Welcome, Cosleeping Crib-Sleepers!

Many of us attached parents understand what it’s like to feel ostracized for our choice in parenting practices. We’re tired of the looks and comments about giving birth without drugs, breastfeeding beyond six months, holding our babies all the time, disciplining without empty_cribpunishing, forgoing a career to stay at home, and taking the time to soothe our night-waking children back to sleep. Attachment Parenting would be great except for that whole bit of dealing with the judgment of our family and friends, not to mention complete strangers.

Which is why I want to call attention to what is happening in our AP community: As much as we try to be welcoming to every AP parent, there is still judgment passed among us – the woman whose birth ended in a Cesarean, the mother who cannot breastfeed, the father who came to AP later and with a history of spanking, the lower-income families in which both parents must work, the parents who do not take their baby to bed with them, and so on.

Now, I’m a big proponent of bedsharing – I think it’s, as the saying goes, “just the best thing since sliced bread” – but what I value more than allowing a child to sleep with her parents is giving permission for parents to be able to make the choice of how a child cosleeps. There are some attached parents who do not sleep with their babies but who place them in a crib in their room. For whatever reason, whether it’s that they’re not breastfeeding or perhaps the father is quite the roller at night, these families work best with the baby sleeping on another surface.

A couple months ago, I was talking with a mother who was very interested in AP. I somehow got on the subject of cosleeping (which isn’t too hard for me), and she “admitted” that her baby sleeps in this convertible crib. These kinds of comments usually bring to mind an automatic picture of a little one lying in a bare crib, alone in her dark room, crying, with the parents down the hall sleeping away. But, this woman said that she desperately wanted to bedshare, but her baby would only sleep in the crib. Apparently, there are some babies that just don’t want to be crowded in their beds.

The point of my story here is, this mother said she felt very alone in her parenting approach even among AP families because her baby crib-sleeps. The thing is, this woman was still cosleeping – the crib was right beside her bed so she could put her hand through the slats and touch her baby. She still got up and breastfed her baby every time he woke up. She was as AP as you could get without bedsharing.

So, I ask you to please keep in mind the attached parents who do things differently than you and to remember that they love their children just as much as you love yours. They may not do exactly what you’d do in parenting their children, but they’re doing what works for them. It’s important that as we explore the various ways that parents can AP that we are still understanding of others’ situations and accepting of others’ decisions. It can make a big impression.

I couldn’t breastfeed my first child, but the only mom’s group around at the time was a breastfeeding support group. I went to the meetings anyway, because I so needed the parental support. While literally everyone else in the room lifted their shirts and nursed their babies, I took out a plastic bottle of pumped breastmilk from my mini-cooler, mixed in fortified formula, attached a rubber nipple, and gave it to my baby. It would’ve been awkward if the group leader didn’t welcome me with open arms. She never passed judgment on me, for not breastfeeding, and only encouraged me in my AP practices, introducing me to bedsharing and positive discipline. Her kindness, even when I didn’t quite fit in, radically changed the course of my parenting journey.

My hope is that as you interact with other AP parents in person and online, that you’re able to do the same as this woman did for me – to accept the differences for what they are, to encourage personal growth, and to gain a new perspective on what AP means to others…and yourself.

Author: Rita Brhel

Rita Brhel, BS, CLC, API Leader, lives with her family near Hastings, NE, USA, where she works as a WIC Breastfeeding Counselor. She also writes for Mothering and La Leche League's New Beginnings.

29 thoughts on “Welcome, Cosleeping Crib-Sleepers!”

  1. Thank you! My baby sleeps best in her crib, in her room! She co-slept with us for quite awhile. Now she’s quite the roller and mover in her sleep and does NOT want to be crowded. I miss having her in my arms, in our bed, but she prefers her crib and a quiet, dark room. Of course, when she wakes and needs me, I’m right there, quick as a wink.
    Thank you from this AP parent who does sometimes feel left out because my baby crib sleeps and I don’t breastfeed (my daughter was adopted).

  2. Thank You so much for this article! When my baby had colic I researched crying extensively, I have a library of books and web pages on the subject. I discovered In arms, therapeutic crying and it saved our family! I had mentioned this on an AP support group and I was kicked off for “not being AP enough” I have found many AP parents who are MORE judgmental than most parents. BUT I have also found a wonderful group of AP moms who I just couldn’t survive without!

