The Beauty of Co-sleeping – Submitted by Amy @ Crunchy Domestic Goddess
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I’ve been thinking recently about how important Attachment Parenting is to fathers.
Many men seem to feel helpless and left out when it comes to the whole process of pregnancy, birth and those early weeks with a new baby. Mother and baby are like a little closed group with eyes only for each other. Everyone pampers a new mother, but little is done for the new father. He can feel overwhelmed by his new responsibilities and this tiny new person that has just entered his life! Some men can feel pushed aside as they watch the new relationship blossom between mother and baby.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There seems to be a common perception that dads won’t bond with their babies unless they can feed them. This perception can put pressure on breastfeeding mums to introduce a bottle of f*rmula or expressed breastmilk from the start. After all no mother wants to feel that she is hurting the relationship between her baby and his dad.
But, again, it doesn’t have to be this way.
I really feel that Attachment Parenting and the sentiments which surround it are a huge help to men during this new period of their lives. Mr. Halfpintpixie has always had a great relationship with littlepixie and we credit a lot of that to our parenting “style.” I really feel that cosleeping provides one of the best opportunities for a new family to bond and get used to being in each other lives. It’s the perfect way to finish a day and the perfect way to start the next!
As a very young baby, littlepixie would only sleep in our arms. For the first few weeks, I had a very hard time with breastfeeding and was in a lot of pain especially at night, so every night littlepixie would sleep snuggled in her daddy’s arms, coming over to me for feeds when she woke and then back over to him afterwards.
These weeks helped Mr. HPP to attune to her needs and helped littlepixie realize that along with mammy there was another person who would always be there for her, her daddy. It was a very intense few weeks and none of us got very much sleep, but we got a lot more sleep than we would have had we insisted on using the moses basket!
We’re still cosleeping and breastfeeding, and Mr. HPP gets a lot more sleep now! Myself and littlepixie have gotten much better at feeding while half asleep so when she wakes in the night, she just has to mooch over, latch on and go back to sleep. She’ll often roll over to me for a quick feed then roll off back over to sleep beside Mr. HPP again.
Some mornings I’ll wake, stretch out, realize I’ve just stretched in a big empty space, and then look over to see the two of them fast asleep snuggled together. It’s the sweetest thing in the world!
Have a read of API’s Nighttime Parenting article for more information on cosleeping and some important safety information.
A new survey launched this week by two long-time advocates of co-sleeping lets co-sleeping families, so often marginalized or misrepresented as radical, irresponsible, or just plain odd, the ability to stand up and be counted.
The Fennells have been involved in promoting safe co-sleeping for many years. As parents of six and inventors of the Humanity Family Sleeper, they know first hand how misleading media coverage of co-sleeping can discourage families from using this important bonding and nurturing tool. Now they have launched “The Great Co-Sleeping Survey” to help raise awareness about co-sleeping, and how to do it safely. Please participate in their survey!
Here are several fine resources for parents hoping to safely share sleep with their children:
As a family who co-slept with both children when they were infants and who welcomes both children (now aged almost 4 and 2) into our bed (the little one more often than not!), I look forward to seeing if the Fennells will meet their goal of getting 50,000 co-sleeping families to complete the survey before the end of the year. Normalizing what has until the last 50 years or so been the human beings’ normal sleep arrangement, while at the same time educating families who want to co-sleep on how to do it safely, seems like a win-win for everyone involved.
Originally published March 8, 2007 at A Mama’s Blog
Last night I had Cole down sleeping, and was trying to read Ryan a story to put him in bed (Joe wasn’t home), and sure enough, Cole started crying. I was hoping it would only last for a minute or so, and he would go back to sleep, but he started getting more and more upset. After a few minutes, it was obvious he was now fully awake, and despite having an upset three-year-old who was NOT happy his story was being interrupted, I had to leave Ryan to go attend to Cole.
It has been a week since I have started nursing Cole to sleep, and then putting him in his crib next to our bed. It is working a lot better than having him sleep in the bed, but he still wakes up a lot. So he was in his crib, and after my eyes adjusted to the darkness in the room, what I saw, just about broke my heart.
I don’t believe in “crying-it-out.” I firmly believe that when a baby is crying, he needs something. He may be scared, and just need the reassurance that his mama is still in the vicinity of the house. I certainly don’t think a couple of minutes when I can’t get to Cole is making him cry-it-out. I am talking about leaving him while he is crying in a crib, obviously distressed, for a long period of time. I just don’t have the stomach for it. For me, there is nothing worse than hearing your baby scream and cry for you, while they are in a dark room alone.
Plus there has been some research from Harvard and Yale, that has shown “when babies who are routinely separated from parents in a stressful way have abnormally high levels of the stress hormone and lower growth hormone levels. These imbalances inhibit the development of nerve tissue in the brain, suppress growth, and depress the immune system.”
