Baby Owl is now three months old, and growing like a chubby little weed. We’ve settled into a comfortable little routine together. Part of that routine involves cosleeping.
Cosleeping is a controversial practice in the United States…and it can get confusing, because the term “cosleeping” can be applied to multiple different practices. Some people use the term to refer to having the baby sleep in the same room as her parent(s), but in a separate bed (a crib, a bassinet, or whatever). Sometimes it refers to bed-sharing, where the baby sleeps in the same bed as the parent(s). For us, cosleeping now refers to the latter definition.
Before Baby Owl was born, Mr. Owl and I planned to cosleep…in the first sense of the word. We live in a one-bedroom apartment, so we set up our crib at the foot of our bed.
We tried to use this setup. We really did. For the first week or so after we came home from the hospital, we tried to put her in the crib to sleep. She would never stay asleep for longer than fifteen minutes or so. And it wasn’t like she would fuss minimally and then go back to sleep. No, when she woke up and realized she was no longer being held, she would get screaming mad. Furthermore, in that first week, she absolutely refused to sleep at night. Well, at least not without a good two hours of walking and bouncing in mommy’s (or daddy’s) arms. And then she would sleep for fifteen minutes in her crib before waking up angry and starting the cycle all over again.
This meant a very exhausted mommy.
Shortly after Baby Owl was born, my mom flew to Riyadh and stayed with us for the first month of Baby Owl’s life. She slept in our bedroom with me and the baby, while Mr. Owl slept on the couch. (We didn’t want to make my mom sleep on the couch.) After several nights of sleep deprivation for all of us, my mom spilled her dirty infant sleep secret.
She and my dad coslept–as in, bed-sharing–when I was a baby. I didn’t know that. I did know that until I was about five my parents put my brother and me to bed in our own beds every night, but we both always ended up wandering over to their bed within a few hours. By the time I hit first grade, my parents had given up on putting us in our own beds and just let us fall asleep in their bed at night, because that’s where we slept best (and we never objected to bedtime because my parents had a big TV in their room with every single Elvis movie on Betamax. Yes, that somewhat gives away my age, and yes, I have been unapologetically nerdtastic from my earliest years). Eventually, when we were ready and on our own time, my brother and I both transitioned to our own beds in our own rooms.
“We might want to try it,” my mom suggested tentatively.
So we did. And Baby Owl slept. We placed her between us in the bed, with no pillows, sheets, or blankets near her. She slept for three hours straight without crying. Then, when she woke up, I scooted close to her, laid on my side, and nursed her back to sleep. She slept for another five hours after that.
And that was it.
Mr. Owl was a bit weirded out by the idea when I told him what my mom and I had discovered worked best for Baby Owl, but he was willing to give it a try. He was converted after the first night. He loved being able to glance over at the baby and check on her whenever he woke up, and he loved that when she woke up and needed to be soothed or fed, we had easy access to her.
We are now dedicated bed-sharing cosleepers. To be honest, Baby Owl tends to wake up just as much as she did when we tried to get her to sleep in the crib, but she doesn’t fully rouse and become upset, the way she did in the crib. She will move around a bit, make a few noises, and then go back to sleep. I think cosleeping makes her feel secure.
(It seems everyone in our family has embraced cosleeping. Andy (our Yorkshire Terrier) sleeps on my right side, while Baby Owl sleeps on my left, but one morning I woke up and went to the bathroom and when I came back, Andy had taken my place in the bed.)
Cosleeping is how Baby Owl sleeps best, and how Mr. Owl and I sleep best, as well. Research shows that as long as the parents don’t drink, smoke, or take drugs (which we don’t), the risk of SIDS is no higher for cosleeping babies than for crib-sleeping babies. Furthermore, there is some research to the effect that safe cosleeping actually helps prevent SIDS because it helps regulate baby’s breathing. Mr. Owl and I follow all safety precautions, and we are both very light sleepers. We have a king size bed, so there is plenty of room.
I totally understand not being comfortable with the idea of cosleeping, though. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not something I envisioned doing when I first had Baby Owl. But, well…you know what they say about the best laid plans. And it’s just what works for our little family.