Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Adventures in Bedsharing and Co-Sleeping

I write this post while I am a week into having my son sleeping in his own bed! But we are still co-sleeping. How is this possible you ask?

Well, co-sleeping as defined by API is actually sleeping in "close proximity," which means the child is on a separate sleep surface in the same room as the parents. This includes the use of a cosleeping bassinet or "sidecar," which is a crib-like bed with only three walls, with the fourth side remaining open and pushed up against the parents' bed. For the older child, this can include sleeping in a separate bed in the same room as the parents, or two or more older siblings sleeping together in a separate room.

When we first had our son we invested in a co-sleeper which he basically never slept in, it was too easy to just keep him in bed with us especially with my breastfeeding throughout the night. As an aside, I never understood why people would put their children in a totally separate room when all you're going to be doing is marching back and forth to said room for feedings and changing throughout the night, but I digress. Also, even if he fell asleep in our bed as soon as I moved him to the co-sleeper and he felt that unfamiliar mattress he would wake up! In order for all of us to get more sleep we decided bedsharing it was!

Bedsharing also called the "family bed," describes a sleep arrangement where the family members sleep on the same sleep surface. This practice is recommended for only for breastfeeding families using API's Safe Sleep Guidelines.

We have had a family bed basically from our son's birth until a week ago. That is not to say that it's all been a bed of roses. As our son has grown this delightful little bundle of joy turned into a jumble of arms and legs that could land on you in the middle of a peaceful sleep without any warning. While I got the head of our son, his little noggin snuggled next to mine, arms wrapped around my neck in a loving embrace. My husband often got the tail end of our son replete with kicks to the tummy and feet in the face. We also received unwanted advice from people who "care", but do not practice Attachment Parenting. The refrain of Is He Sleeping Through the Night? and other well intentioned, but intrusive questions and advice on our sleeping arrangements. I was even BLAMED for why our son couldn't sleep without us.

Some of this advice led to a one time use of trying the Cry It Out method. That was tormenting for both my son and I. We would wait 5 min. of crying go check on him, then we were supposed to increase the intervals. Our son WAILED and every time we tried this method (for about 3-4 days) he was so scared, so in shock that he would SOIL himself. That is how upset CIO made him. After that would happen I would just try and comfort him (he would be shaking with fear) and put him back into our bed. NEVER AGAIN! I learned from that not to be intimidated by well meaning, but intrusive people again.

So, then when our son turned two (and daddy was again tired of the midnight sleeping kicks) we bought the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley, which was a God send. Imagine a book where no one is ridiculing your parenting methods or telling you that what you're doing is wrong, but tells you how (if you would like to) to get your toddler to sleep on their own. Well, we tried some of the suggestions to get him to sleep in his toddler bed in his own room, but after one night of sleeping in there until about 1 am (a coup in our household) he promptly told us, "I don't want my bed", this is now a great family joke and source of laughter for my husband and I. So, what did we do, we ended up moving him back to our bed, knowing that we had a plan for moving him to his own bed in due time.

One of the suggestions that Pantley makes in her book is that for children who have bedshared to start to co-sleep in the family bedroom in their own bed. Well, that made a lot of sense the transition is much smoother from sleeping with mommy and daddy to sleeping beside mommy and daddy versus sleeping in a whole different room (my son has also developed a little fear of "monsters", I have no idea where this came from). So, two weeks ago I ordered him a new toddler bed (to make this milestone more meaningful for him) and told him he'd be getting a new bed and a "mama luvie" (which eneded up being a teddybear with a heart on him).

When the bed arrived our son helped mommy put it together, helped me make the bed, and we put the mama luvie in the bed. We then went through our regular nightime routine, when it came time for us to go to sleep I told him that he was now ready to sleep in his own bed, but that it was right next to mommy and daddy's bed and if he needed us all he had to do was call us and we'd be there. I also explained to him why he was going to be sleeping in a new bed, I told him that he's getting so big that we could no longer all fit in one bed and that sometimes daddy gets hurt at night when we're all in there.

He still looked dubious, so I asked him if he'd like me to lay in there with him for a little while and he said yes. So, I laid in bed with him until he went to sleep then went to my own bed less than two feet away. He woke up about three times, two of those times to say mommy and I would give him a hug or rub his back and one of those times for a drink of water. By the third day I no longer had to lay with him until he went to sleep, I told him he could lay in there by himself and if he wanted he could hug the teddy, because the teddy loves hugs.

In the middle of this we went away on vacation and went back to bedsharing for two nights and I was afraid he'd regress, but he's back to sleeping in his own bed and life is sweet. No more kicking of the daddy, more room for my pregnant belly, and a little boy that is sleeping in his own bed, proud of his accomplishment, and confident in the fact that his parents are there for him even in the middle of the night.

We base our sleeping arrangements on this Attachment Parenting Principle:
Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally: Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.

1 comment:

  1. This is an GREAT post!!! I just love, love, love how you all so gently and lovingly transitioned DS into his own bed. It felt so safe and secure and I think, at the end of the day, that's all we want for our children, isnt it?

    My baby (7 1/2 months) sleeps in the Arms Length Co-Sleeper (the 3 sided bed) next to me for half the night, and I LOVE it. He is in his crib, which is in our bedroom as well (it is a very large bedroom, and so on a whole other wall). I have no immediate plans to move him to another room as it is a situation that works well for everyone.

    This line struck me the most: "I learned from that not to be intimidated by well meaning, but intrusive people again." Amen! I admire you tremendously having reached this place as I still at times struggle to get there. But I have definitely made gains, as far as not letting the opinions/judgments of others impact what I know in my heart is right for my son!

    Lovely blog and thanks so much for this new insight!


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