January 29th, 2011
It’s amazing how quickly one forgets just how exhausting the early months of new parenthood are. Unfortunately for me, Bug isn’t such a good sleeper — as I may have mentioned once or twice. Oh he used to be. He dangled the dream and then he took it away. Over the last several weeks, he’s suddenly started waking a million times a night. A two hour stretch of sleep is cause for celebration.
It was getting to be an unsustainable situation. I was only getting a few hours of sleep a night and was a walking zombie at work and cranky at home. I turned to a breastfeeding forum I frequent for advice and they answered with one voice: try co-sleeping.
Co-sleeping, as the name suggests, means letting your kid sleep with you. It has various forms, from a bassinet next to your bed, to a crib “side-car,” to just all piling in the family bed together. In the rest of the world it’s the normal sleeping arrangement for families. In the US, it’s largely taboo. Which is not to say that it isn’t common, simply that it isn’t very public.
A lot of the issues surrounding co-sleeping come from concerns about SIDS. Babies sleeping in adult beds are listed among the risk factors for SIDS and that’s something to take seriously. But the statistics are somewhat misleading because “adult bed” tragedies often include intoxication (during which babies can and do get rolled on) and/or idiocy (who puts their kid face-down on a water bed to sleep? Apparently some people do.).
When done carefully and attentively, sleeping in bed with your kid can be a great experience. And some research even suggests that it can lead to a decrease in risk of SIDS. The current theory is that SIDS stems from a faulty arousal mechanism in some babies (they don’t wake up as easily as they should when their breathing is obstructed). When babies and mothers sleep together, their sleep cycles tend to be in sync and the mother’s breathing acts as a regulator for baby’s. It’s cool.
In any case, my wee Bed Bug and I have been giving it a try. We’ve been doing a modified co-sleep. I put him to bed in his crib, usually having to resettle him at least once before I go to bed. In the night, when he wakes up, I bring him to bed with me and he stays there til morning. When he fidgets, I nurse him without having to haul my tired butt out of bed and down the hall to sit in a rocking chair for half an hour, feeding and lulling him back to sleep.
It’s been alright. The first few nights, it was great. He slept better. I slept better. I felt reborn. But the allure has already started to wear off. Honestly, he’s not such a great sleeping buddy. He kicks. He squirms. He hogs the bed. He throws up in the bed. His diaper occasionally leaks in the bed. I get all sorts of cricks in various parts of me from sleeping in odd positions to avoid having to move him once he’s settled. I love snuggling with him, but I’m learning that a little bit of shared sleep goes a long way. A couple hours is nice. All night is a bit much!