Saturday, May 14, 2005

I Love Co-sleeping

When I was pregnant with my first child, I read every book and magazine I
could find on caring for a baby. I asked endless questions of experienced
moms and soaked in baby care information like the world's largest sponge. I
was determined to do everything just right for my baby. I planned to
breast feed for at least a year, use cloth diapers, and prepare my own baby
food. I purchased all the necessary baby furniture for my new baby,
including a crib, months in advance of her due date. I was overwhelmingly
excited at the prospect of being a mommy and wanted to make sure I didn't
forget anything I was supposed to provide for baby.

My first baby was a bouncing baby girl, born weighing exactly seven pounds.
I was so thrilled with her, all I could do was hold her in my arms and stare
at her in awe, trying to keep from crying all over her tiny face. I did not
have the baby blues, I was crying tears of joy. Never had I been in the
presence of such a perfect human being before. When she was just a few
minutes old I already loved her so much it hurt. The nurses at the hospital
warned me to put her down. They told me I was holding her too much, giving
her too much attention. I quickly decided they were crazy, maybe even
border line psychotic. I had waited all my life, plus nine months and two
weeks, to finally hold a child of my own in my arms and they wanted me to put
her down. Yes, I decided, they were definitely insane. I ignored them and
insisted on having my baby girl stay in the hospital room with me all
night.

My little girl was a good baby (if a baby can be called good) and did not
cry very much in the hospital. I held her almost the entire time we were in
the hospital. I kept her safely nestled right in the crook of my arm while she
slept. I felt safe doing that because I am an extremely light sleeper and
knew I would not roll over on her, she could not roll over herself, and the
hospital bed had guard rails. The nurses thought I should send her to the
nursery so I could take a nap, but I would have none of that. I kept her
with me the entire time.

Upon arriving home the next day I couldn't wait to place baby in her
hand carved crib. I had shopped for months to find the most
beautiful heirloom quality bedding I could get my hands on for her crib. I
had the crib all made up and ready for her, months before her arrival. I
could not wait to see her sleeping peacefully in it. So as soon as she fell
asleep, I carefully lowered her into the crib. Oh no! What was this? She
was crying. She began to cry as soon as I put her down. I wasn't worried
at that point. I just picked her up, patted her, and nursed her a little.

After getting her back to sleep, I tried putting her back in her crib. She
immediately opened her eyes and began to cry. I repeatedly tried to get her settled and back in her crib.I was finally able to get her to stay in the crib, securely swaddled, for about 20 minutes.This was just about long enough for me to start a load of laundry and wash the dishes. Little did I know this cry, pick up, nurse cycle was only the beginning of a frustrating routine that would last for the next week.Finally, after several exhausting days followed by even more exhausting nights, I surrendered and put my baby girl in bed with me.

I had read all about the risks of co-sleeping and the importance of
establishing a schedule for baby. I had tried many of the suggestions in
baby care books concerning getting babies to sleep on their own. I had
listened to tons of advice from my very opinionated friends and family.
Unfortunately, none of the advice worked. I was unwilling to simply let my
baby cry it out, so we began co-sleeping.

I grew to enjoy sleeping with my gorgeous baby girl cuddled in my arms. Her
little grunts and groans became my bedtime lullaby. My daughter seemed to
thrive on our little bedtime arrangement and was always a very happy, playful baby.
I became so used to sleeping with her that on the few occasions she actually
fell asleep in her infant carrier or baby swing, I could not sleep myself. I
would lie awake staring at her face, waiting for her to cry so I could pick
her up.

My family has expanded, over the last ten years, to include two more
daughters and a son. I have enjoyed co-sleeping with each of my infants.
Co-sleeping allows me to get some much needed rest while still being able
to feel my baby is safe. I worried a lot with each of my infants about the dangers
of SIDS and having my babies so close to me was a definite comfort. For example,
if baby actually cooperated with sleeping in a crib, I would probably have spent countless hours running back and forth checking to make sure baby was still breathing.

After co-sleeping with 4 infants, I believe co-sleeping is extremely valuable because
it makes breastfeeding easier, helps to keep mother and child close and
connected, and helps both mother and baby sleep better. Recent research
even suggests co-sleeping actually reduces the risk of SIDS.

Some of my friends and family express confusion about why I would choose to
share my bed with an infant. They worry about my quality of life. They
worry that I will never be able to get baby out of my bed. I tell them I
could not be happier! My oldest three children sleep well in beds of their
own now, so I do not worry that I will never reclaim my bed. For now, I just
relish the cozy feeling of cuddling to sleep with my newest baby. I savor
these moments because I know the will not last forever.

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