Co-sleeping

co-sleepingBoth of my two children slept in our bed with us for the first two years of their life and ten years later my son still shows up on occasion; and while I wish he wouldn’t, I only complain so much.

When my wife was pregnant with our daughter Ida we had an office where we shared a desk sitting across from each other.  For nine months we read books (though I tend to peruse rather than complete) and cruised the internet ingesting the likes of Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Dr. Sears, Jean Liedloff (author of the Continuum Concept) and sharing the info back and forth.

At the same time I had fortuitously met an angel named Sandra Jamrog on the Upper West Side of Manhattan just as my wife became pregnant. Sandy served as a mentor and guide through pregnancy and a beautiful homebirth. Ida was born at 11pm and by 2am Marcy, our midwife, Sandy, my Sister-in-law Molly and the midwife’s assistant were gone and our three hours old baby lay between us on the bed.

Co-sleeping was never much of a question for us and it was never an issue. We quickly established a fairly simple routine. My wife nursed Ida to sleep and then we would get to hang out for a while. Then when we went to bed I was allowed a 10 inch sliver of the bed as my wife and Ida spent the night providing and sucking. It was pretty easy for me with the exception of my spatial inequity. I have to admit I was a less than ideal partner in the first three or so years of both of my children’s time on earth but I am terribly selfish and I didn’t have breasts filled with milk (I am much better now).

A co-sleeping newborn will be able to breathe in synch with its mom all night. You can think of the first three months of life as a fourth trimester and co-sleeping reinforces that bond and connection. Baby and mother can sleep better– there were many nights where I would be woken up by Ida looking for a boob and finding one, latching on and sucking away without even waking up my wife.

I know a lot of people who set out to try co-sleeping and, for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. More power to everyone — because everyone has to do what everyone has to do — but I found that co-sleeping made our lives much easier. Breastfeeding on demand goes hand in hand with co-sleeping especially because from what I learned and chose to believe, babies are meant to feed whenever they want and they usually want to eat every two hours. If you want to provide that for your child it is a lot easier if you don’t have to get out of bed two or three times a night.

I didn’t expect to sleep much—it was in bold print on the baby contract—you will not sleep for a number of years. I didn’t want to sign but I did and there you have it. But getting up for a minute to give up yet another inch to the sprawling mass alongside of me was a lot easier than having to get up and out of bed. Not that I would have (did I mention the selfish).

There is a strange philosophical divide about the merits of co-sleeping that gets to the heart of parenting styles. It is my belief on a deeply intuitive level that giving a baby everything it wants and needs fosters independence. Picking him or her up whenever they cry, feeding on demand, sleeping within inches of a mother’s heartbeat—these things help to create a world that seems caring and nurturing and giving.

And I get it—some people have the exact opposite set of beliefs around this subject and more power to them. Many people believe that putting a baby in its own bed creates an independence that is important for the child. I disagree; of course I think I am right but it would be silly if I didn’t. I have always felt that the first five years of a child’s life are the most important. The support systems we help them build in these early years determine their ability to deal with life and turmoil in adulthood.

I hope I have done right by my kids by choosing co-sleeping. There is no way to know (and there probably won’t ever be) but life is a crap shoot with so many variables, and I am trying my best to give my kids a solid base upon which to stand.

Sitting Babies Up Is Not the Best Approach
A Response to Tummy Time: Baby on the Back

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