Co-sleeping Outside the Family Bed

I love co-sleeping, and I have co-slept in one capacity or another with both of my children. There are few things sweeter than curling up to sleep with my toddler and sharing a good night’s rest. Co-sleeping has made breastfeeding easier, it has helped my babies to sleep better and it has meant that I don’t have to wake up as fully or as often.

In spite of my love of co-sleeping, I occasionally wonder whether co-sleeping loves me. There are the mornings that I wake up sore, contorted in some awkward position because that’s the only way my little one would sleep. There are the infrequent but jarring kicks to my head or fingers attempting to pry open my eyelid. And there is the amazing ability that my toddlers have both cultivated that allows them to take up 75% of a king sized mattress.

Hannah and Dorothy napping together
My daughter Hannah, napping in her parents’ bed

I am willing to sleep with my kids for as long as they need me, but with both of my children I found that at around 18 months the family bed stopped working so well. The space grew increasingly cramped, and our babies stopped sleeping as soundly. However, my little ones still needed me throughout the night for breastfeeding or just for comfort, and so we had to get creative.
Continue reading “Co-sleeping Outside the Family Bed”

Yoga For Gentle Sleep

Some children are natural sleepers. They require little to no bedtime routine, go to sleep easily and sleep all night. They have no comfort objects and sleep just as well away from home. Some of the parents of natural sleepers are the first to object to co-sleeping and easily point fingers when it comes to a child that doesn’t sleep well. According to some, if a child has sleep problems, those problems must have been created by co-sleeping or some other action on the part of the parent. In other words, the parent did something wrong.

I have two children. My three-year-old is a natural sleeper. My five-year-old is not. I spent plenty of time when he was younger reading books about child sleep, trying various methods, and even more time pulling my hair out over why he didn’t sleep well. Several years and another child later, I can see that it’s simply the way he is wired. We’ve parented both kids in exactly the same way. Our daughter sleeps well and always has. Our son does not. It’s just the way it is. Continue reading “Yoga For Gentle Sleep”

6 tips for sleepy safety during your holiday travels

travelsafesleepHoliday season in many of our vocabularies is synonymous with travel, and travel means messing with our child’s normal routine. Not only our child’s routine but also our own as well. This is often most visible in our sleeping patterns.

When I am traveling, I either sleep lighter or heavier. Sometimes I have a very disturbed sleep and sometimes I am so tired I sleep abnormally heavy. I have been prone to wake up in a panic, wondering where I am and whom I am with. This is also true of our children.

So how do we make sure that this holiday travel season remains safe and sane? How do we avoid a sleeping tragedy with our young child or baby? How do we avoid those over-tired meltdowns, or at least keep them to a minimum? How do we make sure that our child continues to feel, and be, safe and secure during this time? Learn how to avoid these pitfalls with the 6 tips for sleep safety during holiday travels.

Traveling can be a very unsettling time in the life of adults and children alike. it is when we need extra security and comfort, especially at night where we are more likely to be sleeping somewhere strange with new sounds, smells, and on an unfamiliar surface.  This is  how do we safely engage in sleep, nighttime and naptime, parenting while traveling.

  1. Since wintertime is prime cold/flu season it is imperative that we do not sleep with our child if we have taken any form of cold/flu medication that may make us drowsy or in any way impair our judgment. The same caution should be applied when taking anti-nausea medication. This is also true of holiday drinking; be cognizant of your intake!

    “While infant suffocation as a result of overlying by the parent in a bed sharing environment is not unheard of, unsafe conditions such as parental intoxication with drugs or alcohol…”
(Bass, Kravath, and Glass, 1986; Gilbert-Barness et al., 1991; see also Carpenter et al., 2004; Gessner, Ives, and Perham-Hester, 2001).

  2. Your baby should not sleep unattended in a place that he/she is unfamiliar with. Young children can become easily frightened when they awake to find themselves in a location that they are not familiar with. This may cause them to panic and possibly fall or become entangled.
  3. Don’t disrupt your normal sleeping arrangements. If you normally cosleep, continue to do so. If you do not co-sleep, this is not the time to start! Your body is also used to its “normal” routine and while you are traveling it is best to stick with it.If you cosleep, remember to follow some of the basic safe sleeping “rules”.