This subject was also brought up on a recent Dr. Phil episode that featured three of the Dr. Sears’s. Dr. Bob Sears said this about crying-it-out on the show:
When a baby screams for 10, 20 minutes, or a half-hour night after night, what actually happens to the baby’s brain? The blood pressure goes up. The pressure gets so high, new blood with oxygen can’t flow into the brain. So the brain can be deprived of oxygen, you guys. And that’s not all. It gets worse. The brain can be flooded with stress hormones, and we know that stress hormones can damage sensitive developing nerve tissue. So, night after night, weeks and weeks of crying can actually harm a baby’s brain. That’s why we encourage you both to respond to your maternal intuition. Robert, develop your fatherly intuition, so you can both really thrive as a family. Respond to your baby.
So back to Cole. In the few minutes before I could get to him, he stood up in the crib, put his hands through the slots, and was feeling / squeezing my mattress. I knew he was trying to find me. Even though he is in his crib now, he knows where I sleep, and he was looking for me–he needed me.
I picked him up, and instantly the crying stopped. I sat down with him on the bed, and even though his eyes were closed, he started cooing. I nursed him for a few minutes to calm him down. Then the most amazing thing happened. His eyes were still closed, and he took his hand and started tracing and feeling my face, the way a blind person would. It was like he was trying to memorize my face by feel.
I am in awe of the way a baby’s brain works, and I think there is so much we still don’t know about this. As he was feeling my face, I got a tear in my eye, and I felt so grateful that I have been able to follow my instincts on what feels right.
I couldn’t help but think, as my sweet baby was stroking my face, first, if I had gone against my instincts and had allowed him to cry-it-out, yes, he may have curled up and gone to sleep, after it was clear to him that his mama wasn’t going to come to him, but the way it was going, he would have just become more and more upset. He would have been very distressed, and he was looking for me! Two, I would have completely missed this tender moment with him, that I will never forget.
Although I think we would have ‘found’ attachment parenting eventually, it was our daughter Sophia, born in Guatemala and now 5.5, who showed us the way.
As Ann and I waited for the adoption process to move through its steps we kept busy preparing for her arrival. We blindly went out and bought her a crib, a high chair, and all of the other products whose makers work hard to persuade parents-to-be that they cannot possibly parent a baby without. I enjoy shopping far too much and was only too eager to buy adorable pint-sized clothing, furniture and accessories. When the waiting felt hard, I would look into the nursery and visualize her sleeping in her crib.
Then, when she was 2.5 months old, we traveled to Guatemala to meet her. Her foster mother brought Sophia to our hotel to stay with us. She showed us how to rock her to sleep–an intricate dance with specific moves! We were able to easily rock Sophia to sleep in this way. We then gently lay her inside the crib in the hotel room. And she promptly woke up and communicated to us with her cries, “No, thank you, crib!” We tried this several times, and finally let her just lay in our arms…she slept like the proverbial baby. We mused that Sophia must co-sleep with her foster family, as this was the only way she would sleep with us.
On our last night during that first visit, I enjoyed dinner at Sophia’s foster family’s home. Poor Ann was sick in the hotel. I got to see where Sophia was living and being loved until she would come home to our family. There was a pack-n-play in Sophia’s foster mom’s room and a king-sized bed. I asked if Sophia slept in the bed with her foster mom. She sheepishly answered yes. She was hesitant to share this as it was against ‘the rules’ of the facilitator who thought American adoptive parents would expect their children-to-be to sleep in a crib.
I assured her that we simply wanted Sophia to be happy and healthy and she clearly was.
Ann and I returned home from Guatemala and immediately began looking for a new bigger bed for when Sophia came home. (New sheets, new comforter…I was on board for more shopping!) We also began exploring thoughts and ideas about co-sleeping, which led us to explore attachment parenting. Prior to this, my focus in reading and preparation as a prospective adoptive parent had all centered on adoption and transracial adoption issues. Now, I turned my attention to parenting approaches and found that Sophia had led us to the only approach that made sense for adopted children.
Adopted children endure the loss and separation from at least one family prior to their adoption, if not more than one. Sophia experienced the separation from her birth mother as a newborn and then the loss of her foster family, and all that was familiar to her, again at age 7.5 months when she came home to our family. Our next daughter, Olivia, born in a traumatic birth at 29 weeks of gestation, endured many losses including the loss of her twin sister at their birth, the loss of her birth mother, the loss of gestational time (early eviction on a 9 month lease!) and then loss of oxygen directly prior to her arrival. Even our youngest child, Walker, whom we met upon her birth, had spent nine months with her birth mother and was very suddenly without her voice and her bodily rhythms. Attaching and bonding clearly needs to be the focus for any adoptive parent upon a child’s homecoming.
Co-sleeping creates a powerful opportunity for attachment and bonding on so many visceral and primal levels. Sophia slept sandwiched between us and thus between the rhythms of our bodies. She craved skin-to-skin contact and curled up against us each night. Our bed felt and smelled like the combination of her and us.
