Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Cosleeping Journey

This past weekend, while sleeping with my husband and little girl on a futon, I thought about how easy bedsharing has made trips. It's wonderful. And while the futon was smaller than what we're used to, we were all comfortable and no one fell off or missed out on sleep because of the smaller space.

It was not always that way. Sure, our cosleeping journey could be summed up as, "Margaret was born, we slept with her that night and every night after that. The end." But it's not as simple as that.

I definitely understand when people say they need their space. That was me.

When we got married, we had different expectations for sleep. McKay expected to cuddle and spoon and such. I expected to be left to my own side of the bed and not touched so I could sleep. Poor McKay.

But he was patient with me. Over time, I eventually got used to someone else in the bed. By "over time" I mean a year to 18 months later, I finally got used to it. Of course, 18 months later I was sharing my body with a little Margaret. Maybe getting used to sleeping with people around me was a result of the fact that you can't really separate yourself from your in utero tenant. But by the time I had Margaret, I was sort of ok with people touching me while asleep.

Of course, this was because I was such a deep sleeper that I didn't notice when I got touched. This worried me; would I notice if my baby stirred?

My labor with Margaret was long. I was tired afterwards. Very tired. I think she was too. And I think McKay was also tired, but I wasn't paying that much attention to him. We went to bed that first night and slept. I slept for 6 hours and then woke up in a panic.

"My baby hasn't eaten in 6 hours! I'm starving her!" I jumped up, picked her up, and attempted to latch a sleeping baby. "You have to eat. You need to eat constantly. It's been so long!"

And the rest of the day continued like that. She slept, occassionally woke to nurse, but slept more than nursed and I thought I was starving her. However, by 48 hours, she was waking more regularly and my panic subsided (yay for calling LLL leaders!)

The next few weeks were interesting. Part of me still wanted my straight sleep, of course, and part of me was getting used to the little person next to me. There were nights that I didn't hear Margaret stir, but McKay did and he would wake me up. I wondered if maybe I was too heavy of a sleeper to wake up for my baby. But slowly and surely, somewhere around 2 and 3 weeks, our sleep linked up and I noticed her more. It was sort of like magic- or more like there was some brain function I had never used before that suddenly came into effect. Something in my brain awoke and said, "There's a baby, it's your baby, be with the baby." Now, over a year and a half later, I'm the one hearing her wake up and McKay's the one sleeping through everything. Just a week ago, she woke up screaming and wouldn't take the breast. I did help her go back to sleep and asked McKay the next morning if he heard that. "No."

Despite my heavy sleeping early on, I didn't worry about smothering Margaret. We kept the pillows away from her, and I trusted that I could sense her presence. I hadn't fallen out of the bed in years, so obviously on some subconscious level, I knew where the edge of the bed was. I trusted that same subconscious level to let me know where my baby was.

Our sleeping got infinitely better at 2 weeks when we bought a night light. I could get up and nurse her without getting completely out of bed to turn on a light. This meant more sleep for me.

Also around that time, I learned to nurse lying down. Also a wonderful development for sleeping with her.

It didn't take long to notice that the longer I stay in bed with her, the longer she sleeps. In fact, it's currently after 9:30 and Margaret is still asleep because I'm blogging this from the bed. If I leave the bed early, she wakes up earlier. I first noticed this pattern when she was 3 months old and it has continued that way (minus teething and illness).

She does kick us sometimes. Last night I woke up once to find her feet at my face, so I just turned her back around and latched her on. Not only does breastfeeding give her lots of happy health benefits, it forces her to not have her feet in our faces!

How long will we continue? I don't know. I've come a long way from rejecting my cuddly husband on our wedding night to sleeping with a wiggly toddler. We'll probably continue when we have a second child. I know she'll get out of our bed eventually. I trust that she'll know when that day is. Until then, we get to wake up to a smiley Margaret.

I wrote this on Monday, which is why there are time differences between posting and when I said I was typing this.