    “Infants should sleep on firm surfaces, clean surfaces, in the absence of smoke, under light (comfortable) blanketing and their heads should never be covered. The bed should not have any stuffed animals or pillows around the infant and never should an infant be placed to sleep on top of a pillow. Sheepskins or other fluffy material and especially beanbag mattresses should never be used. Waterbeds can be dangerous, too, and always the mattresses should tightly intersect the bed-frame. Infants should never sleep on couches or sofas, with or without adults wherein they can slip down (face first) into the crevice or get wedged against the back of a couch.” Dr. James McKenna

  4. It is very important that if you are traveling by car or in a private jet from Jettly that you are mindful of how your baby is going to sleep. Especially with airline travel make sure that you have a plan! One option – Bassinets

    “Bassinets are provided, free of charge, on all international aircraft (747, 767 and 777). When confirming your reservations, you may request a seat in an appropriate location for bassinet usage. These bassinets are large enough to hold a child up to approximately six months old. They may not be used for takeoff, landing, or any time the fasten seat belt sign is illuminated.”  United Airlines, Infants and Toddlers

  5. A good choice for parents of a newborn or very young child is to be the holiday host home. If you are able to communicate the safety and comfort benefits to your family, they may be happy to acquiesce for a season.
  6. If travel is in your holiday future, it is especially helpful to have another adult along. This can eliminate many travel difficulties, as there is another pair of arms and eyes to care for your child. This allows you to catch up on your sleep and make sure that your needs are met as well during this holiday season.

API’s “Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines” page a great resource, it states as follows: “Be mindful about sharing sleep and settle the baby safely next to mom in a planned environment rather than falling asleep from exhaustion on the couch, a recliner, beanbag chair, or other unsafe place to share sleep.”

This point is driven home to us every time that we read about a new sleeping accident. We must be especially mindful while we are in complicated sleeping situations like cars, airplanes, and other small spaces.

It is easy to forget to take our usual safety precautions while traveling. If you need a refresher course there is some great information available. You may want to consider reading, or re-reading as the case may be, the API “Infant Sleep Safety Guide” or the pamphlets that are available on Dr. James McKenna’s website Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory. These are just good refreshers on safe sleeping practices as it is easy to get lax while traveling and vacationing; there is no vacation from safe sleep practices!

I thought Dr. James McKenna’s conclusion was quite fitting, “I do not recommend to any parents any particular type of sleeping arrangement since I do not know the circumstances within which particular parents live. What I do recommend is to consider all of the possible choices and to become as informed as is possible matching what you learn with what you think can work the best for you and your family.”

And with that I will wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, safe travels and even safer sleeping!

Jasmine C.

Photo: kennymatic/Flickr

Bad Sleepers

There was a time that I really thought I had kids that were bad sleepers. They needed me in order to fall asleep, they needed me in order to stay asleep, and they didn’t have regular nap routines. What else could they be but bad sleepers? Moms around me seemed to have kids that slept on their own, napped regularly and slept the amount of hours needed, per their parenting book’s guideline of baby sleep. It got to a point where I truly was stressing about how to get my kids to be “good sleepers.”

Then one day, a friend of mine gave me some advice that truly changed how I viewed the whole thing. She simply said, ” Stop expecting your kids to sleep how you or some parenting book thinks they should sleep.” She then pointed me an informative website on mother-baby sleep that really opened my eyes. I learned that what we often consider “bad sleep” is really quite normal sleep. Our society has fooled us to expect unrealistic sleep in our children and so in order to achieve that sleep, we find ourselves training our kids to sleep and when we don’t go that route, we still stress about their “bad sleep”. At least….I did.

Once I realized that my expectations for sleep were unrealistic and I changed my own patterns (i.e. went to bed early so that I could catch up on my own sleep and not be so tired myself, did some research and bought a quiet fan to run in the night to keep me from sweating all over the pillow), I was able to more than cope with how my kids slept. It’s amazing how just changing my expectations of sleep made it so much easier for me to parent my kids and even find ways to get rest myself.

