When I was 10 years old, we brought my brother and sister home for the first time, and on the way there, we stopped at a pediatrician’s office for some advice. He looked at my excited 10 year old self and he could tell I was going to be around those babies all the time, so he looks at me and says:
“Keep an eye on the babies, because sometimes they can stop breathing when they are sleeping.”
And at that exact moment, a lifetime of watching babies breathe while sleeping started. I won’t even discuss how insensitive and stupid that doctor was, but let’s just say I spent the next 2 weeks sleeping under the babies’ beds and putting my finger on their nostrils whenever I couldn’t hear them breathe, which, of course, stopped their air flow and caused them to wake up crying thinking someone was trying to kill them. Yeah, scared 10 year olds and newborn babies, not always the best mix.
This introduction is my explanation as to why, even though I love the idea of co-sleeping and believe it can be done safely with a few guidelines, I had decided that I couldn’t have the baby in our bed, unless one of us was up keeping an eye on things. The next best thing was to have the playpen, and eventually the crib by the bed, which is what we ended up doing.
I couldn’t bear to have have her farther than that, and even though I wholeheartedly relate to and understand those who feel they just need to get a full night sleep and move the children to another room, I just believe that if it makes you anxious to have them away from you and if they cry from a natural instinct that tells them they should be in their mothers’ arms, it is because we are meant to be close, for those first few years of life.
It also does not help that my daughter has my sleeping patterns. You see, I used to boast that I could sleep 4 hours a night and as long as I had one long night of sleep once a week, I was fine. Well, from her 3rd day of life, she was only sleeping about 12 hours a day, and her single nap now (she is 17 months old), can be as short as 20 minutes. She does sleep for a long time during the night, just a very interrupted long time.
It is those interruptions that have made us co-sleep for part of the night (the later part generally, when she wakes up more). It started when she turned one and some of my co-sleeping fears started to subside. I would nap with her in the bed and snuggle at times and accidentally fall asleep. She would also toss and turn in bed, and would hit the sides of the crib and wake herself up, so if I really didn’t have it in me to get up anymore, I’d just bring her to the bed and nurse her back to sleep. That got us into a pattern where, particularly when she is teething, she will cry, toss and turn so much after a certain time (when I generally need most sleep), that I just bring her to the bed so I can get any sleep at all since she sleeps so much better with us.
Now, as romanticized as some people make it seem, I don’t particularly enjoy co-sleeping. I love snuggling with her, smelling her hair and kissing her little face, but sleeping together is hard. She sleeps better, but I certainly don’t. I just get to sleep longer. Maybe if we had a huge king size bed, on the floor (so she couldn’t fall off), and she didn’t roll so much, it would be ok, but in our case, what always ends up happening is that she turns to my side of the bed for the nursing, so eventually she all but pushes me out of the bed. There is also the “not moving” position, when she tangles herself with me to the point that if I try to move I will wake her up, which means I have to stay in the same, generally uncomfortable position, for hours at a time. Not to mention the joys of having your side of the bed soaked in pee when the diaper leaks. It is not a restful night and mornings tend to be full of body aches, instead of feeling refreshed.
There is, though, a bright side to even the most restless nights. That happens when I wake up with my daughter’s hand caressing my face as she wakes up, and sends me kisses. I sing her a favorite song, she tells me all about the room ( the window, the door is white, brown bed, etc), sits down, and gets herself off the bed and goes towards her own room to get some toy to show me. And while she is gone,searching for some stuffed animal to bring to me, I stretch my body, feeling the ache in all the muscles I couldn’t move, lie in bed, and miss her little body pressing against mine, even though she has only been gone for 2 minutes.
Below is a popular funny list of co-sleeping positions from “How to be a Dad“. I think I’ve experienced all but “The Neck Scarf” and ” The Dog House”.