  3. Thanks so much for this, I always feel that we should do everything in our power to think the best of every parent we meet – the one who consciously doesn’t care for how their child is raised and doesn’t make an effort is few and far between. We are all trying to do our best and support goes a lot farther toward making better parents than criticism.

  4. It also can happen as your child ages and you do not homeschool or can’t pay for a good alternative school. There can be some division in a group because of this and it is important to remember that I can still AP my boys even if they go to public school!

  5. I am the mother to a… partial toddlerbed sleeper…? Not sure what to call it! Our daughter comes over to our bed in the middle of the night, but she begins her night in her toddlerbed and naps in her crib. I am a breastfeeding mother, still, at 28 months. Any time our daughter needs us, we are there, but cosleeping 24/7 definitely was not working for us. Now, I have the best of both worlds. My daughter has learned that we can cosleep at night and that she can nap without me. Thank you for your kind words. For many months, I felt I did not belong anywhere. I even admit to having had issues with some of the AP principles! But this blog has become one of my favorite parenting blogs! So, I admit it: I am a reluctant AP mama! 🙂 Just to clarify: my issue with AP was that I felt like one *must* parent in such a way where there is no time whatsoever for mom to be an individual, to get a break, to get some sleep. I have since learned that different things work for different people and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with tweeking what is not working. In the end, a family where everyone is healthy, happy safe, and securely attached is all that matters, in my opinion.

  6. I appreciate the inclusion of all types of co-sleeping practices and methods, thank you.

    We actually have used a combo-type method since our son was born a little over a year ago. His crib is in our bedroom. Because of safety issues (rolling out of our bed) and because we are not sleeping during his naptimes, he sleeps in his crib for naps. At the beginning of the night, when he falls asleep after rocking/nursing, we place him in his crib where he usually sleeps several hours happily. If he wakes up before we come to bed, we rock/nurse him back to sleep and place him back in the crib. He is never left to cry/play/hangout in his crib–he is only placed there after falling asleep and is taken out the moment he wakes. When he wakes up after we have gone to bed, we bring him into the bed with us where he spends the rest of the night and where he wakes up in the morning.

    This seems to be a very nice compromise for us. It allows us flexibility (he does not hate sleeping in the crib because he has consistently been exposed to both) and the piece of mind knowing that he is safe when we are not sleeping with…all the while still being able to snuggle and cuddle when we are.

    Happy Sleeping,
    Joni 🙂

  7. Great article. I’m more of an “accidental” AP mom. When my daughter was born, I just paid close attention to her needs and we ended up being a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, co-bathing family, now with 2 work at home parents. But, if one of those things didn’t work for her, we would have done something different. I think that’s the true intention of attachment parenting, to understand your child’s needs and meet them in a compassionate manner. “Forcing” a baby to co-sleep even if he/she wasn’t comfortable with it wouldn’t be very AP in my mind!

  8. My four year old still ends up in the bed with us many nights. She starts out somewhere else and ends up there. No biggie to me, as it’s what she needs.

    However, the 13 month old DOES NOT like sleeping in a bed with other people. She just doesn’t. The only time she will sleep in the bed with me is if she is sick. However, at times like our current situation, where her teeth are coming in and she wakes often through out the night, I get her and we sleep in the glider chair together in the living room with her tucked securely in my arms. Even then, if she’s tired of being close to someone or gets too warm, she starts squirming until you put her back in the crib.

    She is attached to us during the day, but at night, she wants her own sleeping space and I can’t change that. It is what it is and it’s her direction that we follow. I don’t think it can get any more attached than using child-directed cues.

  9. Thanks. I’ve already had a few people criticize my sleeping plans, and the bay isn’t even here yet. I tend to move around a lot in my sleep, and have pushed my husband in the floor several times, so I worry about moving to much and either hurting the baby or keeping him awake all night [or me awake all night, worried about it]. My plan is to “sidecar the crib, and use it sort of like a co-sleeper [one side down, and attached to the boxspring, so it can’t slide away]. That way, baby is beside me and within reach, but has his own space. Since it’s a convertible, I figure it will also help him be comfortable when he does move to his own bed.

    It’s funny, because I figured it was the perfect solution, since he will be nearby and easy to comfort and/or feed during the night, and because he will have his own space so no worries about rolling over or having blankets/pillows to close to him. Evidently not, because the comments I get seem to be saying if he’s not in the bed, I might as well leave him in the crib alone in another room. Then again, one of the friends that this seems to annoy the most “gave up” some of her early plans [co-sleeping & breastfeeding] because they were too hard – I can only wonder if it wasn’t because she had the same rigid expectations forced on her to either do it a certain way or not at all.

