me too hot.  Still, if I had had to get up out of bed every time when he woke, or if he had been far enough away from me all this time that he would have woken up more before I noticed, we would have definitely gotten less sleep.

Co-Sleeping Changes

Lately, I’ve been putting Alex in his co-sleeper for at least part of the night.  I’m still trying to figure out if we sleep better that way or not since he definitely wakes up more before I notice, and I still have to sooth him during light sleep several times.  It is nice to have the option though in case I want to be able to roll over or if, like last night, it’s really hot in our room and I need him away from me a little to cool off!  Alex has also recently wanted to sleep on his tummy more, and this is another reason I put him in the co-sleeper.  The co-sleeper mattress is a lot more firm than the one on our bed, and because he seems to like to sleep directly on his face sometimes…..  I do feel that the co-sleeper is a little safer for tummy sleeping.  That’s why he sleeps ok in there, too- because he’s on his tummy.

Still, I miss him when he’s not beside me, even when he’s within arm’s reach.  That first night that he spent 6 hours in his little bed, I was kinda sad, like he didn’t need me so much anymore.  I know that these changes will come and that eventually he won’t need me as much, or at least not in the same ways, but I always imagined he’d really fight to keep his spot next to Mommy at night.  Or maybe he just assumes that the co-sleeper is still part of our bed- who knows.  At any rate, our co-sleeping relationship is changing a bit, but I’ve loved it so far and I don’t want to stop it anytime soon- especially as long as Alex is nursing at night.

With the next baby, unless he/she miraculously sleeps better alone, I’ll probably just bring them into our bed from day one! 🙂

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laughingpromises
    May 24, 2013 @ 23:10:45

    I”m with you–co sleeping rocks. I NEVER thought I’d co sleep or bed share, but I have done both. When Cody was a newborn, he would wake up and cry, I would pick him up out of his bed (that was right beside our bed), and he would immediately curl up in my arms and stop crying. We went through the same process of my realising that we would get more sleep if he slept beside me or in my arms. And we did! I think he was only 2 months or maybe slightly older when he started sleeping in his bed, and he’s still right beside where I sleep. He never cries, because I seem to sense when he’s going to wake up or know when he’s fidgeting more than usual and get him right up to feed. He feeds while I snooze a bit, and then I put him back to bed after about 20 minutes. It’s delightful, and it actually makes me glad he’s not completely sleeping through the night. I love my snuggles, and he’s definitely more snuggly at night when there’s not a lot of things around for him to get into (he’s a very curious fellow). Cheers to co sleeping!

    Reply

    • travelnole
      May 24, 2013 @ 23:34:40

      Totally agree regarding the snuggles too! Alex is all. over. the place. these days and the ONLY time I get quiet cuddles are during those sleepy nursing sessions. 🙂 I really don’t mind much either that Alex still nurses at night because it’s so easy for me!

      Reply

  2. andi
    May 31, 2013 @ 08:11:36

    Haha just went back and read about how you would ABSOLUTELY not do co sleeping

    Reply

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