Making Co-Sleeping Work For You
I had my first son just after celebrating my 23rd birthday.
Prior to his arrival, I didn’t have much time to think about what kind of a mama I’d be. I spent the first 4 months of my pregnancy not even believing I was pregnant, the next 3 months eating myself silly, and the last few moving cross country and trying to figure out how to stay cool in the Washington D.C. humidity with a 9lb baby inside of my guts.
So yeah, deciding if I was going to go breast or bottle, or cloth or disposable, or organic or regular wasn’t even on my radar.
Despite my lack of preparation, I somehow wound up co-sleeping with my newborn in the rare moments he actually slept between nursing constantly and crying incessantly.
It was in no way intentional, but it turned out to be one of the best sleep-deprived-and-possibly-going-crazy-new-mom decisions I ever made.
I did it with both of my subsequent children and would do it again in a heartbeat if I ever had another. Though I’m not. Ever having another. EVER.
Probably it’s not for everyone but, if you’re considering it, here are some tips that might help!
Co-Sleeping Safely, Happily, and Not Forever
1. Make it safe. Medical professionals provide conflicting recommendations about the practice, but if you are planning to give co-sleeping a go, there are precautions to take so baby stays safe. Easy stuff like ditching the pillows and blankets, not sleeping on a waterbed (not sure I need to say this since it’s not 1985; do people still have these in 2013?), and staying sober (sorry party animals, co-sleeping isn’t safe if you’re wasted).
2. Make daddy love it. Or at least accept it. In our situation, the husband got the boot and spent the first 6 months (or more) of life as a daddy sleeping in the guest room. It was a total score for him because he got to sleep through the aforementioned incessant crying. It was a total score for baby and me because we didn’t have to be subjected to his caveman-esque snoring the discomfort of sleeping in the H formation (you know what I’m talking about, baby’s head in daddy’s back while baby’s feet are jammed into your spleen). Don’t worry, we all got to enjoy it when baby was still in bed with us at age 2.
3. Make it your choice. Not baby’s. Co-sleeping works happily when you make a conscious choice to bring baby into your bed. When you do it because you’re exhausted and you can’t help but fall asleep drooling into your elbow with baby still attached to your chest you’ll likely have a much different, less enjoyable experience.
4. Make an escape plan. Like, the what-will-I-do-if-sleeping-with-this-kid-is-as-painful-as-pushing-him-outta-my-junk-was plan. You should know that, if you choose to sleep with baby for 8 weeks, and then decide it blows you’re gonna have to figure out a way to get your adorable little cuddler to buy into sleeping alone. There will likely be some resistance to the weaning process. Those little people can be a hard sell. So think about what breaking the co-sleeping habit is going to look like for you (I will give some tips in a future post!).
5. Make sure you enjoy it. Seriously, this sounds so cliché, but I’m gonna say it anyway: co-sleeping kids aren’t crawling outta their mama’s beds to go off to college. My oldest is the only one of the three I had to actively wean from sleeping with me (and, for the record, it was a wicked, ugly process featuring tears and snot and screaming and sadness), the other two did it on their own before I was ready. I still get some encore visits from the 4 year old (these are generally not enjoyable), but for the most part they are all too old to cuddle with me all night in bed, or even be seen with me in public. I’d so co-sleep again in a heartbeat. Totally.
Have you or do you plan to be a co-sleeping parent?