Lisa Hamilton: Co-Sleeping

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There is nothing more incredible than waking up in the morning to a big, sleepy, baby smile. Co-sleeping, sharing sleep, family bed, whatever you want to call it, it is a subject I did quite a bit of reading on when I was pregnant, No matter how much I read about it, I had very mixed feelings, but not any more.

Before having my daughter, I loved the theory of co-sleeping, but I was very worried about the reality of it. What if I rolled over on her in my sleep? What if she fell out of bed? What if I buried her under a pillow? My husband thought co-sleeping sounded great and didn’t see any reason to invest money in a bassinet or cradle. We did buy a crib, and it is great for storing the many stuffed animals and toys we have been given!

My daughter is almost four months old now, and we have never spent a night sleeping apart. Sharing sleep with her is simply the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced.

The nurses in the hospital were key players in helping me to overcome my fear of sleeping with my baby girl. They showed me how to position pillows against the bedrail on the hospital bed so that my tiny newborn couldn’t fall out. We slept together in the hospital and once we got home I couldn’t imagine not sleeping with her.

When Skylar was a tiny newborn, she really wanted close body contact. She and I would both sleep on our sides facing each other. I positioned her head on my arm as a pillow, and snuggled her close. I always woke up in exactly the same position. Now that she is getting a little older, she prefers to sleep on her back and she will put her hand or feet out to touch me. She will sometimes wake up in the night and squirm around a bit, and all I have to do is cuddle her close like I did when she was tiny and she falls right back to sleep.

Sharing sleep makes my nights so easy. I have no idea how often she wakes up to nurse. We have learned to nurse in a side-lying position, so when she starts rooting around to nurse at night, neither one of us really needs to fully wake up. It has helped to keep me well rested, and I feel so good that my daughter doesn’t have to wake up crying to be fed. She and I are in harmony with each other. In the mornings, she wakes up and smiles a big, wide, grin. What a nice way to wake up for both of us!

Co-sleeping is also very comforting. With Skylar so close to me, I always know she is OK. I don’t need to panic and run to check her crib if she sleeps through a feeding. It is so comforting to feel the warmth of her little body next to me all night. I enjoy every sleepy little sigh, cough, and wiggle.

Are there drawbacks to co-sleeping? Sure. I do sometimes miss intimate cuddles with my husband before falling asleep, but we find times for that. We get family cuddles and seeing how fast Skylar is growing, we enjoy every one of them because we know how quickly she will outgrow them. Another drawback is that I often wake up with a stiff neck or a sore back from whatever sleep position I ended up in when I was nursing. At least I don’t start every day exhausted from lack of sleep.

Do I worry about hurting my daughter when she sleeps with us? Never. Not from the moment she was born. I can’t explain it, but it just feels "right." I do have a bedrail on my side of the bed, which she sleeps next to so she won’t fall out. She hates the covers and kicks them off whenever I try to cover her, so I just dress her warm enough to sleep without covers and she does fine.

I don’t really know how long we will continue with our family bed. I know it will last at least as long as Skylar needs to be fed or comforted during the night. I used to worry about her never wanting to sleep alone since I used to not be able to put her down to sleep unless I was with her, but as she gets older she is learning to take naps by herself. I’m sure there will be a time when we are all ready for her to move to her own crib, but it isn’t a day I want to rush towards.

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