DISCLAIMER: Co-sleeping is incredibly controversial. This post in no way encourages or discourages co-sleeping, rather, it is an honest sharing of my own anxieties and experience around it.
The internet tells you not to co-sleep, that putting your baby in you bed or on your chest to sleep is a definite no.I am NO EXPERT on this issue and am fully aware of the reality and have had my own anxieties around SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome/ cot death) so my post is more about my experience and when I’ve co-slept with my baby.
I was an internet mom, the kind that checked most things before proceeding and I have read really useful tips online. Yet, I’ve found that my instincts sometimes go against what the internet tells me to do. It was only when I started chatting to other moms that I discovered how much sleep deprivation or desperation can allow for you to follow what feels right to you in that moment, ditching all the online literature for some sanity.
Scout slept in the Moses basket from the day we came home but, prior to that, she’d slept on my chest in the hospital to allow for as much skin contact as possible. She still sleeps in her basket 90% of the time but I have had her sleep in the bed with me on occasion and it has worked out okay. I sleep very lightly when she is next to me and I keep her on my side of the bed, with blankets tucked under her arms, because Wesley is a deep sleeper and is less conscious of her presence than I am.
So why would I co-sleep on occasion?Well, to get some rest. There are nights when Scout wakes up each time I try to put her in the crib; I understand that as her not wanting to be separated from me. I assume that she’s either wanting close contact or that the crib is too cold/ lonely. We often forget that babies need soothing and that the adjustment to the world can be difficult for them. I believe that my baby wants to be close to me and so I encourage independence only as much as she’s comfortable with. So yes, on occasion (which may be one night over a two week period or two nights in a week) I allow my baby to sleep in my bed because it allows both of us to rest peacefully.
How do we sleep safely?If I’m going to co-sleep, I tell Wesley that she’s in the bed and I make sure he’s alert when I do so. I also make sure that she’s still lying on a flat surface with little play in the sheets for her nose and mouth to always be free. Because her head is in line with our shoulders (lower than the pillow) I tuck the duvet under her arms to prevent us from pulling the brackets over her face which would block her nose and mouth (and make breathing difficult). I keep her on my side of the bed if she’s in the middle/ pull the crib right up against the bed if she’s on the end; this will make it impossible for her to fall off the bed, even though she hasn’t begun rolling over yet. I also allow our body heat to keep her and I warm so I don’t add any extra blanket to make sure she doesn’t over-heat in the bed. These practices feel safe for me and I’m sure that moms have other ideas around safe co-sleeping, like using a co-sleeping nest for example. (I find pillows to be unsafe because she turns her head frequently and may bury her nose in the pillow, making it an unsafe practice for me).
So what’s the take away here? You have to do what feels comfortable and natural to you. My instincts and her behaviour tells me what to do and when. If you’re too nervous to co-sleep and don’t feel comfortable or safe doing so, then don’t! And if, like me, you’re okay with it being done on occasion, then please make sure that you’re co-sleeping safely. I know that I was reared on my mom’s chest and, trust me, I am not overly attached or dependent on her so my reasons for co-sleeping are far more practical than emotional; I Believe we have found a healthy balance between independence and soothing for Scout. In fact, I prefer it when she sleeps in her crib because I sleep better without her in the bed but, like I said, if I’ve spent forever trying to make her comfortable and she’s showing that she wants to be with me, I allow for it.
There’s so much pressure to be the perfect mom and to get it all right. When I speak to other moms I find out that they, too, sometimes do what feels right in the moment; many of my friends have co-slept on occasion, even though cot/ crib sleeping is also their preferred choice for baby. It was only when talking about my occasional co-sleep that I was freed of the guilt when other moms told me that they do it, too.
Posting this made me nervous. Being vulnerable also opens one up to judgement and criticism. If you choose to comment and have a different opinion, please be gentle and consider that all moms are doing their best and that my primary goal is to keep my baby healthy and safe; doing so demands that I have adequate rest as well to make conscious choices for her well-being.
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Until my next post,