Parent vs. Parent: Hot about co-sleeping
I think it is really funny that when we were talking behind the scenes about co-sleeping (we do talk behind the scenes-- all the time!), that of all of us, I was the one who was the hottest on co-sleeping. I don't think that is because my children are older and co-sleeping has been in our past for awhile now and that my memories have just faded (insert wry chuckle here).
When my first child was born, thirteen and a half years ago (wait, let me recover from those numbers for a moment), we set up a beautiful crib for him, with a dark cherry finish. And he did sleep in it...sometimes. I had read about co-sleeping in advance, though, and I was already a big fan, in my head. But my husband and I were sleeping on a full-size bed, not even a queen, and so sleeping with our son wasn't feasible. There simply wasn't enough room. But I had similar experiences to Jenifer Scharpen: the falling asleep on the couch while nursing, and worrying about that. We had a guest room in our house, and one night, I decided simply to take Sam in there and go to sleep. And that became our routine. Sam would start in his crib and then when he woke to nurse, I would take him to the guest room and remain there for the night.
I was in love. Co-sleeping changed my entire experience as a parent. In fact, I expect to get smacked for this (figuratively, of course), but I have never been able to relate to stories of other mothers who report about how tired they are and how little sleep they get with their babies. Once I started co-sleeping, I slept just fine with all of my babies. I learned quickly how to nurse lying down, and I would simply help the baby latch on, and then return to sleep.
I read about co-sleeping, and about the effect of touch on the baby's breathing. I loved the studies I read that said that co-sleeping could reduce the incidence of SIDS. Mothers and babies who co-sleep also start to mirror each other's sleep patterns, so we would fall into deep sleep at the same time, and then enter REM sleep simultaneously, so the babies never woke me out of a deep sleep. Our rhythms matched each other, and they rarely woke enough actually to cry. They would just start rooting around a bit, latch on, and then we would resume sleeping.When we moved to a new state when my firstborn was nine months old, we set up the crib in our new house, but I don't think I ever used it for anything but stacking laundry. When the other two kids were born, we didn't even bother to set it up. We used a bassinet for naps during the day, so I could keep them near me in the kitchen, but I slept with all of the kids from then on. When my second son Christian was born, he joined Sam and I in the king-sized bed we had fashioned from two twin beds. I kept Christian on my side of the bed (I was lucky enough to be able to nurse him just fine that way, without having to have him on both sides of me).
Now, I will say that their father was not able to sleep with us with co-sleeping. Co-sleeping at our house meant the kids and I slept together. But that was a mutually agreeable arrangement. We agreed that we all felt better, more rested, and happier with this. When my third child was born, the older two kids slept together, and I'd lie down with them at night to help them fall asleep, and then sleep with the baby in another bed. And then after I weaned him, the three boys shared a room together while they were very small.
I lay down with my younger two children to help them get to sleep until about eighteen months ago. Even then I weaned them from my nighttime presence over time, staying for shorter and shorter times. My younger children still sleep in a full-size bed together, even though there is as top bunk over them. Whenever we have tried to have one sleep in the top bunk, he has climbed down in the morning, so I have given up: I don't like the idea of them climbing ladders in the dark. They miss each other if one is not there and have trouble sleeping. And I don't think this is a problem: They are nine and ten. Eventually, they are going to get too big to sleep together, and one of them will move out. There are times and seasons and rhythms for sleeping, for taking comfort in each other's breathing and presence. They squabble like an old married couple most of the time, so it is a relief to see them stretched out peacefully beside each other in sleep.
I understand the urge to co-sleep. I love curling up with my husband now at night, and hearing his breathing as he falls asleep. Co-sleeping has been the most natural thing in the world for us. I remember thinking when my children were very small that if I lived in a cave, I wouldn't put my child in another part of the cave to sleep. Obviously, I do not live in a cave: but I think I had a primordial instinct to be with the children, even at night, to hear their breathing, to lay my hands lightly upon them and hear their deepened breaths.
Certainly, co-sleeping is not for everyone. But I loved it. And I would do it all over again. Would you change anything about the choices you made regarding co-sleeping?
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.