I love co-sleeping. It may or may not work for everyone and it surely has a controversial reputation in this country, which I think is unfortunate. But for me it was a difference between exhausting, sleepless nights with a fussy baby and nights when both of us slept peacefully snuggled together. For this reason I wanted to share my experience with other moms, as I think it can make those first few months with the new baby so much easier and enjoyable.￼
As I was expecting my first baby and preparing all the beautiful little things for his arrival it seemed obvious that a crib should have been one of those essential things (and a changing table – what a waste of money that was!). I’m not sure why I thought that. May be the idea was formed from all the numerous pinterest images of gorgeous nurseries, magazines and so on — a beautiful crib with a happy sleeping baby in it. 🙂 ￼￼
Not only that, but the idea of co-sleeping is definitely portrayed as something irresponsible and even reckless, at least in this culture. I remember a billboard I drove by many times when we still lived in LA. It suggested that co-sleeping parents put their baby’s life at great risk. And then come to mind all the posters in the hospitals about the importance of having a baby sleeping in the crib on his back and so on.￼
So when my first son arrived, there I was putting him to sleep in the beautiful super organic crib that I spent a fortune for …. Everything seemed as it should be … except it was not. The reality was a lonely baby fussing in the crib. Me as a new mom on full alert at every little move and squeak coming out of it. Midnight nursings every couple hours propped up by pillows in some ridiculous chair while falling asleep with the little bundle in my arms. And when at last the baby seemed so happily asleep after having finished nursing I tried putting him back into the crib. But just as I would attempt that he woke up sensing the separation. So follows the humming and shooshing near the crib. Walking around the room with the baby and singing lullabies. Eventually I manage to get him asleep in the crib and I’m back in my bed as well. It seems like I just closed my eyes and the baby is restless again. Turns out 2 hours have passed already since I last nursed him and there we go again.￼
￼To say the first couple of weeks were exhausting and probably most difficult in my life would be an understatement. I was so tired, my little son was often crying which is very hard by itself. Getting him to sleep at night was quite a project – at least 30 minutes of a wailing baby. The whole pinterest-perfect nursery arrangement was clearly not working for me. Something had to change.
First to be gone was the nursing chair. I started nursing him sitting in my bed. Sometimes I’d fall asleep with the babe right in my arms following his nursing. It felt more natural and the baby was definitely happier, but my neck was not! I’d wake up with sore neck and numb butt, but a happily sleeping baby in my arms 🙂￼
Next I stopped using the changing table. What a silly idea that was in the first place – changing a diaper is somewhat disturbing to a sleeping baby already. Add to that being picked up, then carried over to the changing table, placed down, changed with a light (dim, but still), then picked up again, carried over to crib and placed down again. At the end you got a seriously pissed off little bundle that now requires all the shooshing and humming again to go back to sleep. So instead I started changing him right in the crib.￼
These changes helped me significantly, but the nights were still rather tiring. Once talking to a friend I asked how she managed it. And she said that of course they co-slept! Both of her sons slept in the crook of her arm when babes. She said she nursed them in bed as well. Everyone got plenty of sleep and was rested and happy. What a surprise. That seemed so contrary to everything the conventional culture teaches new moms. But there she was a mom of two telling me they were all well slept and happy.
And so I moved my little guy from his crib to my bed and we learned nursing on the side. While I was quite confident with nursing by then, the side-laying position seemed a whole new game. On the website mom and baby were calmly snuggling next to each other, meanwhile my little one was swinging his upper arm and legs so much it was like trying to snuggle and feed a wriggling little creature! But we’d practice during the daytime nursings and then tried it at night.￼
And what a difference that made! Having your most precious little person sleeping next to you, feeling their every breath and movement — I felt so much more comfortable knowing what was going on with him. And when time came for nursing he barely even woke up, nursed and passed out right next to me. All I had to do was gently move away. And both of us were deep asleep again. No crying. No shooshing. No falling asleep in an awkward position.￼
From that point on our nights and nursing were easy. I knew that in about 5-10 minutes after nursing he’d need a diaper change, so I semi-slept for a bit, then carefully changed him right in bed without moving him (I got a non-toxic mattress protector). Usually he’d never even notice the diaper change. And there we were back to sleep again!￼
Looking back at those days and having a second little baby on my hands now I feel the idea of having a little baby being placed away from mom is pretty much the worst advice for both the baby and the mom. It seems obvious to me now that a baby would feel lonely and insecure and all the commotion from moving him for nursing and changes really disturb his sleep, so naturally baby cries and no one gets any sleep.￼
With my second son we started co-sleeping from day one. I was slightly nervous as he seemed so tiny. But I learned that keeping my arm around him would keep me more aware of his presence. I also had to switch to a smaller comforter to ensure it didn’t smother him. I also kept my hand on the comforter preventing it from riding up to his face.￼
The side-nursing took a bit more practice as he was just getting the nursing down to begin with. So at first I’d sit up in bed and nurse him sitting, while practicing side-nursing during the day. And even though he’d get somewhat disturbed when I’d place him back in the bed he would quickly fall back asleep sensing his closeness to me. After all the mom is everything to the little ones – their one constant in this world, the source of love, warmth, food and security.￼
P.S. In the 2 years since I became a mom I’ve spoken to many woman. Turns out all except one of them co-slept and nursed babies in bed. It really seems the most natural way. That being said, every mom and every baby and their relationship are unique. And co-sleeping may or may not work for all. But it surely worked beautifully for us.