Monday, September 7, 2009

Co-sleeping rocks!

As the oldest of seven children, I spent a lot of time watching my mom care for my younger brothers and sisters. Many of the practices she used then are still encouraged today- extended breastfeeding, for one. However, one thing she did has come under fire recently, and that's co-sleeping. Although co-sleeping has many forms, for my mom, it meant literally having her baby sleep next to her in her bed. Although we had a crib for the toddlers in our house, my mom always kept the youngest baby with her and Dad.

Some people (the Consumer Product Safety Commission is one) say that co-sleeping is dangerous. The risks include suffocation (rolling onto your baby, the baby becoming trapped in the bed frame, becoming tangled in bed covers) and (according to them) an increased risk of SIDS. However, others (most notably Dr. Sears) argue that co-sleeping is safe, and is the preferred method of caring for babies around the world. Dr. Sears says that more babies die in cribs than in their parents' beds, and that the SIDS risk is actually lower with co-sleepers, because mothers are more aware of their babies' sleep patterns and are likely to notice a problem more quickly. You can read more about it here. In order to co-sleep safely, Dr. Sears recommends:

  • Do not sleep with your baby if:

    1. You are under the influence of any drug (such as alcohol or tranquilizing medications) that diminishes your sensitivity to your baby's presence. If you are drunk or drugged, these chemicals lessen your arousability from sleep.

    2. You are extremely obese. Obesity itself may cause sleep apnea in the mother, in addition to the smothering danger of pendulous breasts and large fat rolls.

    3. You are exhausted from sleep deprivation. This lessens your awareness of your baby and your arousability from sleep.

    4. You are breastfeeding a baby on a cushiony surface, such as a waterbed or couch. An exhausted mother could fall asleep breastfeeding and roll over on the baby.

    5. You are the child's baby-sitter. A baby-sitter's awareness and arousability is unlikely to be as acute as a mother's.

  • Don't allow older siblings to sleep with a baby under nine months. Sleeping children do not have the same awareness of tiny babies as do parents, and too small or too crowded a bed space is an unsafe sleeping arrangement for a tiny baby.

  • Don't fall asleep with baby on a couch. Baby may get wedged between the back of the couch and the larger person's body, or baby's head may become buried in cushion crevices or soft cushions.

  • Do not sleep with baby on a free-floating, wavy waterbed or similar "sinky" surface in which baby could suffocate.

  • Don't overheat or overbundle baby. Be particularly aware of overbundling if baby is sleeping with a parent. Other warm bodies are an added heat source.

  • Don't wear lingerie with string ties longer than eight inches. Ditto for dangling jewelry. Baby may get caught in these entrapments.

  • Avoid pungent hair sprays, deodorants, and perfumes. Not only will these camouflage the natural maternal smells that baby is used to and attracted to, but foreign odors may irritate and clog baby's tiny nasal passages. Reserve these enticements for sleeping alone with your spouse.
Keeping all this in mind, Lucy sleeps with Brett and I. We have a king-size bed, and have taken precautions to keep our little girl safe. We remove all but one pillow each when we go to sleep, and push the comforter down below where she is sleeping, putting only the top sheet over her lower half. We've pushed the mattress snug against the headboard to remove the crevice that was there. Although I'm a light sleeper, Brett sleeps a little more heavily, so Lucy snuggles up with me and Brett stays closer to "his" side of the bed. Often times I fall asleep with my arm around her, too.

Ultimately, it's a personal decision that every parent has to make, but I can say with confidence that I am so happy we decided to do it. Lucy's been home for 5 nights now, and she has yet to wake me up by crying- she nuzzles, sucks, or makes these adorable little sounds that let me know she's awake and hungry. What does that mean for us? It means that I can nurse Lucy BEFORE she's fussy or upset. I don't have to rely on hearing her cry from the nursery. A Lucy that isn't fussy is a Lucy that latches on more quickly and nurses better. Also, I truly feel that we are on the same sleep pattern now. I feel really well-rested for a new mom, and now I'm looking forward to getting the hang of nursing in the side-laying position better to make the transition to feeding time go even more smoothly. Finally, I just feel better knowing that my baby girl is next to me, which allows me to sleep better as well.

What do I love the most about co-sleeping? Besides being nuzzled awake by my baby, I love waking up before she does, cuddling up with Brett, and watching her sleep. She makes the most beautiful faces, and that makes mornings my favorite time of day.


Jenny said...

We are doing the same thing. I would prefer if Ivey would sleep just a few inches away in her Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper for part of the night, but she disagrees. Occasionally we can put her in it if she's good and asleep already, but she wakes up after a little while wanting to cuddle. I usually love it, but when I want to move around I sometimes can't for fear of waking her up. She and I are both light sleepers! I wish Jordan could cuddle with her more at night, but I usually insist on her sleeping on my side because he doesn't wake up easily at all, and he moves in his sleep.

The side-lying position is my favorite! For a mom with an episiotomy or tear, it's more comfortable when you don't have to sit up every single time baby nurses. Napping while nursing is multitasking at its best! A ton more women would make it to a year of breastfeeding if they coslept and learned to nurse this way.

Ed and Elizabeth said...

Once you get the hang of breastfeeding on your side you will LOVE it! I used to put Jack on one side, fall asleep while he took his time eating, and then when he was done in my sleep I would flip him over to the other side and then fall right back asleep. Definitely beats walking across the hall to get him out of a crib. I tended to sleep with him in the bed. I usually would start on the side that Ed was on and finish with him just on my side so that I ended up between him and Ed since mothers are definitely lighter sleepers after having a baby. When he started sleeping in more extended stretches of time 4-6 hours I would sometimes wake up after he finished eating b/c I couldn't quite get into the "deep" sleep with him right next to me. I'd put him in his bassinett and have the freedome to stretch out and sleep without worrying about smothering him. Although honestly I don't think that is possible as a mom b/c I agree that you are hypersensitive to the fact that your baby is right there, but just to be on the safe side I occasionally would put him right next to our bed in his little bassinett. DON'T make the mistake of listening to the people who will tell you that if you co-sleep now then you will never get your child out of your bed. Jack sleeps in his own room now, in his own crib, 9+ hours through the problem. :) Enjoy Lucy while she still "needs" you. I feel like Jack is all grown up already!!

StrongFeather said...

I am glad you wrote about this. we are co-sleeping (bedsharing) and I credit this to my even being able to function! Sam and I are practicing the side laying position as well!

also- the prowraps preemie size covers would fit
Lucy I bet. Thats what I have Sam in :-)

Emily said...

I am actually sort of jealous of your Arm's Reach! I registered for one and didn't get it, and was disappointed about it. Then my mom reassured me that bed sharing can be safe, and I did a ton of research on it, and finally felt good enough about it to give it a try. I'm lucky that both that we have a king-size bed and that Brett isn't a heavy sleeper either. And side-lying is awesome now that I have it down!

I think you're definitely right about the whole "awareness" thing as a mom. I feel so in tune with Lucy- and no matter how tired I am I never feel burdened or worried having her in bed with me. It just seems like the natural thing to do.

I'm glad nursing and co-sleeping are going well for you too! Currently we have the FuzziBunz one-size and whisper wraps in small- both of which are supposed to start at 8lbs, and Lucy is not quite 7. She's also very long and lean. I didn't buy any preemie covers, but I've heard great things about proraps, so I may cave and buy some!