Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why I Co-Sleep (The Top 3 Reasons!)

When I became a mom, there were a lot of parenting practices I was resolved about - but co-sleeping was not one of them. In fact, I was firmly on the "don't do it" side of the fence. And what's ridiculous about that is I made that decision after my boss at the time warned me to 'never a let a child in your bed because you'll never get them out again'. Not being a mom yet, that sounded horrible. (And of course, I was silly enough to let one person's negative experience bias my opinion!)

The Top 3 Reasons to Co-Sleep with your newborn
(source)

So immediately - in fact, the very day Luke came home from the hospital - I worked on getting him to sleep on his own. I would do the careful transfer to his bassinet after swaddling him and nursing him to sleep, and then pray he would stay asleep. Most of the time he did not. He could scream in the most ear-piercing way, too! Many mornings we'd crawl out of bed feeling like zombies - delirious with a lack of sleep and frustrated with our baby. I so desperately wanted him to be "a good baby", as people always seem to ask that, and it all hinges on how they sleep.

"Is he a good baby?" What mother wants to say no to that? (FYI, I will never ask you that question!)

It took having my second child to make some things very obvious to me.

1. There are no good babies or bad babies - just babies.

2. Pushing a baby onto your schedule, and into your routines is about 1,000x more frustrating and difficult than following their natural cues.

3. Gasp - allowing your baby into bed with you means you will all actually SLEEP!

The first four months with Luke were horrible, and we were constantly sleep deprived. But my last two babies? I almost never lost sleep. People would ask me about how much rest I was getting with that sympathetic "I bet almost none" tone and I'd always say something like, "oh plenty! I'm not at all sleep deprived." And I meant it.

Henry slept in our bed for the first 8/9 months, and then would come to bed for the second half of the night when he woke up for his 3am nursing until he was about 15/16 months. He night weaned at that point, and then stopped nursing at 20 months. The transition from my bed to his crib was peaceful, seamless, and easy. Jake has been in bed with us since his first moments. He stayed in my hospital bed all through my recovery, and came home to our bed. We never even used his bassinet - it actually acts as a dresser for him (embarrassingly enough). He is transitioning to napping on his own in his crib now, and in another month or two (once he's got naps down well) I'll have him start the night in his crib the way Henry did at that age.

There's no trauma, no 3 year old kicking us in the head all night, and no regrets. (There are, however, beautiful memories of snuggling my guys through their first year!)

I say these things for the nay-sayers. For the ones that warned me that holding my baby all the time would spoil them, or that I'd end up with a 10 year old in our bed one day. I'm not sharing this because I think this is the be-all-end-all of parenting options, or that I think any less of someone for choosing differently for their family. I am the first to say that I've learned A LOT between the time when I was hoping to become a mother, and raising three babies, and the things I set out to do as a parent have changed between each child I've had. I'm writing this post simply for the joy of sharing it (who doesn't want to write about what's close to their heart?) and for any Mom that's unsure they want to try it but wants to hear a positive first-hand account.

For those reasons, here are The Top Three Reasons Why I Co-Sleep:

Sleep
I explained this above, but yes - first and foremost, this is the most important reason why. We ALL sleep when our newborn stays in bed with me - baby, Mommy, Daddy, and brothers. There's no extended crying to be heard or constant rocking, sushing, and soothing. When he wakes, I switch sides and help him latch on to nurse, and we all drift back to sleep - swiftly and peacefully. Aside from nights when Jake has had reflux, a cold, or teething, we get as much asleep as we did without a newborn. I know this has everything to do with being close to his "home" outside of the womb, as described by the article "Baby's Second Night". I've seen this passed all over the internet, and my hospital actually gives out a copy to new moms! (If you want to chat about attachment parenting starting right in the hospital, including your baby rooming in with you, feel free to reach out to me - I have lots of tips to offer you!) Here's a little section from the article that explains what I mean:
"As you take him off and put him back to bed - he cries again...and starts rooting around, looking for you. This goes on - seemingly for hours. A lot of moms are convinced it is because their milk isn't "in" yet, and the baby is starving. However it isn't that, but the baby's sudden awakening to the fact that the most comforting and comfortable place for him to be is at the breast. It's the closest to "home" he can get."
Breastfeeding
Another one of my resolved parenting choices was breastfeeding my children, and like all parenting choices, I had a lesson to learn about that. Luke only nursed for 3 months, and I was devastated. Looking back, I can see a lot of the reasons why it happened, though I still hate how hard I was on myself for not knowing better at the time. Part of my failure was in watching the clock instead of my baby, and co-sleeping makes it very easy to watch my baby. Not only do I immediately know when he needs to eat, we often drift off with him dream feeding, and he gets a lot of nutrition even when he's sleeping! Not to mention, it also helps build up my supply. I attribute my nursing relationship with Henry being so positive because we co-slept, and I think the same of the first 7 months with Jake. It really makes a huge difference, and it also feels very effortless and stress free!

Babies Don't Keep
One of the first realities you learn as a parent is how FAST your children grow. And babies change SO much in their first year! They go from helpless little beings on a fully liquid diet to walking, eating table food, and maybe even saying a few words. When you look back at the end of that year, it feels like it went by in the blink of an eye. You only get one year of those smushy baby lips and cheeks, sweet little baby breaths, the innocent little squeaks and squeals and giggles - and then it's gone. I witness so much more of it when my babies spend most of their first year in my bed with me. I wake up to their gummy smiles, and fall asleep to the sight of long eye lashes on fluffy cheeks. I wouldn't give those moments up for anything.

Now, all that being said...

Co-sleeping isn't putting pj's on your baby and plopping him into bed for the night. You have to be responsible about it, and take precautions to make sure that the experience is a safe one. My intention here is NOT to instruct you on how to co-sleep, or to convince you to do it, so please don't consider me a co-sleeping "source". I simply wanted to share my experience with you! But a couple of pointers to keep in mind when you co-sleep (please do more of your own research!):

- Do NOT use a swaddle when co-sleeping, as it limits baby's movements and he's less able to free himself from a dangerous position if he doesn't have use of his arms and legs.
- Do NOT place your baby on a pillow, and keep your pillows away from his face.
- DO hold your baby in the crook of your arm (his head/neck resting in your elbow) while you sleep as this will keep him in a safe position through the night. It's also the optimal placement/position for nursing, and will keep him positioned away from your pillows.
- Do NOT use heavy blankets. This can even be done in winter - trust me. Just like babies keep you hot through your pregnancy like little heaters while they're in your belly, they're the same on the outside. I've gone through two winters co-sleeping with babies and only using a sheet!
- Do NOT let baby sleep with you if you've taken any sleep-enhancing medications, or you've been drinking heavily. You will not be aware enough to watch out for him while you sleep (and yes, normal co-sleeping gives Moms a crazy awareness, even when you're asleep! I can attest to it! But no fear, it doesn't cause me to lose any sleep.)

Co-sleeping is not for everyone, and that's okay! It's been the most rewarding experience of having babies, for me, though - and I wish I'd known more about it when my first baby was born. I feel like I spent a lot of time fighting his nature to try and make him adapt to mine, and now with the experience of following my baby's lead, parenting my tiniest ones feels like a breeze.

If you're thinking about giving it a shot and want to chat about it some more, shoot me an email & let's chat! :) daintyrevelations(at)gmail.com

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