Whenever I write a post where the fact that we cosleep is mentioned, I get a comment that asks me to share more about how it works, why we do it, etc. So I thought this would be a good time.
When we were in the hospital after giving birth, and Minnow was so little tiny, she slept on my chest. It just seemed like her glass basinet was so remote, foreign, and cold after nine months of being in my womb. Neither of us was ready for it.
In those first few days and weeks, we kept co-sleeping because she slept better curled up next to me (or, more typically, on top of me). When I'd put her down she'd awaken within a few minutes. Plus, I was so tired and worn down that I needed almost as much rest as she did, so it made sense. Up until the point where I went back to work, I went to bed every night when she did and I held her or napped with her for her naps. Since I've been working (starting at ~2 months), we've been very gradually increasing the amount of time she's sleeping on her own. At first it was naps in the swing or short stints in the co-sleeper. Now she takes all her naps in the crib (or carseat) and goes to bed in the crib until someplace between 9 and 11 pm. When she wakes up at that point, I feed her and take her to bed with me for the rest of the night.
We never intended to put her in a crib in a distant room right away, but we never intended to have her sleep in bed with us either. We bought an Arm's Reach co-sleeper – a sort of pack-n-play that attaches to your bed. The idea was that the baby would be safely in her own sleeping area, free of suffocation hazards, but still be close when she needed me in the middle of the night. The idea may have been good, but it never really worked that way for us. I think she never spent more than 2-3 hours in her co-sleeper per night and when she was in her co-sleeper and I was in bed, I'd lie there awake with a hand on her belly to keep her asleep. And I missed her so. I found that I couldn't easily lift her out or set her into the cosleeper while I was lying in bed, so, having to get up anyway, a basinet would have just as functional. Once she started to really roll over, ~ 4 months, the co-sleeper wasn't safe anymore and we gave up on it completely. FYI, there is other co-sleeping gear available – snuggle nests are a popular item, and some cribs can be rigged to side-car against the bed.
So how does she sleep? She comes to bed in my arms and I lie down with her on my chest. Once she is sound asleep I roll her to one side where she generally sleeps nestled under my armpit. Sometimes she is between Fish and I, sometimes not. Before she was able to lift her head well and roll, I took scrupulous care to avoid having pillows or blankets near her, even if it meant that I spent the night with no blankets on my upper half. Now I'll often pull a blanket up to her waist. When she sleeps between Fish and I, we act as twin bedrails for her. When she is on my other side, my arm keeps her secure. When we had the co-sleeper attached to our bed, it acted as a bedrail. A few weeks ago, we tried attaching a bedrail to my side of the bed, but it made it too difficult for me to get in and out of bed, especially with Minnow in my arms. Before my early morning classes began, Minnow and I would sleep in together in the mornings – to someplace between 5:45 and 7:15 am – recently closer to the latter, thankfully. Now, two days per week, I have to sneak out of bed about 5:45 (after Fish has already gone to work). Then I am faced with a nasty choice: attempt to move Minnow into her crib, let her stay asleep in the bed and pray that she doesn’t roll while I’m in the shower, or wake her up and somehow manage to get a shower while she’s awake. The first choice is what I’d like to happen most days – she’ll get closer to her usual wakeup time and I’ll get a few minutes in the morning to myself.
OK, enough with the logistics…what are the good things about co-sleeping? The number one advantage of co-sleeping is that I get lots of cuddle time with Minnow – which is especially important for us now that I’m working full time. The second big advantage is the ease of night-time breastfeeding. If you don’t have tummy troubles, you can just roll over, line the kid up and go back to sleep. A few hours later, roll them to the other side and repeat. It’s a cinch. You get way more sleep than having to get up and stagger to a different room, where you end up falling asleep sitting up. The third advantage is that you know your child will never cry unheeded in the night. There’s no way you can ignore a crying child when she is in bed with you. Trust me, Fish sleeps like a log, and even he mutters “shhh” in his sleep when she cries out.
How about the disadvantages? The biggest one is fear. Fear that your child will suffocate. Fear that she will roll out of bed and get hurt. Fear that other people will disapprove of what you are doing. Fear that you will care what they think. Once you get over the fear factor, by getting a system that you know is safe and that works for you, the other disadvantages are minor (at least in my mind). Sure, it probably delays the normalization of sexual relations, but, dude, you are so tired and things are so sore, that might count as an advantage to the mother. Sure, we’ve all heard about kids that still sleep with their parents when they are in elementary school. But, I’m guessing that with the combination crib-co-sleeping we’re doing now, that it won’t be a forever battle to eventually wean her from our bed – when we’re all good and ready. And I look forward to continuing to co-sleep – at least occasionally – for years. It sure is handy when you travel.
Anyways, that’s how we’ve been sleeping for the past seven months and it’s probably how we’ll sleep if we have another child. Hope this answered your questions.