Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Co-Sleep with My Baby...Part-Time

So I haven't really blogged much about our sleeping arrangement in the past nine months since Avery's been born mainly because I don't feel "good at it" yet. Leave it to little ol' perfectionist me to wish I could I tell you, "Oh we do this and it works great every time, every night, just like the book said." But it's not like that.
Our typical co-sleeping arrangement.

It changes all the time and just when I think we've got it figured out, Avery up and changes again and we come up with a new strategy. Welcome to life with a I've learned. It's all good though. I figured I could post a little about how we're sleeping these days so that other moms out there might be able to relate...or maybe I'm just the weird one-who knows?

As of right now, we co-sleep with Avery half of the night and the other half of the night she sleeps in her crib which is in our room. That probably sounds like a funny arrangement, but like you'll hear me say many times in this post: it works for us!

The basic routine we've set up for sleep is that Brandon will rock her to sleep, put her in her crib, and then she'll sleep for 3-4 hours, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Rockin' to sleep with Daddy...usually the lights are off
(but I had them make an exception for this photo!)

Our favorite thing to help Avery fall asleep: a light-up,
butterfly that plays music, nature sounds, and
lights stars up onto the ceiling. Love this thing!

Then when she wakes up, I will get her and bring her to bed to nurse her and then we fall asleep.  Throughout the night she will nurse off and on at various times for only a few minutes at a time then she's back asleep. Then around 5 AM when Brandon and I get up to start the day, we pick her up and put her back in her crib where she sleeps for about 2-3 more hours.

This will probably tick off my crunchy-granola moms because I'm not a true co-sleeper, and the "stay in your crib all night" moms will probably scoff at me bringing her to bed, but just like life...things aren't always black and white.  You may do a little of this and a little of that, and if it works for you, great! For me this arrangement works because it feels so easy. I don't have to get up, walk down the hallway, rock in the rocking chair while I feed her. I half-asleep pick her up, and go back to bed. Half of the time, I can never remember actually when it was that I got her out of her bed because I was practically asleep myself.

Why I Co-Sleep...
Now while I was pregnant, I was pretty certain that I would not co-sleep with Avery. I would have her sleep next to my bed, with the co-sleeper I got below, but that was it.  Now I was down with all the things that come with natural parenting like breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and baby wearing, but having her sleep in the same bed as thank you. She needs to learn how to sleep on her own...I thought.

Getting my Arm's Reach Mini-Co-Sleeper back at my shower when
I was pregnant.  This really helped us to keep Avery close,
but not too close in those early months.

Well, all that changed in the blink of an eye on the night she was born. When we went to go to bed just a few hours after she was born, I couldn't even stand to have her in the co-sleeper next to our bed, let alone in her crib in down the hall...that girl was right next to me in bed.

Aside from always having a feeling of knowing Avery is okay, I also chose to co-sleep with Avery because it made breastfeeding during the night so much easier. I can credit my amazing midwife, Lisa for this because the day after Avery was born she taught me how to nurse her while comfortably laying down and it forever changed my nursing with Avery. Nursing in bed meant that I didn't have to sit in an uncomfortable chair at 2 AM, I could be lying in bed, nearly half-asleep- that's what I'm talking about. This is probably one of the top reasons Avery is as chunky as she is, that girl gets milk when she wants it at night because it's so easy for me.

Here's the side-lying nursing position I use each night...
and that apparently Avery is pretty conditioned to because
she thought it was time to nurse here!

See my support pillows in that pic? I stick one between my legs, which helps with my hips, and one behind my back to give me some extra support. These really help make the side-lying position much more comfortable.

Breastfeeding at night also seems to have super powers to me because Avery will start to fuss or wake up and all I have to do is "get the milk ready"  (aka adjust my shirt or tank top), nurse her for a few minutes and then: POOF...sleeping baby! No rocking, no singing, no swaying. Just boob, then sleep. Sweetness. Thank you for your super powers breast milk and co-sleeping!
"Oh yeah, I get milk anytime I want...ha ha!"

A second reason I like co-sleeping with Avery is that it's a chance for us to bond. With me working all day long, it's nice to know I can spend some time with her at night...even though I'm half-asleep. Some nights I'm more ready to "cuddle" with her, such as at the end of the work week where I feel like I haven't seen her as much. But other nights, like during a growth spurt or after a really long day, I kind of wish she was in her crib and sleeping through the night.  Then I remind myself this is only temporary, and she'll eventually grow out of this stage so I'll enjoy it while I can.

I have no idea how long we will continue to co-sleep, probably as long as I am breastfeeding Avery, which I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. So we'll see. I can see her transitioning eventually to all night in her crib, in our room. Then all night, in her crib, in her room. Who knows...we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. ( :

On top of reasons I mentioned above, co-sleeping has been found to have a number of other benefits for mom and baby according to Dr. Sears (read more here or here), such as:
  • babies sleep better and stay asleep longer
  • mothers sleep better
  • breastfeeding is easier (I can attest to that one!)
  • fits with today's busy lifestyle
  • babies thrive better
  • parents and infants are more connected
  • reduces the risk of SIDS
  • infants develop healthy sleep habits
Is co-sleeping safe? I totally get your concern as to whether co-sleeping is safe for the baby, because I worried about it as well, but with common sense practices it can be completely safe. Most recommendations for safe co-sleeping, again according to Dr. Sears, include:

  • take precautions to keep baby from rolling out of the bed
  • place baby next to the mother and the edge of the bed/wall/guardrail as opposed to next to dad (occasionally Avery will be on the side with Brandon, just so she is able to nurse on both sides, but since we have a king size bed there still is plenty of room between him and her).
  • use a king size bed so there is plenty of room to move around
  • don't sleep with your baby if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • don't sleep with your baby if you are extremely obese
  • don't sleep with your baby on a couch or water bed
  • do not allow older siblings to sleep with a baby under 9 months
  • do not overheat a baby, be cautious with blankets
Specific ways that I make sure Avery is safe is with the addition of a guardrail alongside our bed, and I always try to keep her above my blankets and a distance away from my pillows.

