Thursday, July 26, 2007

...And then we started cosleeping too

To continue on the last theme, I not only fell into babywearing and found it was great for Gigi and that I liked it too, but after six or more months of interrupted sleep, we fell into cosleeping too. Here's our story:

Gigi had never seemed to like the crib, and we had resorted to putting her in her swing to sleep for the first hours of the evening. She hated going into the swing, but would surrender to her fatigue and the motion and finally dropped off. She needed motion to fall asleep for all naps (when I would bounce her to sleep in my arms), and for that first part of the night. After she fell asleep in the swing, right there in the living room with us, we would eat dinner and watch some t.v. for an hour or so. Then my husband, who got up early to do the first bottle and get his day going, would go off to bed around 9. I stayed up, basking in the only two hours each day when I would be free to do as I pleased.

Around 11, I would prepare her last bottle of the night and get her out of the swing to do this "dream feed," which would allow me (in theory, anyway) at least a few hours of sleep before the dreaded 3 or 4 a.m. feeding. These hours were always interrupted though, since Gigi would cry if she woke up with no paci in her mouth. Around 6 months or so, the pediatrician said she could make it through the night without the middle of the night feeding, and she easily gave it up, as long as her paci remained in her mouth. The wakings increased, as she now needed the paci more than ever to stay asleep. Her crib was in our room, so I didn't have to go far, but the constant in-and-out of bed was wearing on me.

One night in the wee hours, after I'd popped up and down like a jack-in-the-box for the fifth or sixth time to replace Gigi's fallen paci, I gave up and pulled her into bed with me. Suddenly, she slept better, and for once, I got some rest. If she woke up and needed her paci, I was right there to pop it back into her mouth and then we both fell right back to sleep. I expected my husband to object, but he had appreciated the peaceful hours of rest enough to suggest that it might not be such a bad thing after all. It was thus that our family became cosleepers.

It's amazing what sleep can do to and for a person. The sleep deprivation of early parenthood is the worst part of the experience, the one thing (other than colic) that can prevent you from enjoying your baby as much as you might otherwise. It was all I could think or talk about in those first months. When we started cosleeping, and finally getting full nights of sleep, it was a revelation, a rebirth. I felt like a new person, and I know I was a much better mother. Once again, I started to read up on the practice, and discovered the benefits it had for both babies and mothers. I wished we had done it from the beginning. (And if we'd had a bigger bed, I think we would have. If you think you might cosleep at all, spring for the king size bed, it's well worth the investment!)

We're still cosleeping now. We want Gigi to move to her own bed and room soon, but we're enjoying these last weeks or months of her little wiggly self in between us.

A note on "parental correctness" in re these things: I share my story only because someone might relate, or even find an idea that works for them too. We went into parenting with some ideas of what we would do, but the experience changed us, and in the end we did things we never would have believed we would do.

I am an advocate of both babywearing and cosleeping, as they worked well for us and studies have shown benefits of both practices, which tend to receive a great deal of popular cultural criticism. But I don't judge my friends who made other choices for their babies or their families. (In fact, I envy how my best friend can tuck her child in and close the door and walk away, not only at bedtime but at naptime as well!) We need to support one another, and recognize that there are many ways to parent well. No parental correctness allowed in Kaza's Place!

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