In light of the controversial campaign by the Milwaukee Health Department (as seen to the right), I would like to share my thoughts and experiences with co-sleeping, or more specifically in my case, bedsharing. If you’d like to read a bit more about the facts of co-sleeping, please visit this article at Kaia Magazine.
I suppose I should mention first that I am a breastfeeding mom (this comes into play in a moment). I was 22 when I had my first baby and the idea was really not one I was comfortable with. I wasn’t yet comfortable with my body, but once E was born and I looked into those eyes… Well, let’s just say that I was his. He had a hard time latching and I was inexperienced – we would spend more than a month pumping, crying (both of us!), nursing and everything in-between. I started like any new mom with a crib and bassinet to keep him close, but I soon found myself with my sweet baby in bed with me. It was partially out of ease, but there was more. It felt right and he did better – he nursed better, he slept better and he was far happier in general. I was able to sleep better as a result too. I slept lighter, but I slept.
Fast forward 3 years and our first daughter is born 7 1/2 weeks premature. She was amazing and so strong, but still so small. We brought her home at just two weeks old, but still quite early and small. My husband was scared of her sleeping with us, and really who could blame him? We bought one of those movement monitors to keep an eye on her breathing, but a week later she would too find her way into our bed, sleeping peacefully. L would go on to spend about 15 months in our bed before moving to her own, though that would change after we brought G home from the hospital.
G came right home and into our bed. Twenty-six months later, she’s still there! I would complain, but she’s amazing. She sleeps like an angel and I can’t think of anything better to wake up to than her cheerful face, snuggles or “I love you”s.
I want to say first and foremost that co-sleeping (bedsharing) is not for everyone. I do think that most people would be surprised by how aware of their child they become, but infants aren’t experiments and this is an area that requires deliberate action and some confidence. I do believe that co-sleeping is a good thing and I know that there are proven physiological benefits. I highly recommend reading up on Kangaroo Care for some amazing insight into the physiological benefits of close contact. While they aren’t exactly the same, the physiological benefits do mirror one another. It’s really quite amazing the way that our bodies work with others, especially our infants. In addition, co-sleeping helps families bond. There is a closeness there that is simply amazing, for my husband too! He works all day and I’m here with the kids, but each night he gets to snuggle up to his baby girl.
So here’s the deal – Safety is key. Just as there are precautions to take with crib sleeping (no bumpers, pillow, toys, etc), there are precautions with co-sleeping. Pillows do not go near babies, there should be no gaps for baby to fall ino/get stuck in and light blankets are a must, in fact I sleep with only a sheet. My husband uses a light cotton blanket, like the one seen here. I even used a breathable bed rail for quite some time as extra security, just like you would use for a child transitioning to a big bed. There are even devices to help provide baby with their own space, while co-sleeping. The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper is one great solution.
While co-sleeping is not for everyone, I feel that scare tactics, like those used by the Milwaukee Health Department, are harmful by not providing full and accurate information. Whether people choose to co-sleep or not, they should be informed in order to help empower them to make the right decision for their family.
What are you thoughts on this campaign, or on co-sleeping? I’d love to hear them!
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