Our guardrail that goes along the side of the bed I sleep on...
also in the picture: my support pillows. One for behind my back,
one for between my legs when I'm on my side.

As for how I keep from rolling over on her, I don't know what to tell you other than that I just don't. Call it mother's intuition or maybe I'm just a light sleeper, either way, it's never happened for me. Not even close.  I think I just always have a sense of where she is and I get close enough to feed her, but not too close.  Granted nowadays she's a pretty big girl, so she's more likely to roll into me, but even back when she was just born, I never really had to worry about it.

Why I crib-sleep...
Now all that co-sleeping may sound nice and dandy, but for the other half of the night, Avery sleeps in her crib. My main reason for this is safety. Not that I don't think co-sleeping is safe, I just know I'm not right there to keep an eye on her throughout the whole night since I go to bed later than her and usually get up before her. I also have an Angelcare Baby Movement & Sound Monitor connected to the crib so that I can keep an eye and ear on her at all times. She is pretty mobile nowadays, so leaving her alone in our king size bed was not something I was willing to try. She has a way of crawling right to the edge of the bed and the guardrails must just be begging to be climbed. 

Just exploring in the co-sleeper.

When she was younger, the co-sleeper I mentioned above served as her crib and as our guardrail. We wedged 2 pillows between our bed and the co-sleeper to keep her from rolling out of the bed during co-sleeping time, and when she was sleeping by herself or for naps she did so in the co-sleeper. I also connected the Angelcare Monitor to this bed. But by 6-7 months it was time to "graduate" to her crib, mainly because she was starting to climb around in her co-sleeper like this...

"Don't mind me guys, just climbing on the
guardrail here." 

She was also starting to get pretty big in it.

Filling it out at 7 months.

Quite a change from how she looked back at 1 week old.

Unfortunately, by the time we were ready for her crib, she was also ready to climb out of that one. On top of that, I knew there was no way I was ready to transition her to her room down the hallway, so we took the best of both worlds and moved her crib into our room and lowered it a few notches...sorry little climber!

"Hmm...this is nice and high, I think I'll climb right out."

She's adjusted pretty well to the change, and so have we. The first couple of nights felt a little different for me because she was sleeping further away from me (I know...just so far-lol!), but now it's working out great.  I appreciate my space a little bit (and freedom to get things done before I come to bed) without having to worry about her in our big bed or crawling out of that "now-tiny" co-sleeper.

"This crib in Mom and Dad's room isn't too bad."

Just make sure to get her out when she's done with her nap...or she will not be too happy with you!

"Oh just get me out, I don't want to be here anymore!"

Nap times aside, I love knowing that the first thing I see in the morning is her cute little smiling face...okay your's too Brandon. Granted sometimes I wake up to her tapping my arm, scratching at the guardrail, or saying her favorite word: "Dada!", but still, waking up to her always makes the morning much more enjoyable.

"Time to wake up mom!"

 Here's some of my favorite pictures from the past of our co-sleeping little baby!

In the one-armed swaddle around 4 months...I tried to
wean her off the swaddle one arm at a time.

One of the reasons why she did not nap in our bed often...
she was always able to rotate herself around as she did in this
picture...silly girl!

 One of my favorite parts of the swaddle: getting her out in the morning!

Around 2 1/2 months..."I'm ready to get out of this swaddle!"

Pop goes one arm!
Now she's free!  Love that smile first thing in the morning.

In case you're curious, I stopped swaddling Avery around 5 months or so, and I did it gradually as I said before, one arm at a time. Read more about why I started in the first place here.  I mainly stopped swaddling her because she had started to roll over onto her stomach (the place she loves to sleep the most) and I was worried she would roll over and suffocate with her arms tied to her side. I was nervous about leaving the swaddle behind, but this is where the rocking and "light up butterfly" I mentioned earlier  came in handy. Two other tricks? A pacifier and white noise machine.

So that wraps up our interesting sleeping style and how I co-sleep with my baby...part-time. Anybody do the same? Share what worked for you below. I'm open to all styles because it doesn't matter what the books say, what the experts say, or even what your family says you should do what works for you and that's all that matters.

Happy Sleeping!

Update as of June 2012: When Avery turned one, we moved her bed out of our room and into her own room. It was just getting too much for her to be able to see us in our bed, and not be able to fall asleep without my help. This was keeping me from sleeping and her as well. So that's when we knew it was time. Now if she ever woke up or needed me, I would go in her room, nurse and rock her in her rocking chair and then put her back to her bed. So I guess you could say that we cut co-sleeping "cold turkey" but Avery didn't seem to mind. Neither did I, because we both started getting more sleep. She would sleep for longer stretches at a time, and she seemed just as happy, since she was still able to get milk or comfort from me if she needed.

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