It is in this way, night after night of cuddling and breathing in each other, that we began not only to begin identifying as an attachment parerenting family, but also how we became a family. In listening to our new daughter’s needs, she led us to an approach and parenting community that continues to help our family not only to mindfully listen to our children’s needs, but also to strive to balance those needs and create family harmony.
– Diana Robinson
Many people in the non-AP world are surprised when I make mention of one of my children sleeping with me. At 6.5 and 4.5 years of age, many seem to think that they are too old to be co-sleeping. Some of these parents co-slept with their infants but their children moved on to their own beds at some point. Mine did as well, but not for long.
I am truly thankful that I fell into the attachment parenting practice when my first was a newborn, thankful for many reasons. These days I am thankful that I don’t have any preconceived notions of where children should sleep. This has proven beneficial not only to my children, but also to me.
Both of my children have varying special needs but a common thread between the two of them is anxiety. My daughter, who is 4.5, is also language delayed. She doesn’t have a solid enough understanding of language for us to be able to explain the things that cause her anxiety and fears. As night comes, she quickly becomes more anxious about her surroundings refusing to leave our sides. For a family who forbids a child from sleeping with a parent, this would become a stressful time for both parent and child.
When my daughter’s anxiety increased, it was simply a matter of bringing her back into our bed (she had transitioned to her own room for several months at the age of three). Now my daughter is able to get a full night’s rest without fear and so do my husband and I.
My son, at 6.5, also has major nighttime anxiety. Although he has a vast vocabulary, he doesn’t understand why he is so fearful after dark. After sleeping in his own room for years, without any problems, he has also transitioned back into our room. Unfortunately he is plagued by vivid nightmares which continue even in bed with us. It pains my heart to see him thrash about and cry out in his sleep but I am happy that I am able to be near him and provide comfort.
I know that our family’s decision to not place boundaries on our children’s ability to sleep with us is helping us all right now. If I were to insist that my children sleep in their own beds “like big boys and girls do” then no one, not a single one of us, would be getting any sleep. Nighttime parenting goes beyond the nursing years and does stretch into childhood and beyond. Knowing what your children’s needs are, and meeting those needs in a way that is optimal for everyone, helps the family’s bond grow stronger.
While taking my one year old son for a stroll a few days ago I stopped into my neighborhood coffee house. I noticed a woman with a similarly aged child sipping a coffee in the corner. We oohed and aahed over the babies and began to talk about our parenting experiences with the fervor of isolated stay at home parents.
“Are you still nursing?”
“Yes I am. It’s just so convenient.”
“Me too, you never have to worry about running out…”
“And it’s always the right temperature!”
“Do you stay at home?”
“Yes, staying at home is so great.”
“Yes, a little isolating, but very rewarding.”
We enjoyed the instant friendship created by our shared experiences, thrilled to have a few minutes to share conversation with an adult in the middle of our child filled day.
She asked me if he was sleeping well at night, as her baby kept getting up around two a.m.
“He sleeps with me, so he gets up some, but I don’t really notice.” I informed her.
“You still sleep with him? You are spoiling him.” She said in a sweet, caught you with a second slice of cake, voice.
“No way,” I responded “I don’t believe that for a second.”
“You’re right,” she said smiling. “You are spoiling yourself.”
She’s right. Like a great massage, or that sexy red pair of cuban heeled shoes, or a box of exclusive chocolates, snuggling up to my baby every night is a treat, and a way I can spoil myself. My daughter turns seven this year, so I know how quickly the baby time goes. I also am fairly certain this is my last child. So there is a part of me that snuggles up to him at night, warm and fuzzy in my bed, and feels like I am catching hold of as much of his chubby babyhood as possible.
For me, attachment parenting is mostly about getting the most out of my children’s childhood as I can. There is also a big laziness component. I like not having to walk the floor for an hour to get my baby to sleep before setting him in his crib. I love not having to get up and heat water for f*rmula when he wakes up hungry at 3 a.m. I like the extra sleep I get by popping a nipple in his mouth when he starts to stir. I don’t have to be very awake to nurse him when we are sleeping side by side. I find slings easier to carry in my diaper bag than strollers. However, as important as these benefits are, the true reason behind my decision to co-sleep, nurse, and baby-wear, is the extra coziness, of close contact with my baby.
The baby years seem so long when you are in the middle of them, but in reality they are so fleeting. They crawl before you can get the fog of motherhood out of your head, they walk before you can get used to them crawling, they start to talk about the time you are really understanding their non verbal cues. Suddenly they are two, and stridently demanding their first taste of freedom. Then they are going to school, and a part of their life is lived outside of you. The small precious baby who once required you for everything is suddenly a small person with their own friends, and experiences that you are no part of at all.
So I co-sleep, and nurse, and baby-wear, so I can keep my baby closer to me for just a bit longer.
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