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I lie to my pediatrician. At every appointment the doctor or his nurse goes through a whole list of questions regarding our home life with the baby. They asks: What does the baby eat? (Actually, they usually ask how many bottles of formula he gets and I have to remind them I’m breastfeeding.) How many wet diapers? How long does he sleep? And then they ask: Where does he sleep? and I lie. I look my doctor right in the face and say “Oh my baby sleeps in his crib”.
Now, I have no idea if my ped supports co-sleeping but he always nods in approval when I say “in his crib”. I doubt I would get the same nodding if I said “He sleeps in our bed”. Maybe he has a secret button under the counter for people like me that sets off an alarm at CPS headquarters so they’re already waiting by my car to take the baby because OMG TOTALLY UNFIT. But the truth is, where my baby sleeps is not really a medical problem and therefor not something a pediatrician is trained to discuss. Most people’s knowledge of co-sleeping is limited to that story they heard about someone who accidentally rolled over and smothered their child or the mom whose six year old STILL sleeps in the bed… and dad sleeps on the couch. Those are not the norm. I would bet good money there are thousands of people across the country who are secret co-sleepers just like me. If you want more (positive, well-researched) information on co-sleeping I highly suggest www.askdrsears.com or The Baby Book also by Dr. Sears.
The truth is, co-sleeping means a lot of different things. I’ve technically been co-sleeping since the very beginning, since the baby has always slept within an arm’s reach of me. It wasn’t until we achieved success at breastfeeding in the side-lying position that we started bed-sharing. And it is AWESOME. I think learning to nursing lying down is the single most important key to successful breastfeeding (once you get past basic mechanical issues, I mean). Unless you have a partner who is willing to get up and fetch the baby and then get up and put the baby back to sleep EVERY TIME, save your sanity by practicing the side-lying position until you get the hang of it. Here’s my tips: Lie so you’re truly belly to belly, the baby should have to tip his head back and stretch out his neck to latch on. He’ll be tucked into your arm pit, not lying on your arm. And if you’re a roller like I am put a body or king-sized pillow behind your back so you don’t accidentally pull your nipple away if you drift onto your back because, ideally, you’ll be back asleep long before he’s done nursing.
The major concern with co-sleeping is safety, but it has never felt unsafe to me – it just feels natural. There are scary stories out there involving smothered babies and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome being more common among those who co-sleep. The supporters of co-sleeping actually believe it REDUCED SIDS because a baby uses the mother’s breathing patterns to help regulate his own. To prevent accidentally rolling onto the baby there is NO CO-SLEEPING if I have taken anything stronger than a Tylenol. No alcohol before bed, no sleep aids, no drugs, nothing to help me relax. My ability to wake up if I sense something is wrong with the baby is vital to a safe co-sleeping situation. Since I’m not a heavy sleeper to begin with, it took a few nights of bed-sharing before I got used to not waking every time Baby Evan sighed. (He’s surprisingly still when he sleeps though, no tossing or rolling. When we get to that stage of toddlerhood we might rethink the bed-sharing.) Now I sleep just as well as I ever did before the baby.
The other half of this equation is E, but to be honest, he’s really not involved in the co-sleeping. He didn’t even know I had brought the baby to bed the first couple nights! When Baby Evan was smaller I always kept him between me and the actual co-sleeper bassinette*. Now that the baby is a little less helpless I don’t mind putting him in the middle although I still put a pillow between E and Baby Evan. I also unswaddle the baby’s arms so he has the ability to push a blanket or pillow off him JUST IN CASE. (Here’s my other co-sleeping tip: Buy a huge bed. We went to a king-sized mattress after two years of sleeping on a full and cannot even imagine trying to bed-share with anything smaller. Sure it’s a little less cuddly but we weren’t cuddiwee sweepers to begin with.) I actually think E – even though he is a heavy sleeper who doesn’t hear the baby at night – is almost as physically aware of Baby Evan as I am. I’ve seen him roll in his sleep but it’s always away from the baby and when he tosses the pillows around he’s never even gotten close to a smothering situation.
Finally, I have to say I just really enjoy sleeping with the baby. He’s so cute and warm and snuggly when he’s asleep. I know it’s not for everyone – I had no idea it was even for me until I tried it – but for now it is what works best for our family, despite my lying to the pediatrician.
*Our Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper never worked quite as advertised because we have a bed frame with rails and I couldn’t get it flush against the side of the mattress. But with the side lowered and the leg extenders I can still reach Baby Evan without having to get up. I wouldn’t say you HAVE to have one – a regular bassinette or a pack’n’play bassinette next to the bed would work just as well – but we love ours.