Friday, November 18, 2011

The Evolution of Co-Sleeping

I'm sure I've mentioned it here before that before Keevia was born, I was completely against bedsharing. Carl mentioned when I was pregnant about bringing her in bed with us, and I always said "No way! We'll smother her!" I looked down my nose at the parents who did so, thinking how horrifically unsafe they were being with their children.

Then, when I was pregnant, I stumbled across a parenting board on I'd never heard of Attachment Parenting before, and I quickly googled the term. Other than some differences when it comes to discipline, I found myself agreeing with everything my searches turned up.

So I began haunting that board, and I soon found that a good majority of the people on there purposefully bedshared from birth. I had always planned to co-sleep, and had purchased a Arms Reach Mini Co-Sleeper at a yardsale, and received the Baby Trend Gabriella Playard from my Mom. Both made co-sleeping very easy, as the baby was RIGHT there, but I was still against baby being in bed with me.

At this point in our lives, Carl and I were living in an apartment in the big city, and spending a good bit of our time at my parents house. We had a queen size bed in our apartment, but a full-size bed at my parents. As I progressed in my pregnancy, Carl began sleeping in a different bedroom so as not to squish the baby in my belly.

After I gave birth, Carl wasn't comfortable with me spending time at our apartment alone (he worked from 3am-1pm, and had to go to bed by about 6-7pm), and insisted I stay with my parents for the first few weeks.

Keevia was so tiny and perfect, but there was one little problem. She didn't want to sleep unless I was holding her. Which was fantastic during the day because I couldn't bear to put her down, but at night she wouldn't settle in her co-sleeper very well. And when it came to nursing at night, I was still convinced I had to sit up to feed her (trying to figure out latch and all), but I found myself falling asleep sitting up.

Then one night, I gave up, pulled out my iPod and searched for Dr. Sears bedsharing safety checklist. With a little bit of moving and shuffling, I had my bed set up and I laid down with her. She stayed asleep, and I slept lightly.

As I got more confident, both with bedsharing and breastfeeding, I began just nursing on one side for several hours, the rolling with Keevia and nursing on the other side for several hours. I always started her off in the co-sleeper, and would get 1-3 hours of alone sleep before she came in bed with me. Once we went back to the apartment (although we didn't spend much time there, we moved home when Keevia was about 2 months old, and didn't spend much time at the apartment once she was born), I was a little nervous adding Carl to the mix, but I stuck to the bedsharing rules, and always kept my arm around her when she had to be in the middle to nurse.

As a result, I was never sleep deprived. She slept great, and even on her restless or fussy nights, she settled quickly. Around 4 months she started the dreaded Four Month Wakeful and was just, well, AWAKE from 4-6am. Some nights I put her in her bouncer in front of Seasame Street and she would drift back to sleep. Bad parenting? Maybe... but we both got sleep and were both happy, so I don't really regret it. The first time sleep deprivation got me was when she got her first cold at 6 months. By that time we had moved into our new house (which is next door to my parents) and there were 2-3 nights where she barely slept (stupid stuffy nose). At this point, with a six month old, I finally understood the sleep deprivation that non-bedsharing parents felt.

Keevia and I basically spent the first six months of her life in bed by ourselves. We fit well in a full size bed, and were quite comfortable most nights. As she got older, her first stretch of solo sleep got longer and longer. By the time we moved in our house, and began sharing a bed with her daddy again, there were nights when she was sleeping through the night in her co-sleeper, or only waking at 4-6 am.

At this point, however, she roused very easily. If I had a cold and a cough she would wake up every time I coughed. If you got up to go to the bathroom, she woke up. Carl was now working 5 days a week, having to be at work at 5am. His alarm would usually start going off at 2 am. She was not amused. Even when she came in bed with us, she would still toss and turn until her would finally get up, or we would move to the guest room. I put off moving her into her own room as long as I could, because I wasn't ready for it.

Around nine months we started putting her in her crib in her room. We left the co-sleeper in our room however. She would still nurse maybe once a night, but she was probably sleeping through the night 4 nights out of 7. If she woke up, it was no big deal, we just brought her into our bed.

We kept up this routine, having her start off in our bed occasionally, but sticking to the crib. Around one year I began having to lay down with her to get her to sleep, but I would always move her to her crib once she was asleep. Around 13 months she got her first (and only!) ear infection, as well as a case of bronchitis. Her cough (and the plegm in her throat) were so bad that she'd get choked and end up throwing up, sometimes several times a night. Carl deemed it unacceptable for her to sleep by herself (which I agreed) so we moved to the guest room for close to a month. It was a slow weaning process to get her from 100% of night time with mommy back to her crib, but we did it.

At 18 months we changed her crib into a toddler bed, and since that time, she simply comes padding into our room whenever she wakes up. Sometimes it's 1am, most of the time its 6 or 7. I love snuggling with her, and we never put her back in her bed once she wakes up. If she's sick, or scared (we've dealt with some night terrors the last two months), she may stay in our bed the majority of the night. We just go with it. We ended up purchasing a King size bed back in June/July, once we decided we wanted to get pregnant again, because we knew we'd soon be sharing the bed with two babies, not just one.

Some nights its frustrating. I sleep better when she's not in our bed (mainly because she likes to lay on top of me, or play with my cleavage, or simply lay THIS close to my back), and some nights I honestly just don't want to sleep with her... but I always remember HOW GOOD it felt to go running into my parents room, and to climb up in bed between them. I automatically felt safe, warm, happy and content. All bad-dreams went away, all fears disappeared. It wasn't a nightly occurrence with me, but I always knew that it was an option. I want Keevia (and baby girl#2) to feel the same way.

I don't really know how we'll manage once our newborn comes into the sleeping mix, but I'm sure we'll manage. Currently, Keevia is sleeping on a twin size mattress on the floor of her bedroom, and if necessary, we'll just move that mattress in our room for a while. I fully, FULLY believe that babies will learn to sleep on their own, but that each baby is different, and each on has their own night-time needs. I won't ever get these times back with my babies, and I don't want to have any regrets. As of yet, I don't, at least when it comes to my night-time parenting. I look forward to nursing this new girl, and snuggling with her late at night. Bedsharing isn't for everyone, and I realize that, but for our family, it's how we get through the nights.

Want more information? Dr. Sears has some awesome information on Co-Sleeping here, including studies he did on the breathing patterns of a co-sleeping newborn!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I really enjoyed reading this. I shared my bed with my daughter for several months. To this day when mom's complain about midnight feedings I tell them that by breast feeding all I had to do was get her out of her crib (two feet away), lay down, plug her in, and go back to sleep. Creates some interesting mental images. Now our bed is off limits to both of my girls. But, they are way past the age of night terrors or not being able to soothe themselves after bad dreams. It's nice to have that time for just the hubby and I, but we still enjoy morning wrestling to wake Daddy sometimes.


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