5.20.2011

The highs and lows of co-sleeping

Co-sleeping works for my family – it isn’t the best choice for everyone and it certainly has drawbacks – but it works for us. We actually love it – most of it. There are highs and lows though, and as the Pie gets older those highs and lows shift.

At first it was wonderful to just collapse into bed with our newborn, then it was wonderful to be able to put her down, sneak away, and spend some time “off-duty”. Now it’s perfect just knowing that I’m offering the Pie all-night comfort, security, and closeness.

But perhaps most important to me, co-sleeping means never having to get up for a feeding or to offer comfort. I have only a few times had to even sit up in bed with the Pie, and then even less frequently have I had to get out of bed. Once the Mountain Man had to get up and walk her around for a while. That was a rough night.

A plus and a minus all wrapped into one: I wake up with every little noise, grunt, wiggle or fuss. This means a lot of sleep interruption, but the Pie knows that the smallest noises or movements, the smallest need, will get a reaction from mama. A shift, a snuggle, a breast – and learns that she doesn’t need to cry hard (or at all) to get some attention.

Then there’s sleep crawling/standing. Many babes pull up in their crib before they know how to sit, and find themselves stuck, crying until mom gets out of bed and “rescue” them. The activity still happens in a family bed- the Pie seems to sleep-crawl sometimes, and pulls up on me into a hunched-over standing position. But there are no crib rails to pull up on, and I can usually settle her back down before she starts crying, and often before completely waking myself.

Mobility brings another level of concern during nap times. we removed the frame from our bed just barely in time – less than a week later I found the Pie on the floor. She had scooted off the edge of the bed! I have since created a little landing pad on the floor, and race in every time I hear more than the tiniest peep our of her. But since I think she crawls in her sleep, and since she sometimes wakes up and finds it more fun to play than cry, I can’t anticipate it every time and I have found her on the floor a couple more times. She hasn’t hurt herself, but she doesn’t like the fall and she cries the most pitiful little cry and clutches my neck and face when I pick her up.

There is a marked lack of adult time that coincides with bed-sharing. Sometimes by the time I get the Pie to sleep she’s unwilling to let go and I’m trapped there. Other nights, the process of putting her to sleep puts me to sleep and I’m out before she is. Co-sleeping is an experience in constantly changing evening routines with the whims of baby.

Sex happens elsewhere and less frequently that is ideal(is this an historic method of birth control?) which is a major detriment of bed sharing. Sometimes with baby between us we aren’t able to snuggle and talk the way we used to. When she is in a rooster phase (like now - when even a sliver of light means it’s time to party) we have to keep the room pitch black to get her to fall asleep, which means no more reading in bed. Also, it makes it way easier for me to accidentally fall asleep while trying to convince the Pie to do the same.

For the myriad of shifting negative points there are some things that make it worthwhile. I never have to get up to check on the Pie – I never have to get up! The Pie gets to snuggle with her whole family, smell us, touch us and hear our soft voices as she drifts off to sleep. She can roll from one bank of the co-sleeping river to the other, fluid, ever-changing, but secure in her little spot.

I can’t wait to try co-sleeping in a tent!

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