We often forget to listen to our intuition. To our gut feeling. We ignore what should come naturally. And nowhere is this truer than when we consider where and how most babies sleep in the Western world.
But, when we trust our evolutionary blueprint and bring our children into our cave to sleep, incredible things can happen. With that in mind, 18 months in, I’d like to share some of my favourite things about why co-sleeping has forever changed the way I parent, for the better.
1. IT FEELS GOOD
Co-sleeping is giving me some of the greatest memories I will have as a mother. Watching my baby sleep curled up in my arms. Waking to his morning smiles and laughter. Hearing “Dada” at 6am. Cinching in and spooning with him in the wee hours of the morning. Absolutely priceless.
2. IT FEELS SAFE
Having co-slept for 18 months, I have never had any concerns for my baby’s safety. I feel reassured knowing that I am next to him if anything happens during the night. When I was pregnant I read about a mother and baby’s natural ability to share sleep cycles. Totally true. I still wake just before my little guy during the night to nurse.
If there was ever an issue with my son’s breathing I’d be far quicker to respond with him lying next to me. Studies have shown that just sharing a room with babies reduces the risk of death due to SIDs or accidents by 50%.
External dangers pose another risk to sleeping babies. From an evolutionary perspective it is one of the top reasons we have evolved to co-sleep as a species. While being attacked by a sabre tooth tiger in the middle of the night may no longer pose a threat, our babies don’t know that. They don’t know they were born in 2014.
And we do have very real dangers in our modern homes which co-sleeping can help to safeguard against. House fires, carbon monoxide and home intruders just to name a few.
3. NO MORE TEARS
A baby’s cry is an alarm. It is supposed to be used for emergencies only. To signal that they are in danger or have a desperate need. When babies are close to their mothers they can use more subtle communication in order to get their needs met. On the rare occasion that my son does cry I know that there is something genuinely wrong and that he needs my attention quickly.
4. IT’S FUN!
Pillow fights, hide and seek, blowing raspberries, climbing all over mum and dad, sucking on dad’s nose and giggles in the dark… we just have so much fun with our little guy in bed with us!
5. IT FEELS NATURAL
The first night we slept in the hospital there was the universal hard clear plastic bassinet next to my bed. I knew that at home I would co-sleep but in the hospital, faced with “Co-sleeping is dangerous!” warnings I felt I should toe the line and place our baby in the bassinet rather than co-sleep.
So I did it and he drifted off to sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. I just lay there watching him, touching his chest to check if he was still breathing. More than anything, after carrying this little guy inside of me for 42 weeks he just felt so far away from me. I felt like part of me was missing… which it was. It lasted less than five minutes before I brought him into bed with me and he hasn’t left yet.
6. IT MAKES BREASTFEEDING EASIER
Co-sleeping has made night nursing SO much easier. When my son is hungry we both half wake up together, he latches on to nurse and we both fall back to sleep. No need to get up. No need to turn the lights on. We both stay warm in bed together, nurse and nod off.
Co-sleeping babies consume on average twice as much breast milk as crib sleeping babies at night. And while I might prefer to nurse more during the day, night time breast milk is different. Night time breast milk contains twice as much growth hormone and significantly more melatonin (a hormone needed to develop circadian rhythms). Breastfeeding and co-sleeping go hand in hand.Most of the time nature can’t be improved on, right?
7. WE ALL GET MORE SLEEP
With no need for our baby to cry and being able to breastfeed so easily in bed we all get more sleep. Granted, my sleep is interrupted, but for me my baby’s needs are more important than a solid eight hour sleep. My husband gets a lot more sleep as my little guy and I barely make a sound as we nurse in the wee hours of the morning.
I am also acutely aware that this time is passing so quickly and that in a blink of an eye my baby won’t be a baby anymore and he won’t want to cuddle up next to me at 2am, so I am savouring every precious moment while I can.
8. I CAN SEE THE RESULTS ALREADY
Our little boy started smiling at 2 weeks, laughing at 4 weeks and hasn’t stopped. He lights up the room and he draws people to him. I am constantly playing second fiddle to him when we are out and about, with strangers talking to him and getting such a buzz out of him smiling and laughing with them.
Even mothers with their own babies love my little guy and ask me why he is so happy all the time. He is an absolute joy, so bright, inquisitive, content and confident.
And, he is growing like a trooper. He was 9lbs 4oz at birth and by 6 weeks he was 14lbs. I will never forget our Scottish midwife saying he is the biggest baby they’ve had in 35 years of practice at 6 weeks.
He may just naturally be a happy baby and he may just naturally gain weight well but as his mum I firmly believe co-sleeping plays a part. He doesn’t need to waste energy crying to get our attention so he can put it directly into growing. And body contact is well known to be even more important than milk in determining growth rates.
9. I FEEL MORE ATTACHED TO MY BABY
Co-sleeping is giving us an extra 12 hours a day to form a secure attachment. An extra 12 hours to make our little guy feel like he is so precious that we hold him as close as we can.
I have read countless articles, books and studies on co-sleeping and they all say that what we are seeing with our son are the expected benefits of co-sleeping.
And I am excited for the future. I want to have a close family. I want my son to trust me. To feel he can come to me with any problem. To know that he is loved and valued and special and for us, co-sleeping is helping us get there. Afterall, it is easier to build strong boys than to fix broken men.
10. I DON’T MIND BEING DIFFERENT
Socially it would be so much easier to follow the crowd. To use a crib. A pacifier. An exersaucer. A walker. To let my baby cry. It sure would make for far easier conversations at mummy groups! But that’s not for me. My only important parenting critic is my son.
All my life I have questioned the status quo, I believe every choice should be made consciously, with knowledge and conviction. I’ve done my research and I’ve experienced co-sleeping first hand and know that for me and my family it is right for us.
While the statistics show that over 50% of families bedshare for at least for part of the night, very few dare admit to it. I’ve had hushed conversations with other mums where they’ve told me their baby sleeps with them, only to be met with sighs of relief when I say we do it all the time and that we recently sold our unused crib on Craigslist.
I used to be selective about who I told we cosleep. I didn’t want to ruffle too many feathers. Maybe I wasn’t 100% confident in my choice, maybe it’s just hard to be the odd one out all the time.
But now that I’m reaping the benefits and know, just know deep down that what we are doing feels right, I am proud to cosleep and I love to share my experiences with others. I hope that in doing so it may give others the courage to try something a little different too.
Do you co-sleep? I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or experiences.