Nobody Puts Baby in the Crib!

Safely sleeping

Used with permission.

My two year old recently informed me that “Sydney doesn’t have a bed.” I’m not entirely sure if this is his own observation or the result of overhearing conversations with my mom. Regardless, my response was “No, Syd sleeps with mommy. When you were a little baby you slept with mommy too.” Occasionally he still does, although he is relegated to Daddy’s side for safety’s sake. But he’s right, we don’t even own a crib.

The lack of bed seems troublesome to many. My son was content enough with my answer. I guess it made sense to him. Others have more adult concerns.  How can I sleep? Isn’t it dangerous? Will she ever sleep on her own? And – insert hushed voice – how will we ever have sex again? The answers are pretty straightforward.

I sleep great. It was much harder for me to sleep the first month James moved into his own room, and he was almost two years old at that point. I don’t believe it is dangerous if you employ some common sense and some safety measures. Syd sleeps beside me, and I sleep between her and my husband and/or son. I’m careful with my pillow and I have a special co-sleeping bolster that prevents roll off. As far as sleeping on her own, my son is sleeping on his own as I write this, so yeah, she’ll sleep on her own. Although my son is always welcome to come into our bed if he needs the comfort.  And sex? Yeah, not an issue. As I once told someone that asked this question, not everyone has sex at night or in bed.

But why is sleep sharing so important to me? Well, I won’t lie. It is convenient. It’s a lot easier to soothe, feed, or change the baby, but it’s more than that. Sleep sharing is supremely natural. My child belongs with me. She needs me in the most basic, simple, yet all-consuming way that she will ever need.

As humans, we feel some desperate need to separate ourselves from animals. We’re intelligent, we tell ourselves. We have more demands, more capabilities, more know-how. Whatever floats your boat. It seems to me we could learn a thing or two from animals. When was the last time you saw a mama cat stick her newborn kitten in a little cage for the night? Yeah, never.

Somewhere along the line we convinced ourselves that letting our babies sleep in bed with us would cripple their development. They would become dependent, unable to sleep on their own, clingy. But if I could go back to my animal analogy, I’d like to argue the opposite. Those same animals that bunk down with their little ones send their babies off into the world much earlier than us. They are nurtured carefully during their developmental stages in preparation for going out into the world. It’s logical. An infant of any species needs to feel secure when they are at their most vulnerable to ensure their ability to grow and prosper.

Imagine, if you will, that you have lost your ability to speak, walk, sit up, even form rational thought. All you have is pure, visceral basic needs and emotions. You know you are hungry. You know you are uncomfortable. You know you have soiled yourself. You know you are scared. You know you are alone. You know you need. You don’t know someone is in the next room. You don’t know someone will come for you. You can’t remember that.

Crying alone.

Photo credit: Fred Ross Lord (Flickr)

Now imagine in this vulnerable state that you awaken in a dark room in a box with bars. You cry out not to alert someone to come in…you don’t have the capacity to do that. You cry out in fear – pure, basic fear.

Fear is crippling. Fear can stop grown adults from facing obstacles. It can send them cowering away from a difficult task. If you start your life in fear and impotence, how do you learn to be independent? or even to ask for help? If you had to choose between fear and security, what would you choose for yourself? your children? By removing fear, we stop wasting energy on it. We have the capacity to channel our energy into growth.

Now ask me why I don’t put my babies in cribs.

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Jennifer Albin is a write-at-home mom to a precocious three year-old and a bubbly seven month old. She holds advanced degrees in Literature and Women’s Studies and spends most of her time advocating for natural parenting and cesarean awareness. She is the founder and editor of Connected Mom.

This post was originally published on Connected Mom.

16 Responses to Nobody Puts Baby in the Crib!

  1. Michelle Barton

    I was unable to cosleep with my third child for the first 3 months for medical issues that she had. She would stop breathing and needed to be monitored very closely. After the three month mark we had to feed her every two hours even during the night. We then began a cosleeping type arrangement where her bed was next to ours and open on top so we could touch her without ever getting out of bed. It was great. I used this same method with my fourth child. My first two had a crib but also slept with us and all four still crawl into bed with us. Even at 12 my oldest feels safe to come to us and say I need to talk and crawl into bed with mommy and daddy and get that extra attention she needs.

  2. Mama Jedi SunRa  

    When I had my three older children, now 14, 12 and 11, I had never heard of attachment or natural parenting. My now ex-husband and I slept with the babies until they were old enough to roll off the bed and I had a horrible time with the crying-it-out method. Instinctually I knew it was bad. Every fiber of my being wanted to go scoop them up and keep them in bed with us. But my husband was not really supportive of that idea and I didn’t know any better as all the books I had bought told of how to manage your natural instinct instead of go with it.

