Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Newborn Co-Sleeping

Like most parents we had intended to sleep our baby in a moses basket and then move her into a cot when she was older. She was born at home, in a planned home birth, in the early hours of the morning. About an hour after she was born she breastfed and she was then put down, asleep, in her moses basket where she slept soundly until 9am or so, when she fed again. She did a lot of sleeping in her first few hours but by the evening of her first day of life she had already figured out that the moses basket was bad news. My memories of the days after the birth are hazy, but I recall that the first night we struggled to get her to stay asleep in her basket for more than a few minutes until about 4am when Cave Father got her to sleep on his chest, and kept her there for the rest of the night. The following night saw a similar performance. At this point you might well be thinking that the baby simply had her nights and days mixed up. But on the third night, after a couple of hours of messing about with the moses basket, I gave up, took her into our bed, lay down and nursed us both to sleep. And the remarkable thing was that she then slept the rest of the night, waking briefly to feed but never crying or fussing. The baby who could not sleep for more than a few minutes in a moses basket could sleep soundly for two hours nestled next to her mother with open access to the breast.

To a mother primed to expect nights broken by the cries of an infant, the peace and serenity of co-sleeping was a revelation. When people asked how she was sleeping, I honestly had to answer, "Really well. She never cries at night." But even while my baby was showing me how she wanted to be mothered, I was feeling guilty for parenting in the "wrong" way and I continued to struggle to sleep her in a moses basket. Needless to say, my stone age baby was having none of it and made sure that she took her rightful, natural place beside me every night.

My self-doubt arose from a clash between what books and "childcare experts" were telling me, and what my baby and my instincts guided me to do. Six months on, having read more deeply into the subject, I am so grateful that I have co-slept with my baby since the very beginning and I consider it a gift to both of us.


Bullajabbar said...

I am having weird feelings about the co-sleeping because Sprout was born 5 weeks early. When we got out of the hospital and came home, I put him in the cot, which was huge, and he really didn't take to it. So, I did what I had intended to do and put him into bed with us, and he sleeps great!

But I keep getting those leaflets about SIDS from the midwives and one of the guidelines is not to co-sleep with a low birth weight or premature baby. I did challenge a midwife about it a little, and she just kinda shrugged her shoulders.

But I'll be damned if I kick my Sprout out of my bed, especially if this is the way he wants to sleep. But those leaflets scare the crap out of me. Why do they do that and why is it such a big deal?

Cave Mother said...

I don't know what the official advice is about preemies. It may be that they say "don't co-sleep" because there has been no research on it. I suppose the midwives are in a difficult position, because if they say it's OK and something bad happens, they may worry that they will be sued.
If you are following all the usual safety advice, surely it must be OK? I hope you are able to do what you want, and that you are both able to sleep well.

Olivia said...

My mother co-slept with me, and I had a friend who co-slept with her son, so I was fortunate to have encouragement and know it was okay and natural.

My daughter has slept in our bed from day one, even in the hospital. I can only imagine how tired parents must be when they don't sleep with their baby. Like you said, she basically sleeps thru the night only waking enough to latch on.

I love the surprised looks I get when I tell people how rested I am as a new mother.