I make no secret of the fact that I co-sleep with my daughter. It’s not something we’ve done since birth, nor was it a conscious parenting decision, but here we are, co-sleeping.
When I found out I was pregnant, I already had some ideas about how I wanted to parent my baby. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and that I wanted her to be surrounded by books and music. I knew that I wanted to be a stay at home mum until she reached school age and that I didn’t want to leave her in the care of strangers at daycare.
I had been told at birth classes that co-sleeping was dangerous and not recommended due to increased risk of SIDS, so I never considered that my baby would sleep anywhere other than her bassinet and then cot. What my birth coach failed to mention, due to hospital policy I’m sure, is that there are many benefits of co-sleeping, which I would soon work out for myself.
Initially, Little Chop slept swaddled and warm in her bassinet in the lounge room by day and by my side of the bed at night. Night time feedings were in the lounge room – she would feed and drift back to sleep and we would return to our close but separate beds. The temperate summer climate made leaving the warmth of the bed easier, and I was an eager new mum, doing things by the book.
Four months later the temperature had dropped, Little Chop no longer wanted to be swaddled, and her night time feeding schedule had left me feeling beyond exhausted. My ‘getting baby to sleep’ technique had gone out the window and she was wriggling and writhing, fussing and screaming, and definitely not napping in her cot. So during the day, I would lay down with her in my bed and she would drift quietly off to sleep. Hallelujah!
During the cold Winter nights, I would bring Little Chop into the bed to feed, then return her to the cot when she had fallen back to sleep. Until one night, out of sheer exhaustion, I fell asleep with her still in the bed. I woke up in a panic, “Shit! What have I done? Is she breathing? How could I let myself fall asleep with my precious daughter in the bed!” – she was warm, comfortable and sleeping soundly. Once I had crossed that bridge, it became a regular occurrence. Little Chop would begin the night in her bed and wake up in mine. After a month or so, Hubby moved into the spare room and Little Chop moved in with me. She was happy, I was getting more sleep and we weren’t trudging to the cold lounge room for nightly feeds.
In the end, co-sleeping, was something that happened organically for us because it complemented other parenting decisions I had made – to have my baby sleep in my bedroom, to breastfeed on demand, to practise attachment parenting. I am now in the process of weaning Little Chop as I am pregnant again, but we continue to co-sleep because I don’t believe in ‘cry it out’ or ‘controlled crying’ sleep training methods.
It’s widely reported that co-sleeping is unsafe, but I have never felt that I was putting my daughter in danger. I don’t drink and don’t smoke, I’m not overweight and not a heavy sleeper. If you don’t meet all these conditions, co-sleeping is definitely not the safest sleeping arrangement for your baby.
Since opening up to my friends and family about co-sleeping with my daughter, I have found that EVERY breastfeeding mum I know, plus one bottle feeding mum, has co-slept or currently co-sleeps with her baby, making up more than half the mums I know! Co-sleeping is a common practise around the world, especially in Asian countries, and in recent studies, about two thirds of the American and English families who participated said that they had co-slept with their children.
So next time you feel judged for co-sleeping with your child, remember, it’s not taboo, its normal.