After four kids, ten moves and nearly two decades, we are still blissfully in love (most of the time) and I found myself back in the state I was born and raised in. It has definitely been a journey. In fact, on our 18th anniversary we pulled the last of our stuff up over the pass and into Montana, leaving our surprise love, Idaho, behind. But Montana is a great place. The last best place according to some. And we fully intend to explore as much of it as we can! Join us on our continued adventure through life, love and other stuff that comes with it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why babies should never sleep alone

In light of my last post I've been thinking about this. And then one of my FB friends (thanks Arie) posted a link to this study. It's called Why Babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding.

It's a long read, but a good one. I will finish it, but before I do I need to blog.

Here's what I know about co-sleeping from my experience. I have three children. I birthed all three of them, nursed all three of them and have co-slept with all three of them.

On some level I have learned that parenting is about instincts and following those instincts. My instincts did not tell me that my fresh-from-the-womb baby needed to sleep in a crib in another room. My instincts did not tell me that my two-month-old should be sleeping through the night. My instincts did not tell me that a crying baby should be left in a room to figure it out for herself.

What I figured out really rather quickly was that my fresh-from-the-womb baby slept better when she was close to me. She got less fussy when she was hungry if I had her close to me and was able to recognize sooner that she was hungry. She nursed better when she had that need met before she became hard to soothe. She was soothed faster at the breast than she would have been had I needed to fix a bottle. Everyone in the house slept better if we were all in the same bed and her squirms woke me up enough that I could roll over and nurse her back to sleep. My instinct told me that babies are babies and they need to be warm and secure. My instict told me that I was that source of warmth and security, not the crib with the snug fitting mattress. The crib always seemed so cold to me anyway.

Some of my very favorite memories of those first days with my girls has been of them asleep all curled up on me. I remember with eache of them just sitting there and soaking it in, willing that moment to be permanently embedded in my being.

The last two babies insisted from the early hours that they sleep on their tummy on my chest. It has been the only place they seemed comfortable. And I don't know how they could get any closer to me. I knew their every breath and woke at any squirm or grunt. And if for some odd reason I actually tried to put her down on her back, where we are told a baby is "supposed" to be, it didn't matter how deep asleep she was, she would wiggle and grunt and squirm and within less than 5 minutes be wide awake telling me she was not happy with where she was.

To me this all seemed logical. Sometimes I wondered if maybe it was me just finding the easy way out. Maybe we shouldn't be holding her to sleep. Maybe the crib was the best place for her. Maybe she would never be independent or learn to self-soothe. Maybe I was doing it all wrong and they would all nurse until they were eighteen and we would have them all in bed with us until just before they left for college.

But then I realized how silly that was.

I also would watch people who didn't have the same easy-way-out attitude about parenting that I seemed to have. There was something different about it. It seemed so unnatural to me. One time I was at a social gathering and one of the ladies there had a new baby. It was his bedtime and she just went and put him in the other room. It broke my heart to listen to him crying in there. And she commented, "I don't hold my babies." Simply put, I do not understand that. I was actually a bit horrified by the thought of it.

This morning I woke up to three beautiful girls in my bed. All three of them jockeying for position next to mom. The one-year-old was there all night--she isn't always, but last night she needed to be. The thee-year-old is a constant after about 2am. On the very rare occasion that I wake up and she isn't there, I actually worry about her. I've even gone so far as to jokingly call her a parasite of sorts since she has to be SO close to me--my little bed bug I guess. And the six-year-old now shows up only on occasion, when she needs to. It makes me happy that she still needs snuggles.

And before I know it I'm covered in giggling girls. These three sisters who come in to snuggle with mom and with each other. This is what we've created by letting them sleep with us when they need to. When I was pregnant with Violet they would raspberry my tummy. Violet was initiated early I guess.

My instinct tells me there is nothing wrong with our arrangement. And now I'm going to read this study to see what it has to say about it.

ETA: The intent of this post is not to make anyone feel judged or slighted in any way. My intent is to encourage anyone who is reading this to listen to what your instincts are telling you.

I also realized that I don't like to sleep alone. Recently my husband was gone for a week of training and I did not want to go to bed. If I as an adult don't like to sleep alone, what about a little, tiny person who is fresh from the womb?

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