Sunday, November 20, 2011

how we came to be a co-sleeping family

In Milwaukee there have been many babies dying in recent years due to unsafe sleeping arrangements, many reportedly in adult beds. So the Milwaukee Health Department just put out an new ad campaign to help reduce these deaths.

Sure gets your attention, but I don't think showing babies in beds with knives will help parents know how to put their babies to bed safely. They need to teach parents ways to help their babies sleep safely, either in a crib, co-sleeper, or in an adult bed. There are many benefits to co-sleeping (sleeping in the same room) and bedsharing (sleeping in the same bed) that they seem to ignore. Dr. Sears writes about the benefits here

How we ended up with four in our bed…
When I was pregnant with baby #1 (Tyler) we lived in Madison and had a crib all set up and ready for our new baby. A family member also gave us an Arm's Reach Co-sleeper that we set up and thought we'd use as a safe spot for the baby that was away from the dog, we never expected to be a co-sleeping family.

When we found out that we had an opportunity to move back to the Fox Valley we took down the crib and waited and waited and waited for Tyler to be born (he was born almost two weeks past his due date). During the crazy new baby days and moving to a rental house in another city with a 6-day old we used the co-sleeper next to the bed. Tyler was close and I could hear when he was getting hungry or could just put my hand on his belly to check on him.

There were a few nights that we tried putting Tyler in his crib but I was going back and forth from his room to ours between feedings many times a night and it seemed like I wouldn't hear him until he was screaming and very hungry. So most nights he was in the co-sleeper next to the bed.

Then we moved yet again when Tyler was three months old, this time to our own house! Tyler had been sleeping in the co-sleeper and then when Aaron went to work in the morning I'd bring him into our bed with me for a bit more sleep. At the new house we had the co-sleeper set up, and a crib in his room. Pretty soon Tyler ended up in our bed earlier in the morning or sometime in the middle of the night. But never in the crib.

I knew about safe sleep; no fluffy blankets or pillows, baby should be on his/her back to sleep, make sure baby can't roll