Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How to Succeed in Co-Sleeping Without Really Trying

I never thought I'd be a co-sleeper. In fact, I didn't know it even had a name. I'm pretty sure I used to be one of those childless people who are shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to hear that people sleep with their babies.

Then HellBoy arrived.

At first he was all AngelBaby. I had him in a little sidecar bassinet, which worked well enough. He slept a couple-three hours at a time, woke to nurse, and went back to sleep. He was so light (5lbs 14oz at birth) that it was nothing to pop him in and out. Plus, I needed to arrange myself elaborately with the nursing pillow, the glass of water, etc., etc., so there was no chance I could sleep through it.

Then he got a couple weeks older, and started to protest at being put back in the bassinet. But I was terrified that I would smother him if I kept him in bed. So I just nursed him more often. And got more and more sleep deprived.

Finally I did it -- I let him stay next to me (with a roll guard to help prevent smothering). And he was soooo happy. And I got sooooo much more sleep. But I felt sooooo embarrassed about it. So I did what I usually do when I feel uneasy: I studied the issue. I learned that this had a name, and fierce proponents and opponents, and some (crappy) data -- but basically that it was a perfectly reasonable option. Meanwhile, I got addicted to the extra sleep, and to the nice feeling of a cuddly baby in bed. TrophyHusband was perfectly happy to have the baby there, so that wasn't an issue.

Then we learned how to nurse lying down, and it was all over. NO WAKING UP TO FEED THE BABY. SLEEP!!! I was the best-rested new mother on the planet. But oh, the reactions from other people. The horror -- the horror! It was actually kind of fun to taunt people with it. I took the baby in to work to show him off, and the first question everybody asked was, "How's he sleeping?" To which I would reply, "Oh, he sleeps great. Just wakes up to eat and goes back to sleep ..." at which point the listener would be smiling happily, until I added, "... of course, he sleeps with us." Three-quarters of the time the smile would morph into a look of alarm. "Oh, you can't do that!" was the typical response. "Why not?" I'd ask. "Because ... because ... eventually he's going to have to learn to sleep by himself!" was the best that anyone could come up with. OK -- so he can learn now, or he can learn later. I pick later.

But I still felt strangely ashamed. I'm still not sure why -- perhaps because I was taking the easy way out. But it just felt so right for us. Plus, our two enormous cats slept with us every night, and it seemed absurd to kick the baby out of bed and then turn around and invite the cats up.

Finally one night I sat up and said, "We're getting a king-sized bed." TrophyHusband immediately recognized this as a turning point, because up until then I had always viewed king beds as an outrageous excess. No one needs that much room! Which is kind of funny, because I really need my space in bed -- I'm always shooing TH, aka CuddleMonkey, away from me.

So now here we are, over a year later. Our typical routine is that around 8:15 pm I sit and nurse AngelBaby until he rolls over and falls asleep, then I put him in his crib. TH and I get to have the bed to ourselves (plus a cat or two) until about 1 am, when the baby wakes up and hollers, at which point TH fetches him into bed. Then we all sleep happily until about 5, when the baby wakes up to nurse a little more. Usually after that he sleeps till 7 or 8. And we all feel pretty rested most of the time.

Does AngelBaby need this, or do we? I think it's both. He's an intense baby; he never fusses, he becomes apoplectic. So we have to choose our battles. But also, we work full time; I feel comfortable having him in daycare, but when I'm with him, I want to be really with him. And he's not a cuddly baby most of the time, so it's gratifying to have our fill of snuggling, even if it's while he's asleep.

Works for us.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, you do what you both need. :) It's what works!

Similar story, here - I didn't think we'd cosleep beyond the first few months. But having a heavy baby, plus getting addicted to nice yummy sleep and being a born cuddler, it was very easy to get used to co-sleeping and night nursing.

We also had the nice rhythm of the first part of the night in the crib and the second in bed with us... until age 7 months, when I decided to try and let my girl cry it out a bit. Which confirmed that she is not a fusser, but goes from 0 to 60 (60 being all-out hysterics) and then stays there, pedal stuck to the floor. It was such a miserable failure that she wouldn't let me put her in her crib after that, not even for naps... I think she could smell it or something.

