co-sleeping, sleep sharing, bed sharing, family bed - call it whatever you like, you're sleeping with your kids.
when jackson was first born, my top concern was not whether he was sleeping, but whether i would ever be able to (click here for the lengthy rantings of a sleep deprived woman).
selfish right? putting jackson down to sleep was a lengthy process of holding, soothing and rocking. nursing often throughout the night meant i had to attempt naps during the day. but every time i tried to put him in a "safe place" such as his crib or bassinet, he would wake within twenty minutes. my sleep deprived mind was teased to the point of frustration.
one day, he fell asleep in the coil of my snoogle. he looked safe, and happy, so i slept next to him (somewhat fitfully). the next time we went down for a nap, i put him in my arms. it was scary, i won't lie! and then i did it at night.
miraculously, i didn't have to rock him to sleep anymore. i didn't have to pace our apartment for thirty minutes, or keep my hands on him for ten more after putting him down. i didn't have to stay up while he whimpered and wriggled after being fed. i didn't have to worry about whether he was breathing...because i could feel it, right against my own heart. when he's had a rough day or is fussy, i have the power to calm him and the option to sleep with him. not to mention his sheer joy when he wakes up in the mornings - probably something i would miss if i waited for him to whimper or cry to call me to his room.
after that, i read voraciously about the idea of co sleeping. one of my favourites was this cup of jo blog post. not so much the post itself, but rather the comment section. it was invigorating to read comments from real women (mothers) about the subject. what i found, was that those who did it were experienced and well informed. those that didn't, or didn't intend to were mostly open minded, but also assumptive and didn't seem to have any real knowledge about it. and that was how i felt before.
here are the benefits of co-sleeping:
- mother sleeps better and doesn't have to fully wake to feed or check on the baby
- breastfeeding is simple and requires little movement or disturbance
- the baby sleeps better because s/he settles much more quickly next to the mother
- when mother and child lay together, there is a harmony in breath and heartbeat
- mother and child often share the same sleep stages
- synchronous arousals - constant awareness of baby and mother can easily awake to check on him
- the baby spends less time sleeping on his tummy, thus lowering the risk of sids
- creates a deeper bond and connection
- a plus for working mothers to spend additional time with their child
babies and parents co-sleep in all areas of the world. in countries such as asia, africa, southern europe and south america, it is an unquestioned practice and has been for centuries. it is only in countries like the states and british colonies such as canada and australia that we study and question the practice. for many families, the idea of a child having its own large bed, or its own entire room is foreign. for more detail on co-sleeping, there is a great study and some interesting results in this article by dr. sears.
in all fairness, i wanted to know the cons as well so i researched that. i'll be honest and say it was difficult to find any. there was some frightening, but biased articles such as this one about death, and this one about selfishness. this article provides an actual cons list but they are rather inconsequential.
my own downsides include not being able to switch positions and a slight return of the numbness in my fingers from when i was pregnant (from having to lay with my arm a certain way).
the technical details:
when we sleep together, i lay on my side with my arm out. the baby rests facing me, with his head in the crook of my arm. it's best to have a barrier on the edge of the bed and blankets should never be brought up past the waist. our bed is not against a wall, and the baby doesn't sleep between us unless it's morning and we're drifting in and out. we've had a talk about all of this and have both agreed we are conscious of, and responsible for the baby in the bed. i never take any drugs, medication and i don't drink or smoke (this, and obesity are the leading causes of co-sleeping issues). read more about the rules here.
we don't sleep together the whole night, but i bring him in with us after his first or only night feeding. we put him down by himself - so it's possible that when he is done nursing we won't co-sleep anymore because he'll have slept in his crib for the whole night.
i co-sleep because i want to sleep. i co-sleep because i love the feel of a sleeping baby in my arms. i co-sleep because i feel empowered knowing my scent, my breath and my presence will put my son to sleep almost immediately. plus...he's adorable! wouldn't you want to cuddle him as much as possible?