When I was pregnant and planning for a baby, I knew that I would be a "natural" parent, and that R would have a "natural" childhood. That "naturally" meant no crib for us, but I wasn't thinking about actual co-sleeping at the time. I explored side-cars and sleepers different arrangements and finally settled on a gifted bassinet that I set up next to my side of the bed. And that was that.
But making plans for a baby is a funny thing because they don't give a flying flook about what plans you might have for them. It turns out they have plans of their own, and those plans include being cuddled close to their mom as much as possible. Screw bassinets and side -cars and anything that isn't mom. At least this is what R expected. I remember the first few nights with her wondering if I had skipped over an important chapter in some book because no matter how stealthily I tried to slip her into the bassinet, she wouldn't have it.
Finally, on the second or third night, I gave up. There's was nothing else I could do. I threw the pillows off the bed, tucked her into the bend of my arm, and fell asleep just like that. And we slept all night.
It's been almost a year since then, and this is still what we do, although she's now learned the luxury of spreading her body out and does so soon after she falls asleep. I think about this often, the fact that I've fallen asleep with my daughter every night of her life. It's an incredibly special gift. Even though we're sleeping I still feel her presence and the heat of her small body when it presses up to mine. I always know she's there. When she wakes up crying from a bad dream I'm right there, ready to curl around her and let her know it's ok.
I know there are questions about husbands and assumptions they're not on board with sharing their bed with a baby. I've had a vastly different experience. Chris loves that we are with her and that one of the first things he hears in the morning is the sound of a growling monster crawling over the blankets to get to him. I remember when she first started waking early, and her sounds of excitement at the world before 6am. It was all so horribly wonderful because 6am?? And at the same time, what more could I ask for? There's nothing else like it.
R's my first kid, so I have nothing else to compare this to. But my instincts tell me that co-sleeping has deepened our bond. It's not unlike when you start to sleepover at a guy's house. That serious business. And I know that might be a tad cringy to compare sleeping in bed with a baby and sleeping in bed with a guy, but the point I'm making is that there is a deepening in relationships when we sleep next to each other.
I also want to add that for Minimalists like me, co-sleeping is a great excuse to not only never get a crib but also toss out smaller things like bassinets. Even the side-sleeper Chris eventually built has never once gotten used.
I know for a lot of people this might bring up thoughts of spoiling, and I've had to wrestle with this one myself. But at this point, I am 100% certain that it is a non-issue. Mothers have been co-sleeping with their babies since the beginning of time, and because of this humans have evolved expecting this. The little prehistoric baby who protested the loudest when his mom wasn't close by probably had the best chance of survival when his mom pattered over to cuddle him close. I know this is a cliche explanation, but it's actually probably what happened.
Anyhow. This is the most normal and natural thing, as counter-cultural as it may be. Babies expect it, mothers want it, families become closer, and everyone wins in the end.
I can't say that there never is any discomfort, or that I don't love sprawling my own body out on the bed the moment Chris carries her out of the room in the early morning hours. But am saying that any temporary discomfort I feel is the price I gladly pay for this time with my daughter.
I guess what this boils down to is the fact that Chris and I wanted a kid because 1) we really like each other, and 2) we wanted to fall in love and have a blast with a child. We are both infatuated with parenthood and R, and everything we do revolves around her, and each other. Co-sleeping is a natural extension of this, as is our plan to homeschool / un-school / raise a wild child. We had a kid to experience having a kid, and we want the three of us to be around each other as much as possible.
I remember reading the book Bringing up Bebe and loving it, although to say that now makes me scratch my head. In the book, the author explores the French way of parenting and, uh, bringing up babies. One of the chapters on sleep talks about their method of putting a baby to sleep in their crib and that somehow the baby understands that this is the way things are.
Another chapter suggests that French parents expect babies to mold to the family they are born into, and not the other way around. In a nutshell, that there is an adult way of the world and babies are along for the ride. No thanks, France. I want my life to mold to the shape of my baby because that's the way things are supposed to be. A baby has much less ability to adapt to their environment than an emotionally mature adult, so duh. Of course, we are the ones who should mold.
Would you believe that I meant to just write a few words about co-sleeping and then link out to my favorite blogs for the rest? One thousand words later….(famous last words). Anyhow, here are links to some great articles on co-sleeping, ranging from a dad’s perspective to our biological needs to safety dos and don’ts.