  1. I feel like I could have written this post!

  2. Haha, I could write the exact opposite --- I'm the one who wants to snuggle, and DH is the one who wants to be left alone to sleep! We've met in the middle some though, sometimes now he will like a cuddle, and sometimes I just want to be left alone :)

    I wonder if staying in bed blogging would help my (6am waking) toddler stay asleep longer... that would be nice... :)

  3. Nursing in bed is a lifesaver! *B

  4. Thanks for posting this! We are at the beginning of our co-sleeping journey and it's nice to read what we have to look forward to!

  5. I never slept with my first baby. I didn't think there was room in our bed for her, and I couldn't even handle hearing her in the same room because I wouldn't sleep. But then I had my second baby and he slept with me from that first night. The first time I nursed him, I was laying down, so that made life SO much easier. He slept in bed with me most every night until a few weeks ago. I started to put him to bed in the crib at first, then whenever he'd wake up, I'd bring him into bed with me. I've kept doing that and he now mostly sleeps through the night. For us, we've found that he now sleeps much longer on his own. When he's in bed with me, he often kicks and squirms so much that he keeps us both awake, and he nurses much more frequently.

    Sometimes I still marvel that I've come from the asking-for-the-epidural-at-37-weeks and never-EVER-sleeping-with-my-baby camp to the I-had-my-baby-in-a-bathtub and my-baby-sleeps-with-me side of things. I don't regret either of my choices, because they were the best for me at the time. But I am grateful for my education and change of heart. This feels so much more right to me now.

  6. I think I started to get over my space issue when I was pregnant, too...because I was just so big by then that we HAD to touch sometimes in bed. I couldn't co-sleep at first, but then I started nursing him in bed at night, and slowly I got used to falling asleep with him there. I still like my space, but don't mind cuddling a bit, and there have been times when the three of us have wound up all squished together, and I have been okay with it. I think if you have the right attitude, you can get used to it, and then reap the benefits of not having to get up in the middle of the night to retrieve a crying child and all the other blessings of co-sleeping.

  7. I knew we wanted to co-sleep at least the first 2 years and breastfeed about as long, but here I am still sleeping with and breastfeeding a four year old AND a two year old. It has just worked out that way. We enjoy it, it helps them feel secure and happy - sending them to a different room to sleep just seems unsafe and uncuddly.

  8. The sense of awareness while co-sleeping is amazing. More than once have I reached out in my sleep to grab a little ankle just as my infant was about to fall off the bed (and I have learned my lesson and am very careful to not fall asleep with her on the edge!!)

  9. I should write about our cosleeping journey. Zeb has slept with us off and on for years. But when we took him out of school it increased a lot. Just recently he decided he didn't want to sleep in our bed but doesn't like his room either. So now we have a "sleeping room" where both beds are and his room is now a "studio" where he works on his projects.

    I think I slept with my mom as often as I could until I was 12. But I always remember her not being as welcoming. Those memories really guide my interactions with Zeb.

  10. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Ok, please be kind to my ignorance because I am unfamilier with all the details of cosleeping. If the baby/toddler is in bed with you every night, is sex just off the table at night? Do you have to plan it ahead of time?
    Ok, now stop laughing at me for asking such a silly question and help educate me.
    Michelle B.

  11. Actually, sex would be less "off the table" and more "on the table." ;) You get creative. We have a studio apartment- and while I know having sex in the room your child is sleeping in gives Americans the heebie jeebies, it's not that big of a deal. When McKay and I were discussing whether or not to move to a bigger place when Margaret was born (I hate moving and so I was against it), I asked him, "When you lived in Brazil, there were families with homes as small as ours- and how many people lived in the home?" Small places can fit big families and the size of the place doesn't seem to prevent the family from growing.

    Also, if your bed is big enough and if your child is a deep sleeper, you might be able to just go ahead on the bed (however shocking it seems). It's actually a route we've gone- we have a firm memory foam mattress, so movement doesn't travel, you know?

    Anyway, that's probably more than you wanted to hear, but it's really not that big of a deal if you don't make it a big deal. You just get creative about when and where.

    I think having kids in general means you'll have to do more planning. Even if we had a separate room and bed for Margaret, we'd have to wait for her bedtime or naptime and be interrupted by her waking up. I think all parents have to work around their kids schedules.

  12. Anonymous9:02 AM

    Michelle B.


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