Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sharing sleep

I knew from the moment I found out that I was pregnant that I would not be investing in a crib. In my head, when I hear the word "crib" it's usually followed by the world "death." That's kind of a negative connotation to carry around with you (and yes, i'm aware it's not politically correct to call it 'crib death' anymore. the recognized term is 'sudden infant death syndrome' or 'sids,' a name change that was brought about in part by crib manufacturers being uncomfortable with the phrase 'crib death').

Moreover, the idea of having my newborn away from me, even if just in a crib across the room, made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. So, I went with 'instinct,' and began researching safe co-sleeping.

I won't bore you with an exhaustive list of how-tos, because if you have an interest in co-sleeping then you are probably doing your own research, but I can recommend a couple of links to get you started. Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution (which really is a fantastic book for parents' at their wits end with a baby who won't sleep and won't let them sleep) wrote one and Dr. Sears (who is basically The Maven of Attachment Parenting) has one here.

The BIG worries of parents who plan to co-sleep with their infant are:
  • Overlying, or rolling on top of the baby
    I've successfully co-slept with a bundle of small dogs since I was about 19 years old. I started with a Chihuahua puppy who weighed in at a whopping 2lb when she first came home with me. I've never rolled onto a dog, and am in fact an exceptionally light sleeper.

  • Falling from the bed
    Currently, the BabyBeast sleeps in a Supreme SnuggleNest between the Husbeast and I. The plastic sides and foam positioner prevent him from moving too far out of the Nest. Once he's bigger (which won't take long, at the rate he's increasing in size; i think i have miraclegro in my breastmilk) I'll move him over to my side of the bed with a toddler bed rail to prevent him from leaping to his doom. And even if he manages to roll out, our bed currently consists of a mattress and boxspring, so the fall to the carpeted floor is about 1.5ft.

    I chose to co-sleep not only to make breastfeeding easier, not only to let myself rest secure that the baby was still breathing, but also because studies have shown babies don't suffer SIDS as often if they are sleeping close to their mother. Whether its because they hear her breathing, or never reach deep sleep due to her movements in the night, or some other reason, I don't know. But I DO know that I sleep better with the feeling that I'm doing absolutely everything I can to prevent my son slipping away at night.

    I have to say that so far, our co-sleeping experience has been amazing. The Baby Beast sleeps well, I sleep well, even the Husbeast is sleeping well (not to worry, he never naps alone with the baby).

    Personally, I can't imagine locking my baby into a cage in another room, where I can't listen to his breathing as I fall asleep and can't reach out to touch his warm stomach to make sure it's moving up and down with the rhythm of his dreaming breaths.

    Is sleep sharing for everyone? Probably not. Is co-sleeping in the same bed for everyone? Definitely not. Does sleep sharing ask the parents to devote more of themselves to the baby? Definitely so. But most of all, sleep sharing is natural. It's been the way of infants and adults since mammals started roaming the earth (and, in case you fell asleep during your high school science classes, humans are, indeed, mammals).

    If we were looking at apes, or lemurs, or even dogs, you'd see how there's a logical pattern to mother-infant relationships. Logically, it makes no sense to separate mother and infant. How is the baby to eat if its mother is absent? How is the baby to stay warm without maternal warmth? Who will respond to the infants cries in the night (other than a predator) if the mother isn't there?

    So, how is it natural to put the baby in a room separate from its mother?

    I guess it just makes sense to me to follow animals as my guide to infant rearing, for the most part. They don't have cribs, and swings, and walkers, and bouncers. They have to devote themselves wholly to the rearing of their young, and that includes while sleeping. So, sleep sharing/co-sleeping is to me just the natural thing to do.

    Besides, it makes it so much easier to follow the age-old addendum, "Nap when your baby naps."

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