In preparing myself to write this post, I found myself recalling two things: first, I thought back on all of the thinking and planning that Jord and I did for our lives as parents, both before we decided to start trying to have a baby and while I was pregnant. In terms of where our baby would sleep, we decided early on that we weren’t interested in purchasing a bassinet for the baby to sleep in our room, since we felt that a pack ‘n’ play could serve the same purpose, but also provide us with a longer period of usefulness that the bassinet simply couldn’t. Then, when we moved into our current apartment, a two-bedroom layout in which our son’s bedroom is right across the hall from our room, we decided that we would put our son to sleep for the night in his crib, and that we would use a sleep positioner to keep his little newborn body in the center of the crib.
Yet, in reflecting upon L’s sleep patterns in beginning to write this post, the second memory that came to mind was how L and I slept on our final night’s stay in the hospital. The labor & delivery wing of the hospital in Vermillion is located near the emergency wing, and on our final night’s stay, a helicopter transported a patient to the ER very late in the night. The helicopter pad was located just outside the window of our hospital room, and the loud noise of the propeller blades startled L. He was quite fussy after being awoken in such a manner, so he and I spent the night sleeping together in my hospital bed, with L lying on my chest the entire night, his body rising and falling with each breath I took. I remember telling Jord the next morning that that was the best night’s sleep that both L and I had gotten since he had been born.
After we brought L home from the hospital, we put him to bed each night in his crib, according to the plan that we developed before L was born. When he would wake during the night, I would go into his room to nurse him; I would often nurse him with the help of the Boppy pillow while I was seated in the rocking chair. Other nights, when I was simply too exhausted to sit upright in the rocking chair, I would take L out to our living room and nurse him while I was seated on the couch.
After a week or so of nursing on the couch (versus in the rocking chair) becoming routine, I found that more often than not, L would finish nursing, and he would fall asleep while perched up against my shoulder, trying to burp. Once I realized that this was happening more and more often, I began to wait for L to fall asleep on my chest after nursing before carrying him to his crib, instead of trying to rock him to sleep and then placing him in his crib. However, no matter how much I tried, or how long I waited for L to settle into sleep, either on my chest or in the rocking chair, L would wake up in his crib in short order and cry out for me, thus beginning the bedtime game of helping L to fall asleep all over again.
After about three weeks of this seemingly never-ending routine, needless to say, I was absolutely spent. I did the math and found that I was spending more time awake at night then I was asleep. To attempt to remedy this problem, L slept at night in his bouncy seat on our bedroom floor for a few weeks. The reasoning for this change was twofold: first, I felt that L didn’t feel comfortable waking up alone in his crib, and secondly, I noticed during daily naptimes that the vibration of the bouncy seat helped him to sleep. When we used the bouncy seat at night, L began to sleep for five, six, or even seven hour stretches for a few nights in July. However, by the end of July, I began to wonder if L’s sleep habits were regressing with this change; I noticed that L was back to his “normal” bedtime routine of sleeping in four-hour stretches after just a short time of using the bouncy seat at bedtime, which meant that he was waking around 2AM and 6AM for feedings.
While I maintain that I feel so, so blessed to have a child who, since birth, has slept in four-hour stretches and thus, has only awakened two times per night on average, the effort that it took for me to put L back to sleep in the middle of the night was rendering me absolutely exhausted. Despite my best efforts to make a change that was better for L and for me (the vibration of the bouncy seat helped him to fall asleep faster after feedings, thus allowing me to get more sleep), eventually, the utility of the bouncy seat (and the power of the vibration) wore off for L.
Desperate for a solution to help me to get more rest, at the beginning of August, I moved L’s pack ‘n’ play into our bedroom to see if he would sleep in there. I surmised that perhaps what soothed him more than the vibration of the bouncy seat was the sound of his parents breathing; I felt strongly that when L would awaken in his crib, he would realize that he was alone, and he would cry out not because he was hungry or wet, but for comfort and cuddling. I felt that using the pack ‘n’ play was a way to offer him the natural sounds of us sleeping while also allowing him his own space in which to sleep.
However, despite the intelligence behind why this system should work (because it would allow L to be comforted by the sounds of his parents sleeping), L absolutely hated sleeping in the pack ‘n’ play. I can recall one blissful four-hour stretch just a week or so ago, during which L slept soundly in the pack ‘n’ play, but that’s it. His restless sleeping behavior, which originated in the crib and was (for a short time) pacified by the bouncy seat, had begun to repeat itself.
So, one restless night, I brought L into our bed to nurse (I had finally figured out how to nurse while lying down!). As he finished nursing, I noticed his heavy eyes and the calm look on his face as he laid next to me. On that night, I decided to try something new: I swaddled L up (he always sleeps swaddled), and I brought him into the crook of my arm to cuddle with me for the rest of the night. And sure enough, something amazing happened, just like that final night’s stay in the hospital: L and I both had one of the most restful nights of sleep since he was born. He awoke one or two more times that night to nurse, and with just a little soothing, he fell back asleep in record time, positioned in the crook of my arm.
Initially, Jord and I were reluctant to bring L into our bed because we had read all about the dangers of co-sleeping or bed-sharing, specifically in regards to the danger of a soft mattress and loose bedding, as well as the danger of suffocation of the child. But, after just one night of bed-sharing with my son, I found that bed-sharing not only allows me to prioritize L’s needs, which I believe stem largely from his preference for skin-to-skin contact (a need that he has had since he was born), but also allows me to get a more restful night’s sleep than with any of our previous attempts at finding a sleep solution for L.
Ever since that night in mid-August, L has slept with Jord and I in our bed. He sleeps in the crook of my arm for the duration of the night, and when I reposition my body during the night to sleep (as a side sleeper, I often switch sides in the middle of the night), I also move him to make sure that he is always safe in our bed. Our mattress is one of the firmest models sold at our local mattress factory, and I make sure to keep all bedding far away from L (I’m not one to sleep with bedding tucked under my chin; I feel suffocated!). I’m obsessed with making sure that our son is safe in our bed, and even the deepest of slumbers does not allow me to “forget” that L is in bed with us. His safety is my first and most important priority.
I’m still a reluctant bed-sharer; despite my best efforts to ensure that L is safe in our bed, at times, I miss cuddling with my husband, and I feel badly that our dog, Wyatt, is relegated to the end of the bed (that is, when he doesn’t attempt to cuddle with Jord during the night; he largely keeps his distance from L and I). However, I know firstly that our decision to bed-share was made with L’s best interests in mind. Secondly, I take comfort in the fact that bed-sharing does not have to be our bedtime routine for the long-term; as of now, I plan to continue to bed-share with L until he demonstrates his readiness to sleep through the night on his own, which I assume will happen around the time that he begins to eat solid foods. In the meantime, however, I am committed to providing a safe, calm and restful haven for L to sleep in, no matter any hesitancy that I may have had initially.