  10. I love this. …Please keep in mind the attached parents who do things differently than you and to remember that they love their children just as much as you love yours. They may not do exactly what you’d do in parenting their children, but they’re doing what works for them… I know so many moms who feel ostracized for doing something just a little bit differently than some of the rest of us. And they shouldn’t. Amen to this article! (And I never say Amen so you gotta know I mean it! 😉

  11. This is a wonderful piece. 🙂

    My first child was one of those babies who slept better in her own crib, in her own room. I tried every other sleep arrangement you can imagine, when out of desperation I put her in the crib and she slept much better. When she woke up and needed me I brought her into bed with me, but for months she slept through the night in her own room, never waking or crying. I felt sheepish, and that I must be doing something wrong.

    Looking back, I had captured the essence of attachment parenting, in that I listened to my child’s needs and met them as best I could. I did not impose something on her for my own convenience, I remained flexible and found the best solution for her. The same is true of parents who find that their baby hates the sling, or really LOVES school when they weren’t planning on the separation. The best thing we can do is respond to our children on their terms, even if it means we don’t always check off every box on the ‘AP checklist’.

  12. I love this post. We’ve tried co-sleeping and since B was about 6 months old, he sleeps better in his own crib. I get up at the first sound of rousing and he gets in our bed when he is sick or teething, but he doesn’t like to be crowded. He will kick and push and hit us until we get out of the bed. We didn’t put him in a crib because we wanted to sleep train him or because we don’t believe in AP, he sleeps in a crib because that’s what works best for us. I would much rather roll over and nurse him in bed, then walk down the hall, but we still get harassed for not co-sleeping.

    I just wrote about this very issue on my blog last week after a conversation on another blog. Too often AP turns into a checklist and many times the items on the checklist aren’t even really AP rules. The spirit of AP in more important in my mind than the ways in which an individual family achieves that parenting philosophy.

  13. thank you for this post.

    My son and I coslept until 10 months.

    I tried all gentle methods, EVERYTHING.

    My son would wake more than 10 times a night.

    He just does NOT sleep well with me.
    He needs to be on his own.

    After MONTHS of trying EVERYTHING, I HAD to let my son cry. We tried every book, every method. He just had very extensive sleep problems, so bad that it was interfering with his everyday life.
    He was losing weight, not developing normally, and MISERABLE because he wasn’t sleeping.

    i HAD to let him cry.
    And I have taken SO many attacks for it.

    My son is a happy healthy baby because I as a mother had to make such a hard choice.
    And to get criticized by other AP who have no idea what I went through sucks 🙁

    1. Amanda — You are your child’s mother as you both formed a bond from the very first moment. Only YOU know your child better than anyone else *I am including Daddy*; so, to be ostracized for “failing” to glue to AP goo doesn’t do you or Baby any good. In my view, AP is not a one-size-fits-all and, instead, should be about coming together as an AP community and helping eachother realize our children’s future as happy, healthy, secure and well-rounded individuals raised by the OVERALL AP principle and, most importantly, by their parents.

  14. Major kudos for writing this important piece! I think that those of us who closely follow the AP philosophy often cannot abide by every little “rule” that it includes. We have to do what is best for our family, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t practicing attachment parenting. I really hope that people who are judgmental take a deeper look within and ask themselves what they are accomplishing by holding that attitude.

  15. Thank you! Both my planed home births ended in the hospital. One with a C section after three days of induction and one in a VBAC requiring an epidural after 36 hours of pitocin. I felt so guilty after both, in part because I was afraid my AP card would be revoked. My first child required feeding with a tube for many months, but is now still nursing at age two and now prefers her own bed so long as a parent lays down with her when she asks. We sleep with our second child (whose colic would wake the first if we were all together), we carry both kids, “correct” behavior with kindness, and I am able to breast feed my second baby (but with only one boob). This all makes attachment more demanding and more worthwhile while I still ask, “Do I “qualify” for membership? Who decides?

  16. This article is so refreshing! I wish there was a support system for us AP mom’s around here. I feel so alone sometimes. It’s great to read these articles, it makes me feel “normal”.

  17. My son sleeps on a crib (now a toddler bed) located right next to our bed.
    He slept with us from birth to 3 months old. At that point my father in law gaves us the crib. I reluctantly agreed to give it a shot.

