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Sleep With a New Baby - Where?
A little personal history
I remember the evening I gave birth to my first child. I was an absolute wreck. I did not want to sleep for fear my baby would choke on her own mucuous, yet I was exhausted from days of labor. I foolishly told my husband, mother, and friends that it was okay for them to go home. And then I sobbed... sobbed for my baby and me. I wanted to hold her and make sure she was okay, all night. But fatigue won and I called a nurse to take her to the nursery for a couple hours. The tears continued as I lay my body down to rest. A couple hours later she was thankfully returned to me and I was encouraged to nurse her laying down while I rested.
The next day I brought my first born home, quite overwhelmed. I had taken care of many a baby in my day, but this was different. I felt so protective and every time she cried I wanted to soothe her. Mothering was something I had always wanted to do and I had no idea I would feel so unsure of myself.
That night I lay in bed, with our daughter snuggled just right in her bassinet next to me. Every wince, every movement, gurgle, whimper, cry, rustle, or other sound that came out of her would wake me, if I even went to sleep. This is for good reason. This is an innate feature of a nurturing mother to wake when her infant needs her for any reason. It certainly would protect the baby in many a scenario. However, when it comes to needing sleep it can feel a little tricky.
After about two weeks of this one evening while I lay there awake, my husband who was sleeping on the couch, came in and picked up our baby girl and placed her next to me in the bed. He said, "She is supposed to be with you." The wave of relief that flooded me in that moment has kept my bed open to my children ever since.
Does that mean I am suggesting every one needs to do this? No. Each parent needs to make the choice that is right for him and her. If you do something because someone else is doing it and it doesn't ring true for you, that won't work very well or for very long!
Some current information available may scare parents from following their instincts in regards to where their babies and children sleep so I will offer some helpful information that you may use while making your decision.
In the Bed or In the Crib?
I have let you know up front that my children are welcome to sleep with me if they so desire. However, I have reviewed each ounce of evidence, theory, and research I could get my hands on for the last several years, on each side of the issue. Is it okay to bring baby to bed or is it safer for baby to be in a crib?
There are several factors to consider:
- A firm mattress is a must for sleeping with baby
- If one or both parents are heavy sleepers, this needs to be considered as one could roll on baby and not wake
- If one or both parents uses alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs which cause sleepiness or disorientation, this needs to be considered as one could roll on baby and not wake
- If you find the baby rolls into you while on the bed, it may be safer to have baby on a separate mattress that is more firm
- Covers and pillows need to be kept away from baby's face
- Evidence suggests a baby sleeping near his mom actually is at an advantage as breathing is regulated through close contact with Mom. In this aspect, it may be safer to sleep near baby, than have baby in another room.
- In the event of an emergency, say a fire or break in, or weather emergency, where would you rather have your baby? In some cultures and habitats, children sleeping near parents is for survival. Until a child knows what to do in such an emergency, it may make sense to keep them near at night.
What about Sex?!
- First, you actually think you're going to be wanting to do that right after having a baby?
- But when you do want to take part in the pleasurable activity, you'll find a way. Baby sleeps occasionally, you have another spare bed, or couch, or shower.
- When you want it to happen, you can get creative. Don't you remember that pre-baby spontaniety? It takes on different meaning post-baby, but it definitely comes in handy...
Will my child sleep with me forever?!
- While I remember sleeping occasionally with my mom even as a young teen, I wasn't in there every night.
- Having a young baby in your bed doesn't guarantee she will sleep there forever - I highly doubt she'll be coming in after a date, putting her keys on the night stand, crawling in bed saying, "Night, Mom!"
- Having the flexibility to allow your child to sleep with you means you've adopted the idea that parenting doesn't stop when you go to sleep. Dr. Sears coined the term, "Nighttime Parenting," with his book on the topic. A very good read.
The Benefits of Bed Sharing
One Night at a Time
Many parents feel like if they allow the baby in the bed it may mean they are setting the child up for a pattern. If the parent chooses to look at the night time parenting responsibility as a "one night at a time" commitment it can ease the concern about establishing an unhealthy pattern.
Societies have created the standards for what is determined to be unhealthy. It is important to remember this and to connect with the fact that you are the parent and expert in your own family. You decide what works and feels to be the most loving way of tending to your child's night time needs.
Follow your Instincts
If something inside you says to sleep with your baby, honor that. At the same time, honor a feeling that you would prefer your baby sleep in a separate bed.
People have rigged up all sorts of side car arrangements with a crib that is pushed against a wall with the rail down, then the bed pushed up against the crib. Now there's a co-sleeper and some parents put a mattress down in baby's room for mom & baby to sleep on the last half of the night after feeding. Try different sleeping arrangements if one doesn't work. You will find something which allows all of you to get the closeness and rest you desire... and deserve!
About Rainbow Recognizer
Amy Phoenix is a gentle, yet direct parenting guide and healing facilitator dedicated to sharing insights and practices to transform frustration and anger, heal the past and nurture conscious relationships – to appreciate all aspects of life. Visit her at www.innatewholeness.com.
Resources for further reading
- CO-SLEEPING: YES, NO, SOMETIMES?
Renowned author and doctor lists several articles on the subject of co-sleeping. A valuable resource for the parent who wants to make an informed decision.
- SAFE SLEEPING WITH YOUR BABY - THE LATEST RESEARCH
- Cosleeping - The Natural Child Project
- Babble - Co Sleeping
- Attachment parenting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- The Liedloff Continuum Network - Home Page
- The Continuum Concept - Defined
- Keep Your Baby Close To You
Being the mother of four kids, I definitely have experience in this area. Ultimately it is you that should make the correct decision with what you are comfortable with when it comes to having your baby in the...