Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Co-sleeping Isn't.

There is a billboard in our city with a picture of a female medical-examiner and the billboard states, "Don't let me be the last doctor to see your baby." The billboard goes on to point out the dangers of co-sleeping with your baby...never mind the dangers of trying to read their billboard while driving.

I think when people hear the term "co-sleeping" they conjure up an image of a queen-size bed with Daddy on one side, four kids in the middle, and Mommy on the other side. Or they picture a momma sleeping on her side in the bed with a precious newborn cradled in her arms up against her. While these do depict some forms of co-sleeping, this not necessarily what co-sleeping is.

I was at a SAHM playgroup today and was talking with some ladies. I knew to watch my step (and my mouth) because I'm on a very different parenting page than probably the majority of the ladies in the group. I'm a cloth-diapering, breastfeeding (demand feeding), non CIO (cry-it-out), co-sleeping, baby-wearing, attachment parenting, natural parenting, non-spanking momma, and let's just say that everyone I'm surrounded by is pretty much the opposite except for the breastfeeding, but most are not demand feeding. The topic of sleeping with baby was casually mentioned, and I could tell that everyone was in agreement that it was definitely wrong.

A momma mentioned that when her daughter was a newborn, grandma kept holding and rocking that sweet little baby, and momma wanted baby to be put down in a bed to sleep. Sadly, I was like that for the first week of my first daughter's life. "The book" (i.e. Babywise--who has many followers local to me) said to never hold your baby when they're sleeping--not even to put them to sleep. In an attempt to be a "good mom" I followed the book for the first week of my daughter's life. At the end of that first week I had a baby who screamed for 40 minutes waiting to eat and one that I had held only for feedings--just like the book says. I lost a whole week of enjoying many of the sweet and blessed moments of motherhood that I had so looked forward to. Devastated that I had allowed some man to steal those precious moments from me, I scrapped the book, picked my daughter up, fed her when she was hungry, held her when she wanted to be held, laid her on my chest to take naps, rocked her to sleep, and from that point on enjoyed every moment I could with my precious little baby. (And for the record, she learned to sleep through the night and in her own bed just fine!)

Okay, so I keep side-tracking. In response to this momma's comment I said that I sleep with my babies and enjoy those precious moments--you should have seen the looks I got! (Although everyone politely kept their mouths shut.)

So, I just want to clarify what co-sleeping is and what co-sleeping isn't. There are many definitions or concepts of co-sleeping. Yes, co-sleeping can be one big happy family sharing a bed together. Yes, co-sleeping can be a new momma sleeping in a bed with her little new born snuggled up next to her--let me tell you, that's a whole lot more comfortable that trying to get out of bed to feed a baby in the middle of the night when you have a bazillion stitches and hemorrhoids in your bottom! (TMI, I know. :)

But by definition, co-sleeping is a family sleeping closely together for the comfort and convenience of all involved in the family. This does not mean that everyone necessarily shares a bed. All of you who sleep with a cradle or bassinet in your room for those first weeks? You're technically co-sleeping!

No, in all honesty, I rarely sleep in the same bed as my kids because that is neither comfortable or convenient for me. I'm a super light sleeper, and to have my kids in my bed keeps me from falling into a deep enough sleep to get any rest. My oldest daughter moves to much, and I usually move to the couch when she climbs into our bed. :) With my little babies, I'm too nervous about them suffocating (because as a new momma, I'm too exhausted to be very alert when I fall asleep), that I end up not sleeping at all if the baby is in bed with me. I do keep the baby in a bassinet right up against the bed so I am close by. I also unashamedly love to take naps on the couch with that precious newborn laying on my chest--just the two of snoozing away together. What sweet moments! But if my kids need us in the middle of the night, our bed becomes their bed. And if our kids are sick, they usually end up in our bed because it's just easier to take care of them if they're right there.

I agree that co-sleeping, by what many think it to be, can be hazardous. As I mentioned, I know that as a new momma I'm too tired to be an alert sleeper in the bed, so I don't keep my little baby with me. However, some momma's sleep better with that baby right there, knowing that baby is safe.

Co-sleeping is a practice where the family sleeping arrangements help each member of the family to get the best night's rest without causing fear, discomfort, distrust, or feelings of abandonment on the child (CIO). We are here as parents, mom's especially, to be love and comfort for our children. Co-sleeping, for many moms, is a way to provide that for their children while also taking care of mommy's health and rest as well.


  1. " I'm on a very different parenting page than probably the majority of the ladies in the group." -- This is how I feel pretty much in any gathering of women! Sometimes, even when it comes to breastfeeding. (Oh, yes, I've gotten disgusted looks, mostly while visiting the US, when I breastfeed in public.)
    I just remind myself that this is MY baby, and I will do what's best for him and no one besides me knows what that is. And, I also have to remind myself that the other babies belong to their moms and that even though they may not agree with me, I also have to respect their choices, even if I don't see them as best.
    Always a struggle not getting too worked up over these types of subjects...

  2. I know what you mean, Heather. I am constantly reminding myself that if I don't want others judging me negatively for my parenting choices, then I shouldn't be critical of them. I wish I had a "flesh and blood" person nearby that I could a agree with. I have several on FB or other blog buddies. There is a group of ladies in the area that I could get together with, but they're non-Christian momma's and some of the things they say, do, and the purpose behind some of their philosophies are a little different. Now that Emma is old enough to question why they let their boys run around naked and so forth, I think it's not the best idea to do much with them.

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I recalled recently that the whole Ingalls family slept in the same bedroom in some of their cabins. Pioneers lived in one room cabins, so naturally, everyone "co-slept."

    When Ashley gets scared in the night, we usually let her climb in our bed or sleep on the floor beside our bed. I enjoy naps with Mary Kate, especially when I am stressed out. It really has a soothing effect.(I find babywearing to have the same effect. I was really frazzled one day, and so was Mary Kate, but when I strapped her on to me, we both relaxed.)When Mary Kate was a newborn, Nathan insisted some nights that she sleep in our bed because she awoke too often or was fitful in her own bed, and I was getting worn out. Sure enough, she slept soundly with us.

    We moved Mary Kate into Ashley's room to help Ashley not be frightened, and it has really helped her. But, I have a harder time falling asleep after night-time feedings now. I'm pretty sure there's a connection!