I am writing this post on my phone, curled up next to my sleeping baby. It’s not the comfiest way to blog, even if it is always delicious to cuddle with Walt. I’m doing it because if I get up and move to the computer ten feet from here, he will wake up. He simply will not stay asleep for more than ten minutes unless he is touching another human.
I read about attachment parenting and cosleeping before I had the baby; we planned on sleeping near our son. I had never had a crib as a baby and slept in my parents’ bed until I was old enough for a twin bed. I did consider the possibility that cosleeping or bedsharing (a subcategory of cosleeping, which is really just sleeping in the same room) would not work for our family. As much as I liked the cuddly idea, I knew that some people just don’t share a bed well. What I failed to anticipate was the tenacity with which our child would share our bed.
Walter will not stay asleep even in his “cosleeper,” a mini crib with three sides snugly attached to our bed. He somehow knows, even when I place a hand on him, that he could be closer, and opens his eyes. I would prefer that he sleep next to us in this lovely little sidecar crib, so that my husband and I could have the option of sleeping curled up, just the two if us, the way we slept before I became too pregnant to do that comfortably. Equally important is the safety-conscious design of the cosleeper, with its firm surface, tightly fitted sheet and small lip to keep grown-up blankets away.
I have tried everything age-appropriate to get him to sleep in the safer, more marriage-friendly kind-of crib. I have put him down awake but drowsy. I have put him down asleep on his side and rolled him gently to his back after a few minutes. I have placed myself half in his bed and half in ours, which was extremely uncomfortable given the four-inch wooden lip that separates the two. None of this has convinced my child to sleep next to, but not actually touching, one of his parents.
The car is the one place he can be convinced to nap on his own. As long as the motion of the car puts him to sleep, he will stay asleep in his carseat for even long trips (thank goodness). Otherwise, during the day, he naps in his sling or in someone’s arms.
I have spoken to our pediatrician about this at every visit. We agree that the cosleeper is preferable. We also agree that getting more than fifteen minutes of sleep in a stretch is necessary for everyone’s health and sanity. During our two-month checkup, I asked if there was a good way to teach our baby to sleep in his cosleeper, and I found the answer rather fascinating. In our doctor’s experience, all the “methods” of sleep experts do “what they promise” to do in each of the popular books on sleep. But the only thing they all have in common? None of them is effective before a baby is about four months old.
I suppose the one exception is the attachment parenting idea that following a baby’s cues on sleep will strengthen your bond and actually get everyone more rest. This we started from birth and have no plan to change by adopting any kind of rigid schedule. Nowhere in my Dr. Sears Attachment Parenting book, however, does it say that actual physical contact is necessary. This seems to be something hard-wired into my particular child.
For now, I am extremely grateful that, as long as he is glued to some part of Mom or Dad, Walter sleeps long and deeply. He wakes with a smile. He doesn’t cry immediately. He doesn’t even really wake up to nurse, provided I help him latch on before he gets too hungry (his little hungry cues, grunts and wiggles, wake me in time). Our whole family gets good rest every night.
In about another month, Walter will be old enough, and we will be able to start teaching him to sleep “on his own.” I would like to be able to leave the bed long enough to brew and drink a cup of coffee. I’d like to sleep with my husband’s arms around me again. For now, we are all just enjoying this time we will only see once. Our babe is still fetus-like and so new to the world. I catch him sleeping in positions I know he occupied in my womb. Thank goodness I easily wake and fall back asleep, so our arrangement doesn’t leave me exhausted. And I am so glad I learned about safe bedsharing, so we’re all sleeping on a firm mattress, sheets pulled tight, with no blankets or pillows around the baby’s face. It takes some maneuvering to make sure that last part happens, but we manage. As I said, he will only be so new, so little, so dependent, for a short time. Once that is gone, it will be gone forever. So we share our bed and our sleep and enjoy the moment. And I’m using the cosleeper as a really expensive nightstand—a place to put my glasses and water bottle.