I never realized how controversial motherhood could be until I actually became a mom. Maybe it was naivete, but as a girl (and later as a woman) with a strong maternal sense within, I always felt that love, wisdom and a dash of precaution was the perfect recipe for successfully raising healthy kids. Two kids and a few years later, I’ve learned that everyone, novices and experts alike, has an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t do with your baby, and those pieces of advice (while helpful) can be downright scary at times.
None of this is the exception when it comes to co-sleeping. Co-sleeping, as most of my readers will know, is when you opt to sleep closely with your child, usually in the same bed, instead of putting the child to bed in his or her own room. Two distinct schools of thoughts are commonly heard on this matter. You have the one group that feels like co-sleeping is dangerous and/or a hindrance to the child’s independence; the other group believes and relishes in all the benefits of babies and parents being close while they sleep, literally and figuratively.
I rank somewhere in the middle of the two. As with everything else, I researched co-sleeping and all the things the experts were saying about it. I decided it would be good for my family, so I set off on a course to make it happen. I can remember having conversations with several of my mommy friends regarding the issue, and what they told me was shocking to “new mommy Breegan.” Many of their husbands, upon hearing their desire to co-sleep, were turned completely off and against the idea. I wondered how I would fare in conversation with my own husband. Amazingly, he was totally okay with the idea, and I was ecstatic. I loved the thought of co-sleeping, and I’d always felt like sleeping together was a normal thing and should be more family oriented.
With all the data I read on co-sleeping statistics, I was concerned about my child sleeping in our actual bed. Now, if I was going to do it again, the experienced mama in me would maybe handle things differently; but back then I was brand new to motherhood and, as such, followed all the usual fears. I didn’t want to think about what could happen if one of us rolled over on the baby, or if a pillow got too close to his little perfect nose. When a bassinet didn’t curb my desire for closeness, I began my hunt for a sleeping device that would attach to our bed.
The kind of piece I was searching for was extremely hard to find! Being the ever-creative designer that I am, I decided to have one built. I took a full sized crib, removed one side of it, had my handyman raise it to the perfect height and put legs with lockable wheels on the bottom of them. We attached the metal base of the crib to the base of the bed, and voila! A customized co-sleeper bed was born.
I co-slept with each of my sons for around 10 months to a year. The commentary from friends and family all amounted to: “you’re going to have a difficult time getting them out of your room!” That couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact, by the time my oldest was one, he was itching to be in his own room. I’m aware that this isn’t going to be the case for everyone; but it was ideal for us.
I know what you’re really wondering. What are the pros and cons to co-sleeping? These will most likely differ from case to case, but I’ll let you in on what I’ve learned. Couples tend to blame co-sleeping for the strain in/on their love lives. I think it’s a great scapegoat for a couple struggling with intimacy. Listen, having a kid period is going to put a strain on that department. Co-sleeping or not, you’ll have to work on that area. My advice is that you can co-sleep and find several other ways to be intimate with your husband. Sure, it hampers the ability to fall into a spontaneous romantic moment more organically. And yes, you might have to meet him at the door in lingerie; perhaps the couch, shower or some other untraditional location may become your go-to places for intimacy. But you’ll do it. You’ll do it because you have to, and because it’s worth it. The advantage to this is that it forces the two of you to pay attention to your needs as a couple so that you avoid the chances of either of you feeling neglected. I guess that’s a pro disguised as a con.
The biggest disadvantage for me was when it came to sleep training. Any mother will tell you that it’s gut wrenching to hear your helpless baby crying from a room away when you’re sleep training. Now imagine having that same crying baby screaming just inches away from you in bed. It was tortuous to listen to him cry and have to resist picking him up, but it was a part of the process (that eventually worked).
The advantages are easy. Co-sleeping makes breastfeeding ten times easier. During a middle-of-the-night feeding, I could just reach over, and he was right there. As a sleep-deprived mama of a newborn, that’s precious and priceless. Another benefit was that I could always tell when my baby was sick, maybe even before the illness was full-blown. With him being so close, I got to know his breathing and could immediately hear when something sounded a little off. It was instinctual and primal.
Is co-sleeping right for you? Only you can answer that question. It was a beautiful experience for us. I bonded with my baby in a different way because of co-sleeping, and I wouldn’t have traded that for anything. Every mom will have her own comfort level, and I wholeheartedly believe you should trust your gut when making the choice for your family. Do your research, but don’t allow fear to trump what you need to do for your baby. Advocate for yourself, reach out to other mamas and listen to your baby. You won’t go wrong.
Did you co-sleep? Did others attempt to discourage you from doing so? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.