I didn't co-sleep (or more specifically, bed-share) with my first child. We shared a room, but he was in a crib by my bed. I got up every time he fussed and dutifully sat in a rocking chair, nursing him, every couple hours during the first few months. It worked out fine for us, but by the time my second kid came around I found myself sleeping with him more and more and the third kid was in my bed even more than the second. My fourth bed-shared from the get-go.
There are definite, major advantages to bed-sharing. If you're breastfeeding, you will usually rouse when your baby starts to stir, and you can ward off a screaming hunger cry well before it bursts forth. You become a comfortable pair, snoozing in tandem, and even though your baby wakes up often to nurse, you generally feel more rested in the morning. Parenting at night becomes instinctive and natural rather than scheduled or stressed.
Manda, mom of one, agrees with that assessment. "I love it because I'm able to tend to Leo right when he wakes up, which means it's easier for me to put him back to sleep because he doesn't stir himself completely awake," she shares. "He also sleeps for longer stretches of time (four to five hours compared to two in his crib)." Kelly, mom of two, reports a similar experience. "It's easy to feed at night and we both just go right back to sleep," she explains. "Nice, slow, gradual wake ups. I loved having him close. Still do."
However, that's not to say that it is without its occasional downfalls. Sometimes, we have to admit that co-sleeping isn't always the most comfortable thing ever. "I do often wake up with back pain because his tiny human self seems to sleep in crazy positions that take up most of the bed," explains Manda. Kristin, mother of one, also reported a few painful nights. "My back was not so fond of waking up half stuffed in her crib (we 'sidecar-ed') because she wouldn't sleep in our bed but still wanted skin to skin that night," she says.
And another downside is that, at least for a while, you might find yourself going to bed when your kid does, and this means you can fall asleep earlier than you normally would. "For the longest time I had to go to bed when she did so I had no time to myself," Cheryl, mom of one, tells me.
Still, despite these drawbacks, moms report that they wouldn't change their co-sleeping habits. "I love the easy access to nurse in the middle of the night, all the snuggles and waking up to a huge grin," Kristin says. "We both sleep better when we're together." Leah, mom of one, had a similar experience when her girl was small. "I slept better knowing that I could respond to her right away if she needed something without having to wake up," she explains.
As long as you co-sleep safely (that is, lay Baby to bed on a firm mattress, keep pillows, blankets and toys away from her face, keep her between you and the wall and don't use alcohol or drugs before you bed down for the night), the benefits outweigh the discomforts. Everyone has different experiences, of course, and what works for one mom might not work for another — also, some moms adore every second and others can't bear to co-sleep in the first place. But even if we can admit that co-sleeping isn't always completely awesome, most of us who do practice it say that it's the best thing ever.
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