This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.
I often get asked the same questions about our Family Bed[1. I use the terms cosleeping and family bed interchangably. I find people understand what I mean when I say cosleeping but family bed sounds like I’m part of a cult or something. Technically, cosleeping is sleeping near your baby if the crib is in your bedroom or you are using a sidecar. The family bed is what we actually do where Aellyn is right in our bed]. Aellyn has slept between my husband and I[2. Guidelines on safe cosleepingusually say that a baby should NOT be between Mom and Dad with the reasoning being that Dad will not be as aware of the baby. I certainly advise people to do their research, talk about it with your partner, and make a decisions that is best for your family.] since the day she came home (she also slept in bed with me at the Birth Center – something some hospitals will not allow). We bought a cosleeper – a small bed with rigid sides meant to go between Mom and Dad on a big bed. It only lasted about 5 minutes because it felt very unnatural to me for her not to be snuggled near my breast. We trusted our instincts and did what felt natural. Here are the questions I am most often asked:
When/Where do you have sex?
This is our most asked question. I have to admit I find this funny and a bit odd. I’m reminded of this great T-shirt that says “Co-sleepers Do It in the Kitchen” – love it. Honestly I always think “are most people having sex in their beds, under the covers or something?” I would say we had sex in our bedroom before having kids no more than 50% of the time. My apologies to anyone that visits my home but couches, tables, stairs (a personal favorite), and the floor are all fair game for me. And, I don’t consider us particularly kinky or anything. I can’t say I at all miss “bed sex.” As far as when we have sex – usually in the time between when Aellyn goes to sleep (7ish) and when we go to sleep (11ish). Not a problem at all. Cosleeping has not put a damper on our sex life at all.
What about naps and bedtime?
I’ll point your to the Guidelines on safe cosleeping from Attachment Parenting International on this. API does not recommend every letting a baby sleep in an adult bed alone. With that said, here is what we do: Aellyn sleeps for all her naps and at night from 7-11 alone in our King sized bed. We use body-length pillows to create a barrier to her rolling off the bed. I’ll also point out that she was swaddled until she was 11 months old so we had less fear of her moving around. This wasn’t without some fear on our part. We had originally not bought a baby monitor because our house isn’t so big that we couldn’t hear her cry but we ended up buying one so we would know if she was awake even if she wasn’t crying. We used extra vigilance and checked in on her often until we felt comfortable that she wasn’t rolling all over the place. I can say we never even had a near-miss situation. She tends to roll side to side but stay in one general place (perhaps because she is used to sleeping between us?). We didn’t need to but I know some people also remove the box spring/frame and put their mattress right on the floor and pad the floor with pillows in case of a roll-off. I feel we would probably have done this if we didn’t swaddle.
Doesn’t she keep you up all night?
Not at all. The essay I wrote for the book Are You Co-Sleeping? Me Too! (to be published in June – have you bought a copy yet???) explains how I feel about night nursing;
My head has that floating feeling that accompanies the land between asleep and awake. The room is bathed in the soft green light of the cool-mist humidifier at the foot of the bed. Next to me, curled on her side facing me is my daughter. We aren’t touching but she’s close enough to feel her breath on my face. Beyond her is the steady breathing of my husband. He is also on his side facing me – like guardian parenthesis standing sentinel around our baby.
She twists her head a little and squirms letting out a deep sigh. It is time to nurse. Of course, she’s too asleep to know it herself yet. But I know. I pull her close and she latches on effortlessly, not even waking as she begins to suckle. It feels like coming home. There is an overwhelming sense of rightness.
Others would ask – is it hunger or comfort? Shouldn’t she sleep through the night? Will she ever learn to sleep alone? None of the questions matter to me. She is my baby and it is her job to take and mine to give. I give with joy.
Her suck is already becoming slower as she drifts deeper into slumber. I can feel sleep pulling me down too. The whole moment was so brief but so powerful. Precious. I fall asleep with a smile on my face as my breathing settles in to match the rest of my slumbering family.