    I worked out a compromise as they were growing up and would hold whoever was the baby at the time, rocking and singing till baby went to sleep. Then lay with the others, taking turns in each of their beds (in the same room), continuing my nighttime lullaby medley until they were fast asleep. I did this until they no longer needed me to cuddle them to sleep which happened around the ages of 9/10.

    I now have a 17 mo and we bed-share. When I was pregnant there was quite a battle with the new MIL as she didn’t understand why I didn’t want a crib. (There’s some major communication issues there.) She had a brand new crib shipped anyway and my new husband was excited to put it together. All the while I was heein’ and hawin’ and getting more and more frustrated. The new crib stunk of cheap manufactured chemicals and was really a waste of money at $400. This is when I had to have a real heart to heart with my husband about attachment parenting and my feelings on sleeping separate from baby.

    He totally understood and was supportive of what was to him a new idea, yet an idea that his heart embraced as best for baby. We sent back the crib and used to money to make other purchases for our new bundle of joy. My MIL on the other hand was not quite on board. She purchased a used (aired out) crib for us anyway, not understanding how we would get along without one.

    It was rather funny when she would come to visit and our mattress was on the floor with our little baby sleeping on it and the crib used as a storage device. Her face was always so dumbfounded. She’s the type to always follow established “conventional wisdom” for safety and what I feel are selfish desires for freedom from baby. She also wasn’t too pleased that I exclusively breastfed and baby wouldn’t be spending any overnights with her. She had spent another heap of money for a duplicate nursery at her house without even consulting me. She just assumed her own experience would be duplicated.

    Now the crib has it’s sliding side removed and acts as a “headboard” for our bed which now has both the mattress and boxspring, yet still lacks the frame. Sometimes our little one meanders up past the head of the bed onto the crib mattress, but usually not. He wants to sleep with us on our bed and that suits me just fine.

  3. Stepahnie

    I LOVED this post — thanks for sharing! I re-posted on Facebook and have gotten some very anti-co-sleeping responses…I’m not surprised, but then I wonder — for people who are so vehemently opposed, is it “worth it” to try to educate them? It kind of makes me feel like to those people it would never make a difference — kind of like arguing religion or politics. Now for those who are already pro co-sleeping or on the fence, I am happy to talk about it all day long. :) Also, loved the cat reference…great point!

  4. Jenn - Connected Mom  

    @Michelle, sounds like a great arrangement! Our bed is pretty big, so there is no room to sidecar, but I’ve considered it.

    @MamaJedi, sounds a lot like my mom! She still pushed for a crib with our second and offered her old one. I think she’s given up on me – at least I hope! My MIL is super-supportive though!

    @Stephanie, this post was actually originally inspired by a FB status that a mom was doing CIO at 6 weeks and getting baby in its crib. Syd was 6 weeks too and it broke my heart to think of that poor baby alone. Just remember, there may have been one mom who is co-sleeping and feeling guilty who saw your FB share and doesn’t feel so bad now!

  5. Miranda  

    What an adorable picture :). I don’t co-sleep but I wish I did!

  6. Lisa

    Oh how I wish I slept BETTER with the kids in bed, but I don’t. I would love love love to co-sleep (the whole night) but I am such a light sleeper that I sleep HORRIBLY when the kiddos are in bed with us. You can find our littlest one of 7 months in bed w/ us from about 5 a.m. on, but before that, babe has got to be in her own little space for mama to sleep. I am about focusing on attachment when we are all awake! And of course, if they cry, need us — we are there. I’m all for cosleeping if it helps mama sleep!

  7. Dani  

    I had never heard or co-sleeping but I have heard many stories from my mother of how I loved sleeping in her bed when I was little. She did it because she nursed and it was just easier. Well when I had my little one we got a crib and I had planned on using it just because that is the ‘norm’ Only problem was my daughter had horrible reflux at birth and only slept good when I would lay (propped up) on the couch with her on my chest. This was very tiring on me since I never slept that great and wasnt all that comfortable. After a few months she had outgrown the reflux and we decided to try the crib again. Now I was even more tired because even though she was nursing and had a full tummy she would still wake every hour or so and want me to rock her. When she woke I would go to her room and as soon as I would pick her up and sit in the rocking chair she would immediately fall asleep. On average we were up 6-10 times a night. I felt very defeated and my husband works crazy hours so I was at a lose of what to do so that I could get enough sleep. Finally I decided to bring her into our bed. Right away we both started sleeping better and she only woke 2-3 times a night to nurse. Then about a week later my husband came home and told me about how one of his coworkers lost his nephew, the night before the baby’s father had accidentally smothered him because the child slept in the parents bed. Needless to say I was terrified. I started looking online to find safety information about sharing a bed. This was when I discovered a world that not only involved co-sleeping but a world where it was the ‘norm’ to co-sleep. Co-sleeping stories that others shared helped me to learn that it can be safe. Our daughter is now 15 months and continues to sleep in our bed. We do it because that is what she prefers, she has always made this clear. She is now even finally sleeping though the night as of 2 weeks ago. I love it because having her close by makes night time nursing easier, it eases my mind to have her close by and I actually get to sleep. Although I absolutely love having her with us, some nights are still rough. She has nights when shes doing flips and turns, some nights she winds up laying on my head or kicking my husband in the nose, but overall it’s much better this way. It works for us and that’s all that matters. I just wish I had found out about co-sleeping sooner.

