I want to talk about co-sleeping. When I was pregnant with my oldest, sleep sharing wasn’t something I considered doing. I had heard the horror stories of babies suffocated and squished, and to be honest I thought it a little odd to not want your child in his own crib, and in his own room. When baby Gryphon was born, he spent the first few weeks of his life in a bassinet at the foot of our bed. I’d wake when he cried, nurse him to sleep by the glow of an infomercial, and then place him back into his little bed. I actually awoke in a panic numerous times those first weeks, convinced I had “forgot” him and he was suffocating in my sheets!
By eight weeks old, G was a champion sleeper with consistent 6 to 8 hour stretches at night. He was also in a crib, in his own room. I never really felt sleep deprived. He was a mellow, laid back baby. I had the freedom to nap during the day when he did, and Darling Husband was very hands on with the little guy.
Fast forward eighteen months when I delivered my daughter Zoe. G man was 20 months old, an active toddler, but still a great sleeper. I’d put him to bed about seven at night, and he’d sleep through until seven the next morning. Zoe, on the other hand? Not so much.
Z was what Dr. Sears refers to as a “high need” baby. It’s also what my husband called “demanding,” “stubborn,” and “annoying.” The princess wanted what she wanted, she wanted it ten minutes ago, and how DARE you not have read her mind? She wanted to be held, rocked, worn, and with you constantly. Neither the swing or the bouncy chair soothed her long. She was a frequent snacker at the breast, and I swear she didn’t sleep more than two hours at a stretch until she was six months old. I was exhausted. To make matters worse for me, the better half had started a job that had him traveling. A lot. Like, five days a week. I was losing it.
Then, one night, something happened. I brought Z to bed by the light of the tv to nurse, and I FELL ASLEEP! With my baby. In bed. You know what? I didn’t kill her. What happened instead was that I slept. And she slept. And when I woke up in the morning after SIX consecutive hours of sleep, I felt like I could rule the world. I felt like I had discovered some huge secret. Zoe wanted to be close to me. When she was, she was calm and happy. When she wasn’t … well — no one was happy.
I “pretended” that I has fallen asleep nursing her to anyone that asked. And yes, yes … I’ll teach her to sleep in her own crib soon. We all know if I don’t move her now, she’ll never learn to sleep alone. The truth was that I loved sleeping with her. Being woken up in the morning to little pats on the face and smiles was fantastic. Often she would nurse at night and I would stir just enough to give her easier access before we’d both drift back off. I was no longer resentful of my own child!
When three years later our third child Drake arrived, life was even more hectic. My husband was seven months post stroke and still adapting to the loss of use in his right arm and leg. We had been forced to uproot the family and move half way across the country. I had some complications with Drakes delivery, and as a result had severe post partum depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Drake had been born with a clubfoot and was undergoing weekly castings that left him miserable and inconsolable for days Co sleeping was my savior, and Drakes. When it all got too much we’d lie down in the dark together,alone, and comfort each other I didn’t even pretend to want to put him in a crib.
Before we lost our last pregnancy, I had posted on Facebook that I was painting the nursery. That post drew a comment that I really resented. It read “Who are you kidding? Your babies always sleep in your room, and even in your BED!” Needless to say this is a person who has made it clear previously that she disapproves of co sleeping.
If I hadn’t been so upset and unwilling to start a war on my Facebook page, this is what I would have said:
“Why would you expect an infant to be held and loved all day, and then ignored at night? Doesn’t it feel odd to sleep in your bed when your husband (or partner) is away? Aren’t you lonely? In countries all over the world a family bed and sleep sharing is considered the norm. If it works for me, and it works for my family, then why are you so against it?”