Monday, March 19, 2007

The Family Bed

I've never had a real problem with co-sleepers before. (And by never, I mean, not in a long while, since I got over thinking I knew everything about parenting even while I was still living under my parents' roof.) But I never intended to co-sleep with my children. I loved the idea of its' benefits: having the baby in your room, near enough to hear their breaths and touch their bodies, not having to fully wake up to feed or comfort them because they'd be right there. I just didn't think it would ever work for me. I used to say I was an aerobic sleeper, that sleeping was a sport, and I was too sound a sleeper to ever risk a baby being in my bed. So as a compromise, we decided we'd use a sidecar cot shoved up next to our bed so our babies would be an arm's reach away but not actually in our bed.

When Fifi was born, we hadn't acually gotten one of those cots yet, so into a little crib she went. We pushed the crib up next to the bed, but I still had to sit up and reach into it to pull her out when she was upset or hungry. Then when I put her back in it would always wake her up. I found all this particularly hard in the early days when I was still recovering from my surgery. I couldn't twist myself around into a half-sitting position, reach in and pull her out at an angle. I had to fully get out of bed properly, pick her up, lie her in the bed and then properly lie back into it next to her. This was really tiring.

Every now and then, we'd both fall asleep with Fifi at the breast. I'd wake up in a panic wondering if I'd rolled over onto her or if she was smothered by the blankets. She was always fine, though, sleeping soundly next to me, and I never found myself anywhere near on top of her.

Eventually, I started to relax a bit about her sleeping next to me, but I worried about the whole 'family bed' thing. Would she ever learn to sleep on her own if I let her sleep with me? Would Scott and I ever get our privacy back? These things concerned me, but on the other hand, I was getting wonderful nights' sleeps and so was Fifi. I still tried to put her back in her crib a few times after she'd fall asleep, but it nearly always woke her back up, and I'd have to pull my poor boobs back out until she nursed to sleep again.

Because I'd found myself a reluctant co-sleeper, I decided I better start researching the topic to make sure I did it safely. I'd already been stuffing a pillow between my bed and her crib so there was no place she could fall off the bed, and if she was between me and Scott, I always placed a pillow between her and Scott since he sleeps a lot more soundly than I now do. The more I learned about co-sleeping the more comfortable I felt about it. And the benefits I was reaping, like restful sleep and a happy restful baby, were pretty much all the convincing I needed anyway.

Now Fi starts and stays in bed with me. It's great. I can nurse her to sleep around 9.00 (instead of staying up as late as possible to 'cut down' the actual 'night' feedings, which really wasn't solving much in the sleep department) and if I feel like sleeping too, I can, or, if I feel like reading in bed, I can do that too! All without waking up Fi. During the night, I'm wakened by her early hungry waking cues and can nurse her before she even gets upset. It's great.

And what about the fear of rolling over onto her? I've just realised that I won't. Somewhere I read it called a maternal instinct to know where your child is. Maybe it is, who knows. But my brain has simply learned a few new rules: no rolling over without waking up 100% first, no pulling the covers over me vigourously while sleeping and check on her during a few half-wakings throughout the night. It's actually turned out to be no problem.

We did, however, go ahead and order our bedside cot. It has a special shallow bumper that rests between the two beds so there's no gap to fall into. I think I will actually prefer the bedside cot to her being in my bed, regardless of all I've just said. I imagine she'll still sleep next to me a lot, but the bedside cot will just give us a few more options. Scott's supposed to build it tonight. I'm looking forward to trying it out. And even if she remains in our bed most nights for now, it'll be perfect for when she's older and more mobile and even more perfect when we start trying to transition her into her own bed (to eventually go in her own room). And if we space our babies perfectly, by the time she moves into her own room, baby number two will be ready to fill the cot. Or at least that's how easy I'm dreaming it will be.

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