  8. Lauren  

    What a lovely post! Thank you. My three-year-old still sleeps with us, and I think it’s great that he doesn’t know any other way. I remember when I was his age how much I wanted to sleep with my parents but wasn’t allowed to. My children will be welcome in our room as long as they need it, and we’ll also soon be setting up a separate room in case they prefer that.

    I have to admit, my biggest reason for cosleeping with a baby is laziness. :) I don’t want to have to wake up and get out of my warm bed to walk down the hall. As soon as I figured out how to nurse lying down, we were set!

  9. Jenn - Connected Mom  

    I think my unplanned cesareans are the biggest reason we started co-sleeping. My husband could sleep through World War III and I just couldn’t get to baby, so there’s one positive from that birth experience. But then it definitely became a bit about laziness :)

  10. Laura

    I can 100 per cent blame co-sleeping on the hospital! When my oldest was born, I remember nursing him and laying him back in his bed. Exhausted, I fell back asleep but he did not. He was fussing and a nurse finally said, “Do you want him in bed with you?” I nodded and we cuddled in and went right to sleep!
    3 kids later, babies are always in our room at the beginning and later start the night in their own room. This gives me peace and a bit of space to watch TV, etc without waking the baby. When they wake, they join me in bed.
    I just laugh at the sex question. Our children are fairly close in age… apparently, we find the time! :)

  11. Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children

    We still have all four kids in bed with us (a king+queen+twin). I know those days will end soon enough, and I’ll sadly be missing having a little person snuggled up beside me.

  12. Dagmar Bleasdale  

    Thank you for sharing, I’m a huge co-sleeping advocate and we still co-sleep with our almost 4-year-old son. I have always sleep wonderfully!

    I blog about co-sleeping a lot on my blog, Dagmar’s momsense. Here is one of the posts:

    http://dagmarbleasdale.com/2009/05/co-sleeping-my-experience-and-guidelines/

  13. Amy R.  

    I totally agree! I will definitely share this with skeptical friends and family members when they question why we like to co-sleep. I feel like so many people forget that babies can’t regulate their emotions, body temperature, meet their own physical needs…and this is why it’s best to be cuddled close as much as possible. Also, nursing while sleeping has been the best for everyone’s sleep in our house. Love it!

  14. Kat

    A while ago, my hubby drew a cartoon of a chimp mom putting her baby to sleep in a far away tree for the night to show how ridiculous the idea of wanting to make our newborns and babies independent is! Your post totally made me think of that! We coslept/bedshared with both of our kiddos until they didn’t want to, which for both was before they were 1 yr old. I think that because they were so secure and had learned we were always there for them the transition to their own bed went smoothly. I loved how you point out that all babies first need to learn dependence before they can be independent. Thanks!

  15. Momma Jorje

    Excellent article! I co-slept with my now-12-yo for the first few years and now my 1yo sleeps with my new husband and I. When I mention perhaps getting a toddler bed to put next to ours, he continues to encourage me to keep her in our bed. I so appreciate the support! I figure at this rate she’ll stick with us until she is ready for a normal bed (less purchases, great idea!).

    And @ Mandy – I am SO impressed! We’re planning to have another baby and I hope we are as able to work out similar sleeping arrangements.

    Oh and Jen – I LOVE the title! lol

  16. DanielleB

    I think co-sleeping is definitely a personal choice for each parent and child. I know for myself with my son (now 3) he slept with me every night and almost all night for probably the first year (Much more convenient for breastfeeding I found). If he wasn’t in my bed he was in the crib or bassinet right beside my bed. After that I would get him to sleep in my bed and then move him to the crib but always at some point in the night end up getting him back into my bed before morning.
    Starting around 2 years old, he started being ok with the idea of going to bed on his own in his own room but not in a crib, I put a futon mattress there for him. He STILL ended up coming to my bed before morning.
    Now he has no problem going to sleep on his own and sometimes sleeps all night there. But more often than not my husband and I wake up to the pitter patter of his feet at about 5 or 6am and we wouldn’t have it any other way. That is our special family cuddle time and its beautiful.

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