I’m no doctor, but I can’t help but scratch my head as reams of articles circulate online about how it’s “medically necessary” to co-sleep. Or that bonding with your baby is impossible when you don’t share a bed. When I look at my own 5-month-old, I see a girl who’s healthy, happy, and yes, sleeping. Not only that, but we haven’t had trouble breastfeeding or bonding in other ways. Willow gets plenty of cuddles morning, noon, and night. She leans in for affection, is even trying out some hilarious open-mouthed kisses, and practically spit out the only bottle of formula I’ve ever tried to give her. She’s a boob kid, through and through.
In addition to the fact that my little is thriving, there are other benefits we’ve found of not co-sleeping. I absolutely do not mean to suggest that these can’t happen in your home, too, if you do keep your baby in your bed at night. Or that the crib from the first night is the right choice for everyone. But I guess I’ve just gotten sick of the comments from friends and neighbors that claim I’m doing something wrong, mean, or unloving by giving my child the space at night to sleep in her own crib.
Our bed is our adult space and always will be. Even if we go to sleep angry (it can happen), there’s no one lying in there between my husband and me. My husband has always felt like family, before we were even married. We were a pack. Sure, we gave each other the time and space to go out with friends and all of the normal, healthy things coupled adults need to do separately. But with the exception of when one of us is traveling without the other, every night ends in a kiss and off to bed. Willow takes up all of my energy and love most days, as babies tend to do. It’s important for our marriage that we get at least ten minutes in bed at night to chat about our days, our dreams, our gripes, or even just the latest episode of “Madame Secretary”. And to do other adults-only things in our bed. And to fall asleep next to each other and wake up that way. Yes, I am often pulled from the bed for midnight feedings or soothings, and I send him in for the occasional early diaper change when I’m too tired to get up. But it’s our space to come from and return to. We feel that keeping our marriage strong is good for Willow, and will continue to be as she grows.
I’m also pretty pleased (for her parents and for her) that my baby was sleeping through the night from six weeks. As soon as she was back up at birth weight and our pediatrician gave us the okay to go four hours between feedings at night, we did. Slowly and carefully monitored with by the doctors, we stretched that to five. And then to six, and so on. Willow and I figured it out together. But the fact that she was not attempting to sleep in a room with the sound of two snoring parents and the permeating scent of her mother’s milk meant that she was able to fall asleep faster and easier. And to stay asleep longer.
We did a lot of research on the science of sleep before making this decision, and it paid off. Babies, just like adults, wake up multiple times in the night. When they are swaddled in their own beds with nice, comforting white noise and no distractions, it’s easier for them to soothe themselves back to sleep. When she wakes up for real, and cries for me, I’m there in an instant. When we put her down at night, we have a routine. Feeding, lullaby, smooches, swaddling (in the beginning, now a wearable blanket), and a kiss goodnight. Then I put her down, crank up the white noise, close the door, and wait. We choose not to let her “cry it out” longer than five minutes, but when I go back in it’s for a quick check-in to make sure there’s nothing truly wrong, cuddle her, and put her right back down.
Don’t get me wrong. I am totally devoted to my daughter and even when we’re in other rooms, I often have trouble sleeping because I’m attached and I miss her. (New mama drama). The first several nights at home, and on many more after that, we lay in our bed watching her drift off through the lens of our video monitor. That monitor is my best friend and I drag the screen around with me everywhere. But when my baby wakes up refreshed after getting a proper night’s sleep, and my husband and I do, too, I know we’re making the right choice for all of us.
In just two weeks, my little and I will have reached the milestone of exclusively breastfeeding to six months. She is utterly attached to her mama and honestly that’s something we need to work on — babysitters and even grandmothers give her stranger danger. Not co-sleeping has produced a well-rested and healthy family in my house, and definitely not to the detriment of the maternal-baby connection. I’m not saying it’s right for you and your family, but I am ready to be done with the “mean mommy” comments or the threats that Willow and I won’t have a connection because of our choice to make use of her crib. Every family has to develop a pattern of doing things that works for them, and in this family, separate sleeping is a win for all.