If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that you won’t catch me judging you whether you co-sleep, bed share, baby sleeps in a crib, do any combination of these, or you hang upside down like a bat. OK, I might at least look at you funny if you do that. I don’t think one is necessarily “better” than the other, we all choose what works best for us and our families. I do, however, want to share what I know because if I’d known what I know now, oh, 7 years ago, my life may have been a lot easier! 🙂 This is post one of a 4-5ish post series and the second is immediately after this one, since they go hand in hand!
My daughter is almost 7, and I’ve talked before about how I was a little more “mainstream” then. Just a little bit though! I was still into natural birth, though I didn’t consider homebirth then, and my idea of an ideal birth has moved from un-medicated to unhindered. I was into car seat safety even then, I made all my own baby food, and purchased natural and organic foods any time I was able.
I didn’t “baby wear” since if all these awesome baby wearing products existed back them, I didn’t know about them! I did, however, practice my own version of “attachment parenting” before I realized it was an actual “thing.” I held my daughter all the time and rarely used any “contraptions.” When she was an older baby, but before she was eating food, she sat in her swing for a few minutes so I could eat, and that was pretty much it. I got a lot of flak from certain family members who constantly said “don’t you ever put that baby down” or “don’t you ever let that baby cry” and “she’s going to turn out timid because of that.” That last thing is the most hilarious of all, since my daughter is one of the most confident, outspoken (and well spoken) little girls, who makes friends wherever she goes.
Unfortunately, there just wasn’t the wealth of information available 7 1/2-ish years ago when I was expecting her. Now, a quick search will yield loads of information on cloth diapering, breastfeeding, baby wearing and yes, co-sleeping. I was fortunate to find a small, online group that I largely credit for helping me succeed in breastfeeding her for 21 1/2 months, and which also helped me find info on making baby food and car seat safety. I had no idea that the Johnson & Johnson products I initially used were harmful, and even if I had, there was no organic store, no natural section of the grocery store, and there weren’t loads of “green” online retailers ranking in the top of Google searches!
I know I’ve told the story before about an acquaintance giving me a xeroxed packet of papers about cloth diapers, and I was really interested. I did some internet searches (remember that this was 2004, before Bumgenius and many, many others!) and found Fuzzibunz perfect size diapers. I was a little nervous about the whole washing cloth diapers thing, on top of being a first time mom and breastfeeder, but I still really wanted to use them. I didn’t have a cloth diapering community to help guide me, so I assumed I would need 2 dozen each of XS, S, M, L, maybe XL/Toddler too. This was quickly adding up to a staggering 2 grand, which was more than I’d spend on disposables (I was already couponing & stockpiling & had a max price I’d pay for diapers.) So, that was out. Little did I know she would never have needed larger than a medium!
So ramble ramble, the point is that I never, ever considered co-sleeping. It never even crossed my mind; I didn’t even know it was an option. For at least the first several weeks of her life, I was sure I was going to die of exhaustion. My nights were spent rock, rock, rock-ing her, tiptoeing to gingerly put her in her crib, then going back down the hall and getting in bed. No sooner did I doze off, but she was awake again, and the cycle continued. It was absolutely awful. She did eventually sleep decent stretches in her crib, but that was after many, many months.
When I was expecting my son, a Mom of my daughter’s preschool classmate had a baby about 4 months earlier. She was dropping her daughter off and picking her up pretty much right away and one day I told her that she looked “suspiciously well rested.” She laughed and rather sheepishly told me that they co-slept, so she didn’t really even wake up to nurse!
Hmm…Believe it or not, this wasn’t enough to make me seriously consider it. When my daughter was born, I became an incredibly light sleeper; it was this way when both kids were little. I would be bolt upright in bed, wide awake at every single sniffle, sigh or shift through the monitor. I thought I’d never be able to sleep with a baby right beside me. Now, I actually think the opposite. I think I’d actually be able to sleep better knowing I don’t have to be on red alert, because if the baby needs anything, I’ll hear him/her!
So, my son was born and he simply wouldn’t sleep unless I was holding him. My husband tried to take him for me once a night so I could sleep, but that lasted literally about 15 minutes per night. I’d fall asleep as soon as my head hit that pillow, and sleep more deeply than I had in my life, but he’d give up trying to console him after about 15 minutes. There were many nights that I sat and held him and just cried because I was so exhausted, I couldn’t cope. I would often end up dozing off and wake up stiff and frozen in position, terrified that I had dropped or suffocated my son.
We looked into various bassinets and co-sleepers, but nothing was available locally, I didn’t want to wait for something to ship, and I was afraid of spending money on something that wouldn’t help. By the time we were able to borrow a bassinet from a friend, the bad habits were established and we weren’t able to make it work. I’m really quite ashamed of how we were able to transition him into his crib. He actually slept stretches at night in a cradle swing. I know, I know! Totally not me. But it worked. Something about the position or the fact that he wasn’t just flailed out flat. P.S. Yes, did try to swaddle him, he could get out of any swaddle. Even the nurse in the hospital was shocked that he would escape her atomic swaddle so quickly!! Baby out of swaddle=loose blankets=suffocation risk=we gave up trying after a while. Anyway, we did end up eventually getting him to sleep in his crib.
When both of my kids were little, my husband would often find me sitting up in bed, in the middle of the night patting, rocking, shushing or trying to nurse an invisible baby. I would randomly half wake up in a panic, flailing my hands all around trying to find the baby. I’m telling you, all signs pointed to me needing to be beside my babies and my babies needing to be beside me, but I just wasn’t listening.
Luckily, my son was 3 months old before I really had to do anything but stagger around and try to take care of my daughter. She watched waaayyyy too much TV in those first few weeks. When this baby is born, I’m going to have to get up in time to get myself dressed, get my son and the baby dressed, make sure my daughter is dressed, make everyone breakfast, make my daughter’s lunch, and get her to school on time. I have no idea how I could do all that on zero sleep.
I decided before this baby was even conceived that I was going to co-sleep next time, darn it!! I’ve read all the research supporting co-sleeping (see my next post) and it just plain makes sense. This is our first home-birth. We won’t be separated from the baby for stupid “hospital procedures” (which I know technically you’re supposed to be able to refuse to be separated but, yeah. Good luck trying that at our hospital.) We will get to snuggle & cuddle as long as we want, bathe the baby when we want etc. etc. So why in the world would I go through all that to give the baby the most natural, easy transition earth-side, then expect him/her to sleep alone down the hall from day 1? Co-sleeping is a no-brainer. Even so, we do have a crib for the baby, since we will eventually need it (and I know some will disagree with that, but diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks, right?)
To avoid making this TL;DR worthy (too long; didn’t read) I’m writing a separate post about Co-sleeping: Facts and Expert Opinions. I hope you read it!