    Well, my son is a roller and a kicker and he used to grunt and complain if daddy or I moved even a little.

    The very first night he slept on the crib, he slept MUCH better. We were actually annoying him! I do believe that it was our attachment parenting that build the confidence on him to know that no matter where he sleeps, we are one sigh away… literally.

    He is two tears old now and sleeps on a toddler bed. He could choose to come to our bed which is one step away. But he never does. He loves that space and even I am not always welcome there! lol

    BTW, I still get a lot of griavances becasue he is on the same room with us. grumble, grumble

  18. Thank you for this article – I too think that some mothers can be judgemental of those who don’t do EXACTLY as they do and I find it so sad that they are choosing to model judgement instead of acceptance for their own children. The only way we can spread a more accepting attitude throughout the world is by “Being the change we wish to see in the world” and accepting other mothers. After all, we have no idea why they have made the decisions they have made (some women who have been sexually abused, for instance, find they struggle to cope with the intimacy that breastfeeding involves and make the decision to formula feed – and who would judge a woman for being sexually abused??). Just because she doesn’t tell anybody why doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a very good reason for making her decision…

  19. I agree that we all need to keep an open mind and realize that there are many paths to one destination…in this case…happy, healthy, loved children. There is no one right way. Only the way that is right for you and your baby and your family. Also, I wanted to say that not all families with two working parents are lower-income. My husband works part-time and is a full-time nursing student and I am an executive for a non-profit. We are definitely middle-class. Between my mom, myself and him we’ll be with our baby 95% of the time. That said, we do have to do daycare on the days when my mom and I work and my husband has classes (he works evenings at a local restaurant too). That doesn’t mean we’re not attached. It means we’re doing what we have to do for our family. We have found a wonderful daycare center at a local church that only takes 6 babies to 2 childcare workers. They are very hands-on with the kids and we feel good about leaving our little one there the few hours a week that we have no one else to care for her. Again, you make it work for you. And respect that others are doing the same. And when we know better we do better and when we can do better we will.

  20. Good article – agree- agree- agree. One of the principles of AP is respecting your children, so I say, respecting all others and that includes those who have different choices. IN fact, I was readin in a book about breastfeeding not necessarily equating to a Mamma always being attached – sometimes, from this study, the bottle feeding MUm is just as much or more, depending on how she feels about it and how she reacts to the child during the feeding, the feeling she eminates and how she is generally at other times. I wish I could locate this study – but it was a long term study of observing various mothers and I think it was by Mahler. Anyway, I have been thinking about us havign another child.. sometime starting next year, but I am still bfeeding my 17 mnth old who wakes frequently and I adore her but I am finding the waking to damn exhausting after a year and 1/2 and I was thinking I would pump for the next child. I just feel too tired and sometimes have a short fuse. Luckily, I was blessed with a patient personality, and I truly believe and love bfeeding. But the nightime thing has got me thinking I might do something less strenous on me = something I can share and take a break from esepcially if I am to have to have two children and be able to respond as I would hope ie: not being so stressed from exhaustion…. we have to do what is right for us and our families, as many have said. Thanks for this article!

  21. Thanks for this article! I love cosleeping with our 5 month old son but he has other ideas. He will flop around and grab at my face until I lift him back over into his crib and then he’ll quickly settle down and fall asleep. I guess he is just and independent little guy who likes some extra sleeping space of his own. When you said, “as AP as you can get without bedsharing” I felt that described us- I still get up whenever he wakes and bring him to our family bed to nurse, calm, and cuddle, but he does the majority of his best sleeping on his own. Go figure.

  22. Great article!

    I love co-sleeping but we started only 4 months after my daughter was born.
    I live in Holland, the nurse that was taking care of me and my baby few days after she was born, warned me that sleeping together is dangerous. I was a “first time mother,” trying to do her best.
    So my daughter was sleeping in her crib just next to me.
    And then I discovered AP!!!!!!! 🙂
    Now we are co-sleeping, baby-wearing, co-bathing, cloth-using family! And a very happy one!

  23. Thank you so much for this article. For a series of ( mainly medical) reasons, our daughter did not sleep our bed but in a co-sleeper and in a crib for naps until she was six months old and we could return to cosleeping. As a first time
    Mama, it was especially difficult not feeling like I truly ‘fit in’ to the AP world because of a situation that was beyond our control. How wonderfully refreshing to read this piece and to be reminded that AP is more than just cosleeping!

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