Letter to the editor in response to: “Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs”

This post is an open letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen in response to an article that appeared in a series of newspapers and websites owned by the Canwest News Service, including

Dear Editor,

I was dismayed but unfortunately not shocked by Sarah Schmidt’s article Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs. Governments across North America, including the federal and some provincial governments in Canada,  have been waging an ongoing war against co-sleeping. Unfortunately, this is not based on sound science.

It is important to note that both bed sharing and cribs have safety risks. Both co-sleeping and cribs can be made very safe if certain safety precautions are taken (but neither one is completely safe all of the time – there is no such thing as a 100% safe sleep environment). However, when a baby dies in a crib, the Ontario coroner will determine whether it was an unsafe sleep environment (e.g. full of stuffed animals and blankets) or if it was SIDS (meaning they don’t know why the baby died). When a baby dies in bed with its parents, the Ontario coroner simply calls it an unsafe sleep environment. This is unfair to parents who do make the effort to create a safe sleep environment and also unfair to parents who are scared out of co-sleeping by the dire warnings of the government.

Even if co-sleeping were more dangerous than sleeping in a crib (which I do not accept), parents are going to co-sleep with their babies. Some do it for cultural reasons. Some do it because of the benefits of co-sleeping, such as ease of breastfeeding and promoting bonding. Some do it to because their baby simply will not sleep in a crib. By telling parents that co-sleeping is dangerous, rather than providing them with guidelines on how to make shared sleep as safe as possible, the government is playing a role in the deaths of co-sleeping babies. Tell parents not to drink or smoke and co-sleep. Tell parents to do something to prevent falls, to avoid crevices where the baby could get stuck, to avoid thick bedding that can cause suffocation, to not co-sleep on a couch, and so on. Some governments, like Quebec and Nova Scotia, do provide such guidelines for co-sleeping parents. Ontario should do the same. Most co-sleeping deaths (like most crib sleeping deaths) are preventable.
Continue reading “Letter to the editor in response to: “Co-sleeping fears prevented call for parents to abandon defective cribs””

Doing The “Right” Thing Is Never Easy

Baby knows best. Really. They are perhaps not scholars just yet but they do know what they need better than any of us and well, we should listen to them . . . and if we did they would probably say . . . that doing the “right” thing is never easy.

Like when you were a kid and were forced to apologize and admit error–it was the “right” thing to do, but it was so hard to say that you were wrong. Or, choosing to skip a party in order to study instead of cheating on a final exam in high school. Studying was hard work, but it was “right,” right?

I’ve come to the conclusion, or even grand epiphany perhaps, that doing the “right” thing as a parent is also not the easier choice. I came to this conclusion after struggling once again following sleepless nights and clingy days with the attachment parenting philosophy that we have adopted as parents. The attachment parenting tenets are simple really and were so appealing to us initially because they essentially support the beliefs that we already held about parenting. To us, AP Principles  just seem like no-brainers: go to your child when he cries–he needs you, breastfeed your baby–it’s food that’s literally made for him, sleep with your child–because you are a parent at night too, use positive discipline to teach your child–negativity punishes, hold and wear your baby–it fosters bonding and security, etc.

Even rereading these as I type them, I find myself nodding in agreement–unable to imagine parenting any other way. But problems arise for this gentle parenting scenario not from any inherent flaws in a plan that seeks to parent gently and respectfully, but from other parents who have found an “easier” way. See, this kind of parenting requires a mom and dad who are fully committed to sacrificing much of their own needs for that of their baby’s. In other words, it takes dedication and patience–a lot, a lot of patience–and a great deal of self-sacrifice.

I am specifically talking about the issue of nighttime sleeping. Fewer issues get as much airtime during playdates, mommy groups, or any other gathering of moms and babies–it’s simply at the heart of every discussion. Exhausted, delirious and desperate mommies eagerly compare notes and exchange sleep tricks in search of something that will help them get more sleep. And, no matter how you try and spin it or how much you try to avoid the inevitable final conclusion, the sleep issue comes down to two dismal options: “sleep training” your baby, or not.

