It seems ridiculous now, but when my children were babies, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me that it was okay to snuggle and co-sleep with them. I did follow my instincts and our children gave us plenty of feedback that sleeping next to them was healthy and useful and it just plain felt good. The first week of motherhood, I remember trying to nurse at night and then put my baby back into a crib. It seemed none of us were getting much sleep and it felt pretty obvious to just sleep in the same bed. But it was a totally foreign concept to me and I had to work out a few things in my head.
Learning about co-sleeping
I’m stunned actually that the first time I heard of co-sleeping was reading Dr Willliam Sears on preventing SIDS. I was doing some pregnancy reading and for some reason chose Dr Sear’s A Parent’s Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I had an immediate intuitive hit when I read about co-sleeping but didn’t really know where that would lead us.
Once our son was born, I tried the bassinet. For about two nights. But he wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t sleeping well, and it seemed so natural to snuggle up next to each other. I still remember the first night with my arm at an angle, protecting his head. I didn’t sleep the first night because I didn’t want to squish him. I soon learned that I was well aware of his presence and began sleeping more soundly. The feelings of knowing he was right next to me, that I could make physical contact at any time, and that I was aware of his health and needs were all very powerful and compelling to me as a mother.
Despite the immediate satisfaction of co-sleeping, I had a bit of mental sludge to work through. I heard from others and questioned myself: Was I “teaching” my children to be dependent? Would they ever learn to sleep on their own? Was it “natural”?
Those very questions show a lack of trust in our innate human development and drive to expand and learn. It was the beginning of a-16-years-and-counting journey in learning to trust myself and my children. And part of that for me was learning more. I read books like The Continuum Concept and The Family Bed. I networked with other mothers interested in attachment parenting. And I noticed what my children responded to and what they didn’t.
It felt so good, it still does.
As I look back now, I am so appreciative that I established this high-touch physical connection. Touch is a very tribal and connective sense for me. Babies and children respond first to touch as their anchoring and nurturing sensations. There is an energetic and physical connection I have with my children that I will always remember. I feel like it is imprinted in our very cells and cellular memory.
Being with my children, responding to their needs, snuggling and touching, created and supported a bond that continues today. Touch is a very tribal need. Touch connects us in ways nothing else matches. Touch while sleeping – that’s just being efficient. 😉
And yes ….
My children all chose to move to their own beds at various ages. Every single worry I had was pointless and un-grounded.
I could not find a creative commons picture of a mother and baby sleeping but did find one of a dad. Alas, I don’t have any of me with my kids. ;-(