Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our Co-Sleeping Experience--What is it Really Like?

Before I had JaiseAnn I was adamant that my child would not sleep in our bed--at least not regularly. When she was born I found that I loved curling up and sleeping with her for naps, but nighttime was my alone sleep time. My body ached from nursing on the couch all day. I would lay on my belly on my bed at night and just revel in how it felt to rest. But then JaiseAnn stopped sleeping in her own space and I was fighting her all night to get her back down. I eventually succomed to bringing her into our bed as I wasn't comfortable with the idea of leaving her to cry or sleep training.

Our situation wasn't planned and because of that I feel like I have something to offer to those who might have opinions one way or the other about co-sleeping. Here are some of the common thoughts about co-sleeping and my experience/take on them:

how to make co sleeping work

Co-Sleeping is Dangerous 
Co-sleeping is actually defined as room sharing, not bed sharing. The AAP actually recommends that parents share a bedroom with the baby for at least the first three months of life to reduce the chances of  SIDS (source).

Most of the deaths or accidents that occur while co-sleeping happen when there is smoke in the home, the mother smokes, or there are other drugs (including alcohol) involved (source). Here you will find a set of safe co-sleeping guidelines.

I never personally bought into the scare tactics about co-sleeping. Depending on the culture, many different cultures bed share from infancy. I, personally, was not comfortable bringing JaiseAnn into my bed as a newborn. By the time she stopped sleeping well, she was six months old and I felt more comfortable with having her in our bed with us.

Co-Sleeping Leads to More/Better Quality Sleep

For us, co-sleeping does help us maximize our sleep, but it doesn't mean that we are sleeping well or for longer periods of time as I would have assumed. In fact, many co sleeping babies wake frequently, it's just that they usually nurse and quickly go back to sleep with minimal disturbance. JaiseAnn usually goes back to sleep quickly, but often her wakings create quite a disturbance. I am honestly more rested with her in our bed than I was when I woke every two hours, crawled out of bed, nursed her/rocked/nursed/rocked went back to sleep on pins and needles waiting for the next wake up. I didn't recognize that I was more rested, though, until I accepted our sitatuion and stopped fretting about it.  When you hear how great co-sleeping is for sleep, it's usually in comparison to dealing with a frequently waking baby and a mom walking the hall to get to him/her...which is ultimately more exhausting than having the baby in bed with you. . The pictures you might have of mom and baby snuggled up for 11 or 12 hours are pretty much not the usual scenario, though I do envy those co-sleeping moms that have it that way.

People that Co-Sleep Don't Have a Sex Life/Must Not Care as Much About Their Marriage

Without going into detail, I will just say that this is not true. Having a child has absolutely affected my marriage and the amount of opportunities we have to be alone, but co sleeping has not added to that. It helps that Zach honestly loves having JaiseAnn in our bed and supports me in that--in fact, it was his suggestion in the first place.  I don't know what I would do if he didn't. Luckily we are pretty good at parenting together and it works for us.

We care about our marriage a lot. We also care about our little girl and so we make adjustments and sacrifices. We still make time for us and we manage just fine. This is a season in our marriage and we are trying to see it as such. We are using this opportunity to enjoy our time together when we do have the chance.

I do make sure to check in with Zach regarding a lot of things with JaiseAnn to make sure we are on the same page. The other day I was having an off day and questioning myself a lot. I asked Zach if he regrets the decisions we have made as far as JaiseAnn being in our bed is concerned. His response was, "I will regret when she no longer wants to." (And that's why I married him!)

All People that Co Sleep Love it and Feel Passionately About it 
We didn't want to co-sleep. And when JaiseAnn started struggling with sleep and Zach would suggest bringing her to bed with us, I would get angry and tell him that I didn't want to do that and I refused. Sleep eventually won and here we are.

We don't love co-sleeping at all times. We do however love that our daughter feels safe and comfortable when she's in our bed. We love that she is cared for and we love that she's not crying. We love that it provides her the opportunity to feel secure.

We are not passionate that all people should co-sleep, but we are passionate that we co-sleep. We have discussed whether or not we'll do this again with another baby and we both are pretty certain we will. Of course many things will have to be considered and played by ear but for now we think we will.

As much reading as I did when we were at the beginning of JaiseAnn's sleep struggle, I kept coming across a recurring factor--babies want to be held, they want to be close to their moms, and they seek it--whether they are newborns,  six months,  or two, I kept seeing similar problems and situations to ours. And as I would see this reoccurance, it started to sink in that she wants me and honestly, this is my job. This is what my Heavenly Father essentially sent me here to do. To help raise up this sweet little spirit. For me that was a sobering realization. It means that sometimes, yes, I'm going to have to do what I feel is right for my child--even if it's not easy or not what I want to do. Some days I am absolutely in love with sharing our bed. I do have moments of panic, usually when I try to see or predict the future and how everything will play out. I know what I want our future to look like--I just don't know how we will get there.

Some babies do not seek their mom like JaiseAnn did, they settle into their cribs and without too much trauma they learn to sleep on their own. Our baby did not. Our baby wants her mom and wants to be close and we feel strongly that we should honor that.

Would you ever/do you co-sleep?

***Disclaimer--Please read up on safe co sleeping practices before deciding to try co sleeping on your own. I am in no way an expert. I am just one woman sharing an experience. 

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