Nothing has generated more interest, questions, and comments than our cosleeping arrangement. In the course of my conversations I have been able to enumerate the countless benefits of bed sharing.
Here are six of the reasons we chose to share our bed:
The most simple explanation is the strongest. We chose this sleeping arrangement because it just feels right. My instinct as a mom tells me that my baby belongs beside me. He knows I am there and I can respond to his needs without much fuss. I have given a lot of thought to where I would want to sleep if I were a baby. Would I want to be close to my parents’ warm bodies or far away from them all by myself? For me the choice was obvious.
Breastfeeding was a challenge for me in the early months. While it’s gotten better, I cannot imagine how much harder it would have been if I wasn’t able to respond to my son quickly before he became inconsolable. Kaiden, my son, is also a grazer. He likes to eat for a just a few minutes every hour or two on average. This makes for interesting nights as I’m usually up at least 4 times to feed. Being able to roll over when he wakes me, feed him in the side-lying position, and go back under the covers when he is done is minimally disruptive to my sleep. I am able to get the sleep I need to be a fully functioning mother and his need for milk continues to be met on demand.
American society places much focus on a baby’s independence. However, most employ separation as a means of fostering independence. I believe that a baby needs to be securely attached to his/her parents in order to develop this attribute. Cosleeping furthers the bond of trust for my child and I. The physical closeness and the ability to provide for his needs during the night encourage the attachment that I believe will allow him become independent in his own time and terms.
We have found that the night is also a wonderful opportunity to create memories. These would have been lost if Kaiden didn’t sleep near to us. My husband and I were able to share in, admire, and simply witness each squiggle and leg flop. We laugh about the night that he realized that dad was in the bed too- rolling side to side, taking in the faces beside him. His weekly 3 a.m. talking session are some of his most animated times. While we might loose a few minutes of sleep, it is impossible not to smile and enjoy the moment as he just blabbers away.
Understanding baby/sleep habits
Babies develop at a rapid pace, moving through different stages from week to week. Cosleeping allows me to really get to know where my son is at the moment. I have come to intricately know all of his sounds-waking, resting, and chilling before sleep. I have also become skilled at reading his signals. The getting-to-bed routine is constantly evolving. Sometimes all he needs is simply a hand to hold while falling asleep, others it’s a full-on snuggle. Then there is the odd occasion where he prefers I leave the room. I feel like our sleeping arrangement allows me to be a better diagnostician of what he needs from me in any given situation.
Kaiden gets very upset if he isn’t fed right away when he gets hungry. If I don’t feed him ASAP, he freaks out and is very hard to calm down. Sleeping close to him ensures that I can feed him on demand. When he is finished, he will simply pop off the breast and go back to sleep. It makes for peaceful nights most of the time.
After reading several people’s bed sharing stories, it seemed like their babies slept in their bed from day 1 and that was that. However, I have come to realize that cosleeping can take on several forms, much like our has. Our bed sharing journey has taken several forms. For the first 6 weeks Kaiden rarely slept lying down. His favorite spot to fall asleep was on his breastfeeding pillow snuggled up to me. (On our shoulders and in dad’s arms worked as well.) After that we were able to transfer him into bed with us at night after he fell asleep nursing sitting up. Slowly we were able to get him back in bed with us after night nurses too! At around the 3 ½ month mark I mastered the side-nursing position and was able to nurse him to sleep for naps and at night in the bed. This was such a breakthrough and from then on things were a lot easier. Now he will either nurse to sleep or one of us will lay with him until he falls asleep in the bed. At night I almost never have to get out of the bed anymore. It may have taken awhile to get there, but I can now say that sleep is peaceful event in our home.
On a final note, if you choose to bed share with your baby, it is important to do so safely. There is lots of great information available through NPN about the benefits of cosleeping and how to do so safely. Additionally, there are several books and products available that to foster safe, happy cosleeping.
Gina is mom to a 6 month-old boy and blogs about real food, natural parenting, natural birth, and toxin free living over at My Adventures as a Mom.