A friend of mine posted a request for advice about what to do to get sleep while her 10 month old sleeps in the same bedroom. Daughter is starting to keep mom up through the night, and my friend is desperate for sleep.
Ah, how I remember those days. Rather, I remember them for their fog, not so much for what we did. At the time, it felt like it would never end, though looking back, it seems like just a blip in time.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about our bedsharing story, so I’m going to now. Because we stepped into it quite unintentionally.
I was Not. Going. To. Bedshare. Did you see that period? I’m serious. Cohiba and I are parents and Wee One is a child and we’re keeping separate bedrooms and beds. Also, I had a coworker who was still sleeping with his four year old son – so bedsharing was clearly hard to stop. Plus, it wasn’t recommended. All the pediatric things online told me that.
Fortunately, they told me what to do instead. Lay your child down, drowsy but awake, and leave them alone and they would sleep.
When we brought Wee One home (a little earlier than planed) we didn’t have the bassinet ready for her yet. And if I’m honest, I’m a little hazy on how we all slept that first week. I was taking post-surgery painkillers and high on hormones.
I remember that first night, Cohiba was with her and I was sitting alone in the bedroom, crying because I couldn’t figure out how to take the breast pump out of the case it was in, until I realized I wasn’t supposed to take it out.
In that first week, I remember the night after the bassinet was put together, we were gonna all sleep in our bedroom. It was right next to our bed so we could be sure to hear her, and it even had a little fold-down side so we could just reach up and pat her when she fussed at night. Which was gonna put her back to sleep. Perfect.
Well, I didn’t realize how noisy babies are when they sleep, (pro-tip) and I heard every little sound she made. I usually started lactating at every little sound she made, and I was anxious that it was bothering Cohiba. So for a week or so, I think I stayed up with her most of the night and nursed when she made noise. (I started watching Jersey Shore on my iPhone during these dark nights. It was a truly dark period.)
Finally, one night, I was about to drop and told Cohiba he needed to be with her in the night. I had just fed her and he wasn’t sure about how to keep her quiet. I was so tired, I straight screamed at him that he needed to figure out what he was going to do because I was done. He did figure it out, and to this day, can get her to sleep better than me.
At this point, we started to sleep in the living room with her: both of us. Cohiba insisted sleeping out there with us in a show of solidarity, and after several failed attempts of all of us sleeping on the couch together, propping her up, he took the floor. His shoulder is still jacked up from the months of sleeping with his arm as a pillow.
Shortly thereafter, she got into a sort of schedule, and she started by sleeping in her swing. She was swaddled, because she loves being a little burrito baby, which meant she wasn’t belted into the swing like she should be. To prevent baby injury, I slept under the swing to catch her if she fell. (Really keen thinking, wasn’t it? Momma MENSA is going to be calling me any day now.)
Then we got to a point that she would sleep in the swing, wake up to nurse, and then go back to sleep. But instead of putting her back in the swing, I put her on the edge of the large couch, swaddled and face up. ‘Just like a bassinet.” I figured, and I slept on the other half of the couch, my arm blocking her from the edge. I finally got a bit more sleep that way. But then I started reading about how dangerous it is to sleep on a couch with a baby – so more dangerous than in a bed. (There’s the first PSA.)
Cohiba had to spend a week at work in Seattle right before we moved, and, as I was alone with a two month old for a week, I took the plunge and took her to bed with me. She slept close to me no matter how far I initially placed her, and I believe, after reading, talking to people, and experience, that is as it should be. Her instinct is to be close to her mother. She could still move her face and she mostly just nursed through the night.
I didn’t have to sit up, I didn’t have to do anything. I slept better that night than I had since she was born. Then, the next morning, I looked down at her.
She looked up at me and smiled.
Oh! The sweetest smile, and my gooey mother’s hear melted. I was hooked. I loved having her precious warm little body so close to mine.
Our pediatrician frowned on it, our families frowned on it, a lot of people did. So when people asked about where she slept (which, like, everyone did! Why do people ask about baby sleeping so much!?) I just answered, “We do what works for us.” Also, we moved between three different apartments and beds, and I used bedsharing to give her some consistency in the face of all that change. That usually satisfied the masses and we were happy.
Until about month eight.
That warm little inert body gained neck strength and she was curious through the night. I got sick – twice – because she woke me up so often. Cohiba had to take days off work to care for both of us. I could not longer say we were doing what “works for us,” since it wasn’t working for me. So after a little difficulty (though not as much as I feared) we transitioned her to her crib and she does great in them, though she still loves to sleep with us.
What I wish I had known before:
Do not sleep on the couch with a newborn. It is super dangerous. (Second PSA.)
You are going to have to figure out something, and you will.
Do research about other options, including bedsharing. It may not be your thing, but just in case, learn how to do it safer and precautions you should take. Don’t share a bed with anyone who has been drinking or smoking and keep the sheets and pillows away from their bodies. (Third PSA)
You’ll be okay.