Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Co-sleeping: "I thought I'd never let my baby sleep with me."

 After your baby is born and you bring her home, you will find that many of your expectations for parenthood may have been inaccurate. When I got home with my new infant from the hospital, I can remember thinking, “Ok…what do I do now? Can I lie my baby down somewhere while I do something else? What do I do with this little thing in my arms?”

In regards to sleeping, many new infants will sleep around 14-16 hours per day. Doesn’t this sound great?! Guess again. The majority of infants will start out very confused on when to sleep; for instance, many will sleep more during the day and then less at night—which can be very frustrating for new parents. After many days and (even months!!) of this, many parents will resort to almost anything in order to sleep, and who would blame them, right? In addition to this, each infant has a different temperament and thus may sleep in their own sometimes startling and unexpected ways.
My little girl, for example, had gastrointestinal problems (among other things), and it got to the point where she would only sleep while lying on my wife in the rocking chair—I know! Isn’t my wife a trooper! (and this lasted for about 3 weeks). Eventually, we were able to transfer her to lying with my wife in bed with us, and we couldn’t bear to “make her cry it out” in her crib, because we knew that she was in pain when she was crying (because of her intestinal issues). So, this lasted until around 3 months. By this time, her intestinal problems began to subside, so we decided to transition her to her crib…..Now, she is almost 8 months old, and she sleep pretty great each night (although you do end up having to deal with teething and other things with your infants just when you thought you had them sleeping wonderfully, haha!).

I illustrated this story for you, because I wanted you to see that many things don’t work out how you had planned and that we sometimes end up doing the things that we never thought we would do because they work (such as co-sleeping). I want you to understand the dangers that are involved in co-sleeping though. There are extreme examples where children have a hard time ever transitioning to their own bed after a while of sleeping with their mother or parents in bed. This can create discord in your marriage as you may not be able to be close to your spouse at night, etc. which you were accustomed to before. Also, here is another example that one mother wrote on her blog on January 20, 2010:
Soren usually starts out the night in his own bed and makes his way into ours sometime later in the night. For now Felix is mostly in our bed at night...When both kids are in bed I make sure that an adult body (mine) is between them. A few nights ago, however, I put Soren to sleep in our bed instead of his own and Felix was resisting, so I put him in the bed as well. So, a 2+ year-old and a 3-month old in the same queen-sized bed. I had Peter sneak in to check on them sometime before we went to bed and he reported that Felix was asleep on his lamby with his arms spread wide and that Soren had moved over to snuggle against him. We cooed about how cute that was...Sometime after Peter had checked on them, I heard piglet sounds emanating from the bedroom. I rushed in to check and found a fully-asleep Soren now completely on top of a squeeling Felix, who could not dislodge his brother. I moved Soren over and he did not wake up at all, apparently completely unaware of what had transpired. I carried my little piglet into the other room to check him over in the light. He seemed none the worse for wear, although a bit irritated by the light. Still, had I not heard him and removed his oppressor immediately, the situation could have been a lot worse.

I realize that this is a story about two children sleeping together (although she does mention that the parents also sleep with them in bed), but the same thing could happen with parents and their infants, except parents are much larger! So, the moral of the story is…do what you feel is best for your individual child, but be aware of the dangers (social and physical) and be very careful.

Here is another perspective on sleeping with your infant: Click Here

Do you have experiences with this that you would like to share?

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