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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.
I got my first blog topic request – which is super timely as I am facing a total lack of interesting things to say this week. Finally getting all the junk off my kitchen counters is just not that inspiring. So today I’m going to talk about sleep for Shannon in PA. She has a 4 month old and is currently obsessed with sleep. This happens a lot when you have a new baby – you wonder if you have the only child in the whole world who (fill in the blank – doesn’t sleep, nurses 10 hours a day, poops neon green, farts like a fat man at a German food festival)(The answer is no). I know Shannon is hoping I will tell her the answer to all her infant sleep problems is just a few weeks away. So here you go: Shannon, I promise you that in six more weeks your baby will be sleeping 13 hours a night. Ok, now stop reading Shannon. Stop and go look at pictures of unicorns or something. Now that Shannon’s gone, I’ll tell the rest of you how Baby Evan’s sleep schedule works.
Since he was born, Baby Evan has slept on almost every surface imaginable…except for in his crib. When we first brought him home he slept exclusively in his vibrating seat or his swing (both by Fisher Price in case you’re keeping track of what products I recommend). After a while we started putting him down in the cradle my father-in-law built so he would get used to sleeping on a flat surface. Around 6 weeks E and I stopped sleeping in shifts on the couch and moved the baby upstairs to our bedroom where he now sleeps in a co-sleeper. Naps are still usually in the swing or in the infant carrier after a ride in the car. But when he’s really tired during the day, he’ll sleep almost anywhere, including that one time he slept on a table, especially if he falls asleep while nursing.
There is a LOT of advice out there on how to get your newborn or infant to sleep. Cry it out (abbreviated CIO on mommy message boards) is one of the most common methods, popularized by Dr. Ferber (hence using it is called Ferberizing your baby – which sounds more like turning your baby into a creepy talking doll with a beak than a sleep training method to me but whatevs)(I’m feeling very linky today)(And also full of parentheses). Dr. Ferber is a fancy doctor of sleep in Boston or something. I don’t own his book so I don’t know exactly how it works but I’m told it involves letting the baby cry for gradually longer amount of time until he eventually learns not to cry at all. Now, no offence to people who have used this method, but it sounds to me like using CIO is just teaching your baby that you don’t care if he’s crying. I also doubt my ability to ignore Baby Evan’s cries for long enough for this to be effective – I think my record is 20 seconds before I ran out of the bathroom with my pants unbuttoned to comfort him. And how is listening to a baby crying supposed to help ME get any extra sleep anyways?
What I’m trying to say is we haven’t done any real sleep training. We’ve sort of mashed together several different schools of thought to figure out what works best for us, but it’s pretty much Dr. Sears attachment parenting with a couple of Dr. Karp’s five S’s thrown in. But this only works for us because we have a pretty easy going baby and I don’t have a job – if you’re a working mom with a high maintenance baby I recommend not reading this since it will only make you want to punch me in the face.
At five months our schedule looks like this: 8 pm Baby Evan gets a bath in the sink, mostly to get as much dog hair off him as possible. After the bath he gets his last meal of the night, somewhere between 8:15 and 8:45 depending on when his previous snack was. All his meals still come directly from the boob so we get a little cuddle time in too. Usually around 8:30 we go upstairs and rock in the glider while I read him a book (last night was Make Way for Ducklings, the night before we did There’s A Monster At The End Of This Book and That’s Not My Reindeer).
After the books I wrap him up in a swaddle (THIS IS THE SECRET TO SLEEP. SWADDLE. SERIOUSLY, DO IT. We had to buy a bigger size a month ago and he breaks his arms out of it around midnight but it keeps him asleep through his 10pm and 11pm REM cycles, which means I avoid at least one extra feeding. I’m probably the only person whose baby is still swaddled at 5 months but I have no intentions of quitting). Once he’s all wrapped up I turn off the lights in the nursery and sing Baby Evan a song while I rock him to sleep. It usually takes one time through “The Book Of Love” (my baby loves Peter Gabriel) and about thirty seconds of shushing before he’s totally out. By now it’s somewhere between 8:45 and 9:00 pm. I put him in the co-sleeper in our bedroom, turn on the monitor and then go back downstairs for some baby-free time until I go to bed at 10.
When Baby Evan wakes up around 2:30 am for a snack I roll him into bed with me where he stays until he wakes up for breakfast. Mornings are the most unpredictable – some days he needs to be fed again at 4 and goes back to sleep, sometimes he makes it until 6:30, but he’s usually up for the day before 7. I’d say this nighttime schedule has been the same for about a month now, with no signs of changing in the foreseeable future. I’m totally ok with the current bed-sharing situation and cannot imagine trying to breastfeed in the middle of the night if I insisted on going into the nursery every time. I’m usually sound asleep again before he’s even done and almost never remember bringing him to bed at all. E is also ok with it since it means he never has to handle any night feedings. (His current work schedule is crap and involves him being gone for bedtime but when he was home he did that whole nighttime routine himself EVERY NIGHT so no accusations of slacking off on his part.) Once Baby Evan outgrows his co-sleeper we’re going to have to rearrange a little bit – maybe use the crib, maybe just go to full-time co-sleeping, maybe try to end the middle-of-the-night feedings. We’ll just wait and see how it goes, since the only certain thing when it comes to babies is EVERYTHING CHANGES. As soon as you have a routine or a schedule or a plan, it changes.
If you’ve made it this far and you are NOT Shannon, I am really impressed. If you are Shannon, go buy a swaddle and good luck with everything. And thanks for the request!
*This is the made up song I sing when the baby won’t calm down. It goes “sleepy baby go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep. Sleepy baby go to sleep so mom can get some rest” and it works almost every time. I think it’s the ultra-soothing hypnotic tone of voice I sing it in that helps – although maybe he’s just impressed into silence by my musical genius.
Baby Evan slept for NINE HOURS last night! I feel like George Clooney just showed up at my door on a unicorn to cook me breakfast and give me the Publishers Clearing House giant check and when I looked in the mirror I had lost 50 lbs and grew two inches. To celebrate, here’s Baby’s Greatest Hits from recent naps.