Guest Post by Sarah Sperber
Let me guess. You stumbled upon this article in high hopes of finding the answer. HOW?! How do I get my child to stay put in his or her own bed all night? How do I break this cycle of sleepless nights?! How, dear Lord, HOW do I wake up rested and not looking like a zombie each and every morning? You probably found this article because you were hoping to find the answer to how to break the co-sleeping habit between you and your little one. Am I right?
Well, sorry to disappoint you, mommies. (And slightly less sorry to disappoint you, daddies and/or significant others.) You are not going to find that answer here. Instead, I am here to tell you that co-sleeping is actually a wonderful, natural, and amazing way to bond with your child, and has several health and psychological benefits as well for both parties. There is no how-to manual for parenting, and everyone is entitled to make their own choices along the way. But, if you want my opinion, I am a huge supporter of co-sleeping, even though it most definitely means making some huge sacrifices, such as sleep and sexy time with your partner.
CO-SLEEPING IS NATURAL.
Nearly all co-sleeping enthusiasts will back up their position with the notion that it is natural. Well, simply put, it is! Consider ancient human history. Ancient humans in tribal and hunter-gatherer societies would co-sleep with their young in order to protect them and keep them safe from predators. Historically, humans were also not living in two, three, or four-bedroom houses either. Kids didn’t have their own rooms or beds. The entire family (including the elders – i.e., grandparents) shared a single living space. (Thank GOD we have evolved past that. Sorry, grandma…)
Also, breastfeeding is natural. I am certainly not here to shame you if you can’t or choose not to breastfeed. Your choice is absolutely your prerogative as a mother. Sometimes women experience health complications that take breastfeeding off the table entirely, and that can’t be helped. Even so, there is no denying that our evolution as humans began with breastfeeding being the only option for feeding an infant. In ancient societies, babies co-slept with their mothers, not only for safety, but also because babies need to nurse throughout the night. It was and continues to be convenient.
If you have a newborn and you are nursing, you will get substantially more sleep each night if you choose to co-sleep. You will get to a point where you can simply lay on your side while feeding the baby and not really wake up. It yields more sleep for you, your partner, and it is comforting for the baby. Just be extremely careful if you choose to co-sleep with a tiny infant because they can easily get injured and/or suffocate if you roll on to them in your sleep.
Given that the alternative involves waking up and getting out of bed, heating up a bottle of formula or pumped milk, sitting up in a (hopefully comfortable glider) chair, convincing your baby that the rubber nipple is just as good as the real thing, and then feeding them for the whole 20 minutes it takes, laying on your side doesn’t sound too bad. #amirite? Also, after you feed, you are likely in for a solid burping session and potentially even a diaper change. This whole process can take 45 minutes. It can happen several times each night. While your partner may be able to help with the burden if you are bottle feeding, one or the other will always be making the sacrifice of sleep.
CO-SLEEPING HAS POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACTS.
If you are worried about your child becoming too clingy or dependent because you are allowing them to cuddle up with you at night, please stop. If you are worried that it will go on for too long, please stop. Let’s put it into perspective. This phase (whether it be 6 months or nearly 6 years) will eventually pass. Your kid isn’t going to be studying for her SAT exams before crawling into your bed at night. (If she is, there are probably some other issues worth examining…)
On the contrary, your child is more likely than not going to be the one pushing you away from cuddling and holding before you are really ready. (Hello, puberty!) While in the phase of co-sleeping, it may feel like an eternity. But I am willing to bet that you will be missing the snuggling of your precious little person sooner than you think. You may even, at some point, find yourself sneaking in for the hugs they refuse to give you after they have fallen asleep. So, my best advice is to stop worrying about what others are doing or thinking. Stop reading anti-co-sleeping arguments and articles. Stop worrying about what you should be doing and start relishing in the tender moments that you have with your child while you still can.
Additionally, co-sleeping with your child will actually positively influence and sync each of your oxygen levels, heart rates, and brain waves. This is especially true with newborn babies. The notion of crib-sleeping is very much a thing of the Western world. In many cultures, it is very common for parents and children to co-sleep and even to breastfeed until the age of three and four.
Beyond that, co-sleeping will strengthen your bond with your child. The impact of feeling safe and feeling nurtured from birth and throughout the child’s younger years has extremely lasting benefits. If you are worried about children becoming too dependent, co-sleeping is actually going to yield the opposite. When a child has a safe and nurturing home base, he or she is likely to cultivate much more independence, self-reliance, and reassurance. The way in which they interact with the world will not be from a place of need or desperation. Rather, they will be operating from a place of wholehearted love and caring. Isn’t that the kind of person you would rather be bringing into the world?
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