Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An End to Co-Sleeping?

Matt and I knew from the very beginning that we wanted to co-sleep with Henry for a couple of reasons. First, we figured it would make breastfeeding in the night infinitely more easy if I could just roll over and satiate his appetite. Secondly, we wanted our child to feel safe, secure, and close to us after leaving the coziness of the womb. Finally, we wanted to be able to more closely monitor him and make sure he was okay through the night.

Since I wasn't sure what kind of co-sleeping or bed-sharing situation would work best for us and our queen-sized bed, I had two different systems ready to go before Henry was born. The first system was the Summer Infant Rest Assured Sleeper:

We figured it would work well on the floor next to our low platform bed.

Our next system was the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest (without the sleep positioners featured below):

We figured that system would be great if we wanted Henry to sleep in the bed with us.

We started with the Snuggle Nest because it became immediately apparent that we wanted to be as close to Henry as possible. However, the Snuggle Nest only lasted about a day for two reasons:
  1. We have a queen-sized bed, so there was no way to contain Matt, the Snuggle Nest, Henry, and me while breastfeeding. I had to move the Snuggle Nest every time, which quickly defeated the purpose of making my life easier with bed-sharing.
  2. Henry made it known early on that he was a very light sleeper and could not tolerate being moved. There was no way to breastfeed him and then transfer him to the Snuggle Nest without waking him up.

So we quickly ditched the Snuggle Nest and just let Henry fall asleep while breastfeeding and stay in that spot on the bed.

Here's what I love about bed-sharing:
  • I love, love, love being close to my son. It is so affirming to the very core of my being when I scoot over and he immediately scooches over to be closer to me.
  • I love staring at his sleeping face in the moonlight.
  • I love being able to monitor his breathing.
  • I love just rolling over to breastfeed. It makes falling back asleep much easier.

Here's what I don't love about bed sharing:
  • It scares the crap out of me having our son sleep on our soft mattress amongst a bunch of pillows and blankets, especially because Henry prefers to sleep on his side or stomach. I have had several mental movies of my sitting on the stand saying, "Yes, your Honor, I was well aware of the 'Back to Sleep' campaign and all the advice about how to make bed sharing safe. Yes, I willfully chose to disregard all of the warnings because I desperately wanted to sleep."
  • As I mentioned, we have a queen-sized bed, which means it is a tight fit for the three of us.
  • It's difficult to be super-quiet while breastfeeding (e.g., burping, etc.), and I feel bad about waking Matt up unnecessarily.
  • In an effort to keep the comforter away from Henry, I am only able to cover the bottom half of my body. My top half is always cold.
  • I don't sleep particularly soundly because my little piglet is often rooting around my breast in his sleep.
  • My arm is always uncomfortable because Henry is pressed up against my side and I have to keep my arm above my head or curved around him.
  • I miss the intimacy that comes from just sharing my bedroom with Matt.

At my Montessori class last week, I asked my teacher when she moved her children to their own room. She explained that she did it at eight weeks, since Montessorians believe that the "symbiotic period" lasts from six to eights weeks. That's the period when the mother and the infant are intensely bonding. After that time, the infant becomes more social and starts to turn outward toward the world.

Originally, Matt and I were thinking that we would move Henry to his own room at three months, since that marks the end of the fourth trimester, but we decided to try it out when he was nine weeks old. If it didn't work out, we would immediately revert to bed-sharing.

The awesome thing about having a Montessori floor bed is that I can still lie down while nursing Henry to sleep. In general, I start nursing at 10:30, and Henry falls asleep by 11:00. Our pediatrician said that Henry should be sleeping for at least one, six-hour stretch in the night, so if Henry wakes up before five or six hours (usually because his farts wake him up), then Matt goes in and soothes him back to sleep. If he isn't easily soothed back to sleep, then we assume he's hungry and I feed him.

The next time he wakes up, it's usually been about five hours since his last feeding, so I go in to feed him.

If he wakes up again (usually due to pooping his pants), then Matt goes in to help solve his problem. The next time he wakes up is usually between 7 and 8, so I wake up and we start our day with breastfeeding.

We intentionally transferred Henry to his own bed on a Thursday, since we were anticipating a really rough night. That way, we would only have one day of being tired at work and then we could rest more over the weekend. The first night was surprisingly smooth, although I did cry over the separation. Oh how I love my little piglet!

The second night was much more rough, with Henry waking up a lot more frequently (often a mere 15 minutes after we had soothed him back to sleep). The third night was easier again, and the fourth night was rougher. A lot of it has to do with what kind of day he has. We find that sleep begets sleep. In other words, the better he naps during the day, the better he sleeps at night.

Overall, I'm really happy that we spent two months bed-sharing and that we have now made the transition. It feels wonderful to have our space back, and I sleep so much better. I also love that Matt gets to share more of the nighttime parenting now. Further, in my Montessori class, we talk about attachment and separation. Montessorians believe that separation is a part of healthy attachment. Although the separation was hard for me, I think it will help our family be healthier in the end. Henry will learn that he can still get his needs met even when he is not right next to us, and we will be more rested (and therefore happier and more patient) parents.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

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Kelsey said...

this sounds like a very healthy transition!

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! As I think about what will work for our family when our son arrives, it's very helpful to have role models who share their strategies and decisions to balance their families' needs. I have found that many of the books I have read strongly advocate one way or another, especially, but not exclusively, related to sleeping arrangements. I'm trying to factor in everything, including our individual situation, and it's helpful to see how you've accomplished that. It sounds like you're doing great!

kacey said...

Your little piglet is so cute! When thinking about a future family (which I do a lot, much to the anxiety of my not-kid-ready husband) I go back and forth on co-sleeping. I feel like the loss of intimacy would be hard. It's why we don't let our dog on the bed! Always nice to hear wise words and other people's experiences.

Kylie said...

Thank you for sharing. It is truly beneficial to know how others handle the situation. We all need to work it out our own way but to share and have another's insight is priceless.

mama mia said...

so nice to hear you are working things out the way they work best for you and yours...it sometimes is just trial and error, despite the "best laid plans"...
call me if you want the baby sleeping book reference that my grandsons were sleep trained on later on...a hard first few nights but then sleeping thru the night, and still very easy to get to bed at ages of 2 and 5

Rachel said...

We're having a hard time with this transition. I always thought we'd just let our baby sleep with us until he was ready -- maybe three years? Now I'm realising that that is a LOOONG way off! Most of me is ready to move him out now (he's 6 months) but part of me grieves it too. And the co-sleeping community isn't helping me because I just feel guilt. But he's such a light sleeper and baby is such a light sleeper that inevitably one of us (even my hubby) ends up on the floor or sleeping somewhere else anyway. That's not really co-sleeping either is it?! So I think, tonight is the night...we'll see how much sleep we all get!

Boydsie said...

Any suggestions on how to make a floor bed safe? Specifically, how to prevent a twin mattress (on a hard wood floor) from sliding, even slightly, to create a gap between the wall and the mattress?

Also, how did things change when he became mobile?

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