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To Co-Sleep or Not to Co-Sleep: Part 1
To co-sleep or not to co-sleep, it is a very good question.
First and foremost this article is not a place of judgment. Every child is different and each family situation unique.
If you want to explore some of the pros/cons of co-sleeping then you will need to do your own research. Two articles that I did find refreshing are Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines from the University of Notre Dame and Dr. Sear’s article Co-Sleeping: Yes, No, Sometimes. Neither article passes judgment but rather provides advice, and re-assurance. Every parent can use a little, or a lot, of both at times.
Several years back one friend, a new mother, was seeking both of those. She was receiving quite a few judgmental comments about her co-sleeping with her daughter. I believe the only advice I gave was the same advice passed from my grandmother to my mother and from my mother to me. Give the baby, or toddler, his/her own designated sleep space and opportunities to sleep on his/her own. My mom said co-sleeping isn’t bad but we need to make sure that as the baby turns into a toddler and a young child that he/she understands the need for his/her own bed.
After sharing that advice I know I explained my own history. There are pictures of my dad and me taking a nap together in his recliner. Nap times were the times where my parents chose to co-sleep with me. At bedtime they placed me in my bassinet (as an infant) and then later a crib. When I was visiting with my grandparents I tended to co-sleep with them more often than not.
At the age of four my world was rocked by the passing of my grandfather. After which I had frequent nightmares. My father had a chair next to my bed where he would sit and read me stories. On nights where I had difficulty falling asleep he would sit with me until I fell asleep. Sometime overnight I would still find my way into my parent’s bedroom and fall asleep on the foot of their bed if I didn’t crawl in-between them.
Over night stays with my grandmother now meant I rarely slept in my own bed. I have memories of waking up at night and watching her sleep to make sure she wasn’t going to leave me as well.
When I was five or six my grandmother moved three states away to be closer to one of her other daughters. By this time I was school aged and spending more time in my own bed at home and less time visiting my grandmother.
The point of sharing that story with my friend was that “to everything there is a season”. Co-sleeping for me was not something that took place 100% of the time since I was a baby. Co-sleeping was tied to needing re-assurance and safety. Two things parents want to provide their children with.
Three years ago my nephews lived with us for a while. My youngest nephew was only a baby at the time. Even though he was the best baby ever, the first two months were still difficult. He easily fell asleep in my arms or on my husband’s chest, in his swing and when he was rocked in his bassinet. Once he was asleep we could leave him in his bassinet or move him to his crib. Any co-sleeping were the times he would sleep in our arms while we watched TV.
When there were late-night wake-ups, my nephew would easily fall back asleep in his bassinet. At three months old he was rolling over and by the fourth month he was lifting his head with ease. This meant more crib time for naps and bedtime. He would easily fall asleep with a few minutes of lullaby music by the time he was nine months old and sleep at least six hours. He was the perfect little baby.
Life and sleeping were a different story when he was fifteen months old. He had moved back home with his parents and only spent the night at our house from time to time. During these visits he refused to sleep in his old crib and he no longer liked the nighttime routine we once had. After a few sleepless nights when he visited we decided to see if he would sleep in his playpen in our bedroom. This seemed to work for a few months.
One night both Rent-a-Dad and I woke up to a very upset toddler who was trying to climb into our bed. It seemed as if my nephew was having sleep anxiety and wanted to make sure none of us were going to leave him while he slept. Ever since that night we have become used to waking up with our nephew at the foot of our bed, on the pillows above our heads or wedged in-between us. Even with a nighttime story book routine and settling down in his bed, some point overnight he would wake up and find his way to our bedroom.
More and more my nephew does sleep the majority of the night in his own bed. His season of co-sleeping is winding down. Whenever he needs it we re-assure him that we will not disappear on him.
As for how we as foster parents feel about co-sleeping and the guidelines we have to follow… well you will need to read Part 2 of this article.