All poetic narrative aside, I definitely feel I’ve gotten more sleep with Aellyn in our bed than if she was in her crib – even if the crib were in our room and especially if it wasn’t. I was terrified of the early days of parenthood because I’d heard about the mind-numbing sleeplessness. I just didn’t experience that at all (except for the first night before my milk came in). The first few weeks of cosleeping I woke frequently at every sound or movement she made. However, as time goes on you quickly learn what sounds to ignore and what sounds require attention.
Aellyn barely has to wake up to nurse so she falls back asleep easily. I feel like if she were in her crib (we have a gorgeous crib that my mom and mother-in-law made possible that is the most expensive stuffed-animal storage of all time) she would have to wake up completely to cry and let me know she’s hungry – I’d have to wake up enough to get out of bed and then we both have to fall back asleep. Aellyn never has to cry at night. Seriously, think of crib-sleeping babies – is this ever true? Now I’m not saying that the short amount of crying needed to get mommy’s attention for feeding at night is paramount to cry-it-out but how great that Aellyn doesn’t have to cry at all.
But, if she was in her crib wouldn’t she be sleeping through the night?
Yes, she probably would. I just don’t see the value of “Sleeping Through The Night” that our society places on parents/kids. Now, getting a good night sleep is important and every parent should make sure that happens for the health of everyone involved but I’ve already pointed out that Aellyn sleeps very well.
Getting a good night sleep does not require never waking. As a matter of fact everyone wakes throughout the night and falls back to sleep easily. It is a normal sleep pattern. If she were in her crib she would wake and probably learn to go back to sleep. With me, since I’ve chosen to embrace Reverse Cycling, when Aellyn wakes we nurse. Many 16 month olds would no longer be eating at night and most pediatricians would say she doesn’t need to eat.
Reverse cycling is when a baby, normally either because Mom is not home during the day or the baby is too busy playing, does the majority of her breastfeeding at night. When you read about reverse cycling it is often on how to stop it. As a working mother, let me tell you I encouraged reverse cycling. I would much rather Aellyn have only as much expressed breastmilk via bottle during the day that she needs to survive and then get her nourishment (both nutritional and emotional) at the breast when I get home. Once she began eating solids we were able to switch to water during the day and she nursed only when I got home. At 16 months she only nurses 3-5 times a day. When I work she will nurse when I get home, when she goes to bed, and once in the middle of the night when I’m getting up for work (yes, I consider getting up at 4:30 AM the Middle Of The Night). When I’m home she nurses a little more often.
If she were to sleep through the night in her crib down the hall I’m sure she would have dropped the night nurse and would only be nursing 1 or 2 times. This (working mother plus sleeping through the night) is a common reason for early weaning.
This isn’t a question people ask but I can often tell by the questions they ask and their responses that they think I am making some huge pharisaical[3. pharisaical meaning practicing or advocating strict observance of external forms and ceremonies of religion or conduct without regard to the spirit; self-righteous; hypocritical.] gesture. I think this is often the attitude people think attachment parents have but it just isn’t the case. We breastfeed, wear our babies, cosleep, and any number of things because it feels right and makes our lives and the lives of our family easier. Martyrs need not apply. The fact is that much of the “new” attachment parenting craze is a return to parenting roots. Parenting the way humans have done it for millenia with the goal of living simply, smartly, and in line with their instincts. You don’t have to cosleep – make the decision that is best for your family – but don’t close your mind to the possibility because it is out of the current Western mainstream.
I hope answering these questions helps clear up any confusion about what cosleeping looks like.
Do you have any other questions I can answer? Cosleepers, do you have any questions you are commonly asked?
Attachment Parenting International Carnival
The Attachment Parenting International Blog just posted their latest blog carnival, where they combined the principles of nurturing touch and safe sleep. Besides Maman A Droit’s super-awesome post, there are also great submissions from:
Plus guest posts on the API Speaks Blog from:
Thanks to Maman A Droit for the link code!