And so from age 7 months to age 23 months, she was in bed with me all night every night. It was easiest. I'd do the same thing again only I wouldn't *tell* anyone, and spare myself the ridiculous pressure from others.

At any rate, little one now sleeps in her own twin bed from 8 pm - 5 am most nights. Then I crawl in with *her,* nurse her and we both sleep for another couple of hours.

It works for us. :) Just don't let anyone make you feel bad about what works for you!

Continuing to enjoy your blog, btw. Thanks for the interesting posts!

Anonymous said...

"Works for us"

And that is all that really matters!

Suzanne said...

Good for you! After the endless cycle of cry, rock, bounce, put in crib, cry, rock, bounce, put in crib that I experienced with my firstborn, I decided that not being exhausted and miserable in the morning might just be a worthwhile goal. With my second child, then, I just brought her into bed with us if she woke up during the night. MUCH better. She sleeps on her own now, none the worse for that experience.

Of course, I was quite circumspect in telling other people about our sleeping arrangements. I'm wimpy enough to not want to risk a mommy drive-by (to quote Getupgrrl at Chez Miscarriage)!

Orange said...

My advice? Try to get the kid into his own quarters...sometime. My kid's five years old, and it's only the last half a year that we've really tried to get him sleeping in his own bed. But he likes to sleep cuddled up with mom and dad. He sleeps so soundly that way. But he's so long, and so active a sleeper—it's destroying our ability to sleep. Those feet find endless new ways to wedge themselves into my body. We've taken to bribery: four nights in his own bed, not coming in and waking us up and crying and whining, and he gets a cool toy. He's only racked up one night in the last five toward that tempting school bus. The rest of the nights, he wanders in between midnight and 5:00 and destroys one or both parents' night of sleep. It makes me tired, man.

DoctorMama said...

jennylsf -- "pedal stuck to the floor," yeah, that's a pretty good description of our guy. I don't mind ignoring some fussing ... I just almost never hear any. Only bone-chilling banshee howls.

suzanne -- have you noticed how many people fib about their sleeping arrangements? It took me a while to catch on to this. I'm learning now not to mention it unless forced.

orange -- your mistake was having a tall child. Ours is nicely in the single digits, percentage-wise. There have been a couple of times when he's gotten sideways and started transmitting messages in Morse code on my head with his feet, but he's still easy to flip around. I may be singing a different tune if he has a growth spurt. (Weren't you hopping into Ben's bed at 5 am? That sounded like a neat trick.)

Ms. Sheila Whotiger said...

We co-slept with all three, and every now and then I will wake up with multiple arms and legs strewn across me, and wonder what have I created. Most of the time, it's been great. The older two are in they're own rooms. When my husband is out of town, everyone sleeps with me, and it's fun, but not so fun when we try to get them back into there bed, when he is back.

Val said...

Mine is, ahem, seven now & I've learned simply to "don't ask/don't tell"! It's really nobody's business. He sleeps in his own bed when he goes to visit his dad which is roughly 40% of the time so I think it all evens out... & I for one appreciate the extra time w/him, even if he's unconscious.

Anonymous said...

I must confess that I too resorted to allowing my two month old daughter to sleep prone on my stomach at night. My hubby and I had her crib next to our bed in order to meet her needs more quickly. But she would protested feircly every time we tried to put her to sleep in her crib. I finnally gave up and I don't regret It. We all loved it and slept longer and more deeply.

My parenting improved with the extra sleep and I think the closeness the co-sleeping provided actually mellowed my daughter out. I mean you go from being in the womb, all warm and secure to being hurled into this big scary world with all it's laoud sounds and strange smells, it's a wonder were not all mad. I say co-sleeping fosters a healthy transition for the little ones.

Kelsey said...

so great! I't NOT cheating to have enough sleep to be a good mom... (by the way I know that this was like 2 years ago but I'm having fun catching up on your life and commenting on things...)
don't sweat the small stuff (weather or not the baby that spent 9 MONTHS inside of you wants to >gasp< cuddle with you at night!), it'll work out in the end.