Sleep training methods vary greatly from one to another, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they all include some degree of crying. I have written much about my feelings as they pertain to “crying it out” and though the first was many sleepless months ago, I still do have a problem with my baby crying–yes, I’ve said it, I do not let my baby cry without intervening in an effort to alleviate the cause whatever that cause may be. Why? Because I believe that my son is communicating with us when he is crying–I do not believe that babies cry just to cry, in other words. Sometime this communication may be asking for basic needs to be met and other times it may just be a way to ask for a hug, a cuddle, or a kiss. But, you see, one does not surpass the other in importance for me. My baby’s need to be touched is just as importance as his need to be fed or changed. I will respond in either case and at any time. And that is where myself and my husband diverge from the parents who try to sell us the success of sleep training and tout the amount of sleep that it has brought them. But, at what cost, I want to ask them.

I believe family bed advocates when they claim that co-sleeping raises independent, confident and secure children–I also believe that leaving your baby to fend for them self during these times of nighttime need may produce children who are more dependent, anxious and insecure. I also know that these one or two or three years dealing with his sleeplessness as a baby is small in scale when compared to the number of years that we won’t have to. I will be old and he will no longer by my baby–I will look back on these years with a tender heart yearning for the moments when I was able to hold him in my arms to return.

I do, however, from time to time grow weak–very weak. I do whine and fuss and complain about exhaustion and the need for a moment to myself. During these times I do momentarily wonder if we should not also “train” Noah to self soothe, to sleep alone, to quiet his need for love, comfort and affection just because it is the moon, not the sun, that has risen above the horizon. Those parents are convincing and proud. They’re confident and I suppose, maybe even some look rested.

But, then I give it a second thought. I listen to my heart and am reminded of why I have chosen the more challenging path. When I grow weak and weary, I turn a listening ear to my instinct, my mama gut–and find that I know deep down in my heart that parenting this way, for me, is the “right” way to parent. And, like all things that are “right” it is most certainly the more difficult choice–it may continue to be for a while still to come. But . . . doing the “right” thing is never easy, right?

Following The Principles: Ensure Safe Sleep

Part 5 of a series of 8: I did not expect the arrival of my first baby to create so much upheaval in my bedroom. There was no room for a “nursery” so by default we became co-sleepers.  The room would have never won any awards for decorating to begin with, but after the baby it became a minefield of clothes, blankets, stuffed animals, toys, wipes, baby nail clippers, bulb syringes, diapers, and little mismatched baby socks.

My Reality Bedroom: With Stowable Nests

After firstborn moved into his own room at about two and half years, we spent joyous hours creating HIS space with all of HIS favorite things. It was then that I made a vow to create a special place for me to relax and recharge. I fantasized about my ideal Bedroom Solutions…my haven. I knew one day I would have the resources to make that happen! Continue reading “Following The Principles: Ensure Safe Sleep”

Following the Principles: Use Nurturing Touch

Part 4 of a series of 8: Carrying our little LF#5 (Loin Fruit Number Five) in my body is the ultimate in nurturing touch. A tiny body wrapped up inside of mine.  Bouncing. Rolling. Rocking. Swaying. Swirling. Surrounded by warmth. We are hoping to have another gentle homebirth for our new little one . We will enjoy our Babymoon as long as we can, remaining in bed and nursing for 2-3 weeks while my body heals. Of course we have made preparations (as much as anyone can prepare for the unknown at any rate) in case of an emergency need to transfer our care to a hospital and are prepared to do whatever it takes to make even the most medicalized situation a high-touch, high-compassion one. No matter what happens with our pregnancy and birth, we know that we are committed to our attached and connected parenting principles. We trust that our new baby will be lovingly connected to our family even if that means finding new ways to apply the attachment parenting principles to whatever circumstances LF#5 is welcomed into the world under.

A Rare Moment: Everyone together! T-Bird, Sir Hubby, Bug, Brent, Ella
A Rare Moment: Everyone together! T-Bird, Sir Hubby, Bug, Brent, Ella

But what about the rest of us? We are already dealing with situations which are challenging our ability to stay connected. It seems as if the past few months could be defined by one word: Distance. Distance keeps our family apart while Sir Hubby attempts to balance his business, his father’s health, and our family. Distance has my son several hours away at college.  Our older girls are both at ages where they are pulling away (in healthy ways) to explore independence, self-directed learning, and social pursuits without holding our hands. But the biggest distance I feel is the one between my little T-Bird and I. Continue reading “Following the Principles: Use Nurturing Touch”

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