Back in 2015, as a soon to be first-time mom, I was a Google machine. One of my many research topics was safe sleep. I knew all the rules: baby on her back, nothing in the crib, a flat mattress, and no co-sleeping. And when it came to baby safety even this free spirit was planning to play by the rules.
Then enter my fellow free spirit of a daughter, Henley. She came out a total cuddle bug (still is!) My husband and I didn’t hate the cuddles at all, but we knew it wasn’t part of safe sleep. Yet, each time we laid her in the crib, the tears never stopped. Folks kept saying, “Just let her cry it out” or “You gotta swaddle,” but nothing was working. Her scared cries in the middle of the night were ripping me apart. I even set timers to try to keep myself from picking her up “too soon.” There was no sleep happening for anyone. And just when we were at the end of our rope, her pediatrician said something that stuck with me. She said, “Your only job right now is to love her and make her feel safe.”
Her screaming all night (as my husband fussed with a swaddle and I stuttered through lullabies) didn’t feel anything like loved and safe. Enter Plan B. She was sleeping in our arms during the day so why not do the same at night. To make sure she was safe in the bed, we took shifts staying awake. At that point, we were getting some sleep, but my shift awake at one a.m. next to a sleeping husband, two snoring dogs, and a baby warm on my chest felt impossible. It only took one night of one of us falling asleep and dropping her into the pillows — to move on to Plan C. Which was…
To not fight it! We were and are co-sleepers. Not playing by the rules is fitting for us and no one we know is surprised when we say we co-sleep. But if you’re a Google machine like me, you may be freaking out or wondering if we regret it. As for regret, the answer is no!
While it’s not for everyone, co-sleeping makes me feel like I’m giving love and safety. It doesn’t hurt that we actually sleep. We’re all getting 8+ hours a night, which is more than pre-Henley. I feel better having her close to me and if she stirs during the night a quick hand to the chest is all she needs. And as a working mom, there’s something special about having my little girl fall asleep in my arms and getting to wake up to her sweet face in the morning. Now that she’s a toddler on the go, there’s not enough of those moments. As I type this, she’s curled up next to me for a nap. Any minute I know she’ll wake up and look at me with those long-lashed blue eyes to say, “Hi”. Cue my heart melting.
Back to the folks that may be freaking out. We put a lot of thought into creating a safe space for Henley in our bed. As a parent, there are many choices even before your little one arrives. Some things turn out exactly as you plan and others take you by surprise. Co-sleeping took us by surprise, but honestly, I believe it only took me by surprise, because I never considered it an option. When we went all in on co-sleeping, Ask Dr. Sears, was a saving grace. We were able to find helpful information without feeling guilty for choosing to co-sleep.
Lastly, we’ve had folks ask when we’re going to kick her out of the bed. Simply, when she’s ready. We have everything set up, but we’re going to let it be her choice. When she hit 18 months we gave it a shot, which led to an epic tantrum. In full-on meltdown mode, she slammed her mouth into the side of the crib sending us to the E.R. on a Sunday. So, for now, we’re going to enjoy the snuggles in bed. Even though some folks think we’re weird or unsafe, it feels right for us.