Uncovering the Truth About Cosleeping

9 10 2009

This post is part of the Attachment Parenting Month blog carnival, hosted by Attachment Parenting International. Learn more about how you can stay “Attached at the Heart Through the Years” by visiting API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.

When I became a mother I didn’t subscribe to any one parenting philosophy. I read all the books and formed my opinions when I was pregnant, but the minute Azita was born all of that went straight to the medical waste can. Suddenly I just knew what to do and how to do it. I’m not pretending that I am still not a slave to every parenting site and book out there when I’m up at 2 am with a sick baby, but in general I’d have to say that much of my parenting thus far has followed the approach of doing what feels right.

And, I’ll confess. Sharing a bed with my baby feels right.

Up until now I’ve been pretty vague about this fact. I’ve hid it from people. I’ve even twisted the truth a little. I’m well aware that there are about a million trillion people out there who would read this and think that I’m a horrible mother who is endangering the life of her baby. But hear me out.

When Azita was born, the nurse brought her to my room in a bassinet. Since I had a c-section, I had not been able to hold her until then. When they took her out of that bassinet and put her in my arms, it was as if she knew she belonged there. She never wanted to leave, and honestly, I never wanted her to leave either. And, I really do mean never, at least for the next couple months of her life. At one point she was clearly tired, and I tried and tried and tried some more to put her in the bassinet to sleep. Let’s just say that she cried long enough and loud enough for the night nurse to make a comment about how Azita was waking everyone up in the unit. To compound matters, I had dreadful insomnia. I just couldn’t sleep, but when I held her I would suddenly feel content and drowsy. So, I did what brought on the much-needed sleep and what stopped the crying. I held her.

And when we went home I held her some more, and the Pack ‘n Play and cosleeper and crib stayed empty. Then I had to go back to work a month later and return to the office just two months after she was born. I was unprepared for the depth and enormity of the anguish that I felt. Even 7 months later, it still hurts. A lot. I drop her off at daycare, and I immediately cannot wait to return and hold her again. And it really, really hurts now that she goes to sleep at 7 and doesn’t wake up until the morning. I mean, I basically have just an hour or two of time with her when she’s awake. I can’t possibly imagine spending the 9-10 hours she’s sleeping with her in another room, apart from me. The pain would be too much to bear, for both of us.

Night time is our time together. It brings us closer. We bond and love each other more when we wake up in the morning. I know this even though she can’t express this verbally. Sometimes in the night, she nuzzles into my chest or she reaches up to touch my face. When she opens her eyes, she searches for me and smiles when she sees me, just before she drifts off to sleep once again.

I know what people are thinking. I’ve already heard it all. I’ve heard the story about the parents rolling over their baby or the baby who just stopped breathing in the middle of the night. I understand these risks, and I take precautions to bedshare safely (read the work of Dr. McKenna or Dr. Sears if you want to learn more).

I’ve heard the arguments that my daughter will never be able to sleep on her own. I just haven’t read convincing anecdotal evidence to support that statement, and quite frankly I’d much rather pull the plug on sleeping together when she’s old enough for us to have a conversation about it than to do so now when she can’t understand and might think that I am punishing her, denying her of my love.

I’ve heard that I’m coddling her and raising her to be dependent on me. I’d counter that I’m giving her the love and attention and physical closeness that she needs at this age, and that she is learning that I am here for her no matter what. That she can be secure enough to go out and find new adventures, because she has someone she can rely on to help her when she needs it. And, I will say that so far I can provide anecdotal evidence that this is true.

I’ve heard that this will drive my husband and me apart. I won’t speak for him, but I’ll say that I’ve never felt closer to him. When I open my eyes at night and in the morning I see the two people I love most in the world right there with me, and I feel even more like a family unit.

I’m aware of all the arguments, and I’m aware of all the techniques to get my baby to sleep on her own in her own room. But, I’m not interested. I’m doing what’s best for my family, and before others judge, I hope they’ll consider that there are other points of view. That some people, myself included, think that Ferberizing a baby is as evil as they think bedsharing is. That there is substantial research to show that sleeping with one’s baby is beneficial to the baby, as much as there is research to show that it is dangerous.

When it comes down to it, all parents can do is to do the research and make an informed decision about what they feel is best for their children — what feels right to them — and that’s what I am doing. So, yes, I’ll not hide this anymore. I’ll come out and say that I share a bed with my baby, I think it’s what’s best for her, and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. And I’ll go toe to toe with anyone who wants to tell me otherwise.

