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Thursday, December 10, 2009

My personal experience with co-sleeping

When you are pregnant for the first time. You think of all the things you want to do different than your parents did. You want to be a great parent or "the cool mom". You start listening to advice from everyone who offers it. And no one is shy about telling you how you should raise your baby. I think everyone would be better off if they just listened to their heart and to their baby.

I heard many people say things like: that you shouldn't sleep with your baby, you shouldn't nurse the baby to sleep, don't hold the baby too much, he needs to learn to soothe himself, and on and on and on....
Since this is my blog, I'm going to give my own advice and if you don't like it-don't read it! I read about attachment parenting when I was pregnant and this theory seemed to make the most sense to me.  Babies want to be held and I believe they need to be held, often!

It just seems natural that since babies need to breastfeed often, as much as every 2 hours or more, they also need to be held this often. Breastfeeding also allows mom to get rest that she needs in those early days.  Speaking of rest or sleep, most new parents are often asked how much (or how little sleep they are getting).  And while I cannot claim to have gotten 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel I got more than many other new moms I talked to.  What was my secret?  Co-sleeping or bedsharing. 

That's right my babies slept in bed with me and my husband.  Nursing in the side-lying position is great for nighttime feedings.  None of my babies even had to cry to let me know they were hungry at night, I would wake when they woke because they were sleeping right beside me.  Crying is a late sign of hunger, babies have a rooting reflex when they are hungry.  This rooting reflex includes lip smacking, licking, or sucking on fingers.  I would wake when I heard the baby rooting. I did not have to get up out of bed, walk to my baby's room, calm him down from crying and then feed him.  No, I only had to lift my shirt and pull him close.  My babies did not sleep through the night at 6 weeks, but it didn't matter because we were getting plenty of sleep together.

There are many objections to this style of parenting and I do believe that this is not the solution for everyone.  But it worked for our family and allowed every to meet their needs for sleep, feeding, holding, etc.
Co-sleeping is safe, if you look at the statistics it is safer than a baby sleeping alone in a crib.  The AAP has recently changed their recommendations as well, that baby should sleep in the same room as his parents.  The AAP however does not endorse co-sleeping.

I never feared that I would roll over onto my baby.  There is an awareness of the baby being present in bed, just as you are aware of the edge of the bed or of your partner sleeping next to you in bed.  The risk comes for parents who are bottle feeding, obese, smoke, using drugs or alcohol.  See article in earlier post for references and recommendations for safe co-sleeping.

The other criticism I often encountered was that my children would never want to sleep in their own bed.  Speaking only from personal experience, this has not been the case.  As my babies weaned and no longer needed to feed often during the night, they also seemed to need more space for sleeping they would perhaps fall asleep in my bed but then we would move them to their own bed where they seemed more comfortable.  My children, despite being nursed to sleep for the first year or so of their lives have all learned to fall asleep on their own and rarely wake up at night and come into my bed.  I believe this to be so because I met their need for shared sleep, holding, and feeding when they were babies.

What about intimacy and privacy with your partner?  Again, this was not a concern with our babies, as they were too young or sleeping to be aware of anything else going on in the bedroom.  I heard someone say once, that it would be better for a child to walk in on his or her parents making love than to witness them fighting.  I think the reverse is probably more often the case.

Listen to your heart, listen to your baby and find the solution that works for your family.  Don't worry about what others might think or say.  Parenting requires you to make many decisions that not everyone else is always going to agree with.  You need to do what is best for your baby. 

I like Dr. Sears' book, The Baby Sleep Book for more information or see www.askdrsears.com

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