Thoughts on Babies and Sleep
April 28th, 2013
There’s a very funny blog post making the rounds in cyberspace right now. It’s a truly hysterical compilation of all the “expert” sleep advice one mom encountered in her desperate quest to find answers to why her darling child preferred screaming to sleeping. The point of the piece is that it’s all contradictory. Amazingly so. There are about a zillion different opinions on how you should approach bedtime and sleep with your baby, so I figured – why not add my own voice to the cacophony? While I am far from an expert, I have been around this block before and I think we’ve got a pretty good methodology.
I am an unashamed co-sleeper. Although the idea of sharing your bed is taboo in the world of American pediatricians, the honest truth is that most kid around the world sleep with their parents and a whole lotta American families do it too and just don’t admit it. There’s some really great research starting to emerge about the benefits of bed-sharing thanks to work by the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory.
The move toward co-sleeping was gradual for me. I never really considered it with Miss Mouse, having heard the refrain from many sources that it was unsafe to have a kid in bed with you.
(Although let’s all acknowledge that no one follows the “official” sleep recommendations that all infants sleep by themselves, on their backs, in a crib Every Single Time They Close Their Eyes. That’s insane. Infants don’t like to sleep like that. A newborn is used to sleeping in (extremely) close proximity to mom. To go from the womb to a crib without some sort of intermediary experience makes no sense at all.)
But with Miss Mouse, after those first few weeks of holding her and dozing on the couch at all hours, she mostly slept in her crib. Miss Mouse was a bottle baby, so I could share the late night feedings with Josh and both of us stayed pretty functional. But I did spend many many hours up with my girl in the wee hours of the night, rocking her dead asleep before putting her back in her crib.
Buggie was different. He was a boob baby so I was on my own for night feedings. And he fed a lot. Every couple hours, round the clock. I was working full-time and commuting and I simply could not spend hours rocking him to sleep so I could stick him in his crib. I wasn’t able to function like that. So I started letting him sleep in bed with me so I could nurse him without getting up. Plus, he would then doze off next to me, saving many hours of rocking (i.e. Mommy Is Awake) time.
With Little Bird, I planned to co-sleep from the get-go. She and I inhabit our downstairs den and camp out on a nice firm futon.
We actually do a modified co-sleep. Starting a couple weeks ago, I began tucking Little Bird into her crib for her “first sleep” of the night. When it seems like she’s ready to settle in for the night (usually between 8 and 9pm), I swaddle her up and put her in her crib. Whenever she wakes up in the night, ready to feed, I nurse her, then bring her to bed with me where she spends the rest of the night. As her “first sleep” gets longer (right now we’re at about five hours) she spends more time in her crib, until eventually she’ll be there all night. It makes for a smooth transition to solo sleep.
I am quite certain that my favorite memories from this period of my life will be of snuggling with her in bed, smooching her fuzzy head, and listening to the little noises she makes in her sleep. It’s magical. Plus, I’m well-rested!