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8 responses

9 10 2009
Cara

Seriously, how many babies die each year from SIDS? Now, how many die from being smothered or whatever from co-sleeping? The question isn’t why are you co-sleeping, the question is why isn’t everyone?

Doing what is right for you and yours is the most important thing. Screw the rest. (Too harsh?)

9 10 2009
Michelle Garrison Hough

Hi Zahra,
What you say makes sense to me! I also had to have an emergency section with my first, and then a planned section with my second (they said I had too much scar tissue to have a VBAC). After the emergency section, I developed preclampsia. So I got to nurse Alec in recovery, but was not allowed to sleep with him or hold him for very long until 24 hours after he was born. The nurses then put him into bed with me and he slept there, contentedly. I will always cherish that moment. Alec slept in our bed for the first couple of months, and I have liked napping and sleeping off and on with both of our boys. I love having them in my bed. My husband is against it, so we compromise. Luckily they like their beds and also our bed. You have to do what’s right for you, and if I only saw my boys two or three hours per day, you are damned right I would sleep with both of them all night in a California King! :)

Michelle

19 10 2009
Attachment Parenting Month 2009 Blog Carnival of Growth | Attachment Parenting International Blog

[…] Uncovering the Truth About Cosleeping – Khoresht-e Catfish When I became a mother I didn’t subscribe to any one parenting philosophy. I read all the books and formed my opinions when I was pregnant, but the minute Azita was born all of that went straight to the medical waste can. […]

21 10 2009
Dr Sam B

Hi Zahra,

I really enjoyed reading this piece – thanks for writing it! I can really relate to what you said. I received so many hurtful comments about my plans to co-sleep before my little girl was born, including a good one from my aunt that “you’ll either end up with a flat baby or a dead baby!” which put me into floods of tears at the time. I wondered whether I was planning on doing the right thing, but when Leela arrived, I knew it was the only way to do it. From the very first night, she slept in my bed in the hospital and still does now she’s 9 months old. I also plan to continue until she’s ready to make the choice to have her own bed by herself, as like you say, how could she possibly understand why I’ve moved her from her safe, happy place to somewhere out of sight? Even though I spend all day with her, which is a blessing beyond words, I still enjoy the nights the most. Leela also wakes up occasionally, but then we snuggle up and go back to sleep. Simple, effective and great for both of us. I hope you continue and know that you’re not alone, even when the world seems against us! (and as far as I’m aware, there’s far MORE evidence that co-sleeping is better for babies, than there is evidence that it causes SIDS, and that’s me judging it as a scientist! :o) )

21 10 2009
Anita

You took the words right out of my mouth. Before I was pregnant I didn’t even consider co-sleeping. However, once my DD was in my arms I couldn’t sleep without her. She’s 21 months now and once in a while will sleep in her toddler bed. But I’m not pushing it on her. She gets to sleep wherever she feels comfortable to sleep. And we both sleep soundly more times than not.

21 10 2009
zsafavian

It’s really great to hear about all of the other mothers who believe in co-sleeping. If you haven’t read Dr. McKenna’s book, it’s really worth a read, even though it’s really preaching to the choir. I was really stunned by some of the research he presents, especially regarding some of the processes that occur when a baby sleeps. So many people are leaving their newborns alone with no physical contact when their bodies are busy pruning brain cells — i.e., figuring out which cells are necessary and which ones are just using up energy. It’s almost scary to think about the implications of this.

24 10 2009
A Magical Childhood

We didn’t plan on cosleeping either, but I had a C-section too and it just felt right and made things so much easier. My husband and I have now slept with all four of our babies and it’s been wonderful for all of us.

There’s pretty good research about cosleeping lowering SIDS rates by as much as half for some ages. I put some links and info here: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-23788-Minneapolis-Attachment-Parenting–Examiner~y2009m9d29-Research-shows-infants-sleeping-in-isolation-twice-as-likely-to-die-of-SIDS

Sounds like you have a very lucky baby. :) Good for you for following your heart.
~Alicia

24 10 2009
Alessandra

I’m still cosleeping with my 26 months little boy and I also have no plans to stop until he’s ready and willing to start sleeping on his own.
I appreciate the fact that this mom decided not to hide the fact that she’s cosleeping with her child.
All AP moms should be proud of what they do, not only about cosleeping, and should totally disregard any judgment, opinion or pressure from relatives, old-school-doctors and whomever doesn’t understand anything about chldren.
Let’s not hide what we do and think and do, and the world will change for good.

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