Our daughter co-sleeps most nights and has since she was about 21 weeks old. Of course we have been cautioned against it and yes, I do know the risks but I also know the risks of not getting enough (or any) sleep. Our pediatrician has warned of the dangers and suggested methods to ‘fix this’ so many times I am surprised she doesn’t look like a Smurf. She has gone from ‘let her cry it out’ to ‘I think you should consider bringing her to a sleep clinic. I love our pediatrician but is she nuts?
I like to think I am fairly self-aware. I know that my choice to co-sleep my daughter is just as much about me and my comfort as it is her. I am a little tired of all the looks, warnings, and openly scorning remarks that people readily give when they hear that our daughter sleeps in our bed. Is it ideal? Maybe not. Does it have risks? Of course but so does breathing, giving birth, driving a car, sleep in a room as an infant away from your parents (Maybe you already knew this but it is a recommendation to have your infant sleep in your room to prevent SIDS).
I didn’t intend to be ‘one of those parents’. I never thought my tiny baby would sleep in my bed, and I certainly thought that I would avoid the drama that goes with trying to break the habit. But my daughter had other plans. From the day she turned 6 weeks old until we changed our schedule for me to go back to work, she was an amazing sleeper. 9+ hours in her crib on her own every night. But I went back to work and she decided she needed to nurse all night EVERY night. And trying to be a good mom and follow my child’s lead, I got up with her – until I NEEDED to sleep. So I would do side lying nursing so I could sleep while she ate. For a while my husband would get up and put her back to bed but eventually that wasn’t enough for her.
We co-sleep because:
- It works for our family
- I am a better mom when I sleep
- I sleep better when my daughter feels, safe, secure, and connected
- The majority of the rest of the world follows this model – can they all be wrong?
- We get precious moments every morning – sometimes she wakes me up by rubbing my back, giving me kisses, or she just lights up with a huge smile when I see her and say good morning.
Do I think this is right for everyone? Heck no. Do I recommend it? If it is best for your family, you bet I do. I just wish we could be less divided as a society on this issue and provide support and unbiased facts. So often we hear about how dangerous it is to co-sleep … what if you smoother your baby? I would love to see the numbers nationwide and worldwide. Anecdotally, out of the 4 health care providers I have spoken with only one of them had a child under their medical care fall victim to smothering as a result of co-sleeping, and that provider was a pediatrician for about 20 years. I would speculate the risk to be no greater than that of a SIDS issue.
So to the mom who co-sleeps, enjoy the precious mornings, middle of the night snuggles, and happy smiles for as long as you can. It isn’t easy for your relationship with your spouse, but (especially the early years) sometimes it is about survival.
And to the mom who has a child happily snoozing in the next room. Enjoy the quiet and the time you get after your child goes to bed and before you turn in for the night. Take the time to decompress and keep doing what works for you.
And finally to the healthcare provider, I think it is time to start treating our patients and their families in a holistic fashion. Please provide me with the facts, the risks, the benefits, and the support to make decisions for myself and my family. Parenting is all about trade off and the sleep co-sleeping allows me to get protects my mental health and prevents me from have a breakdown, excessive yelling, and protected me from postpartum depression or even the standard ‘baby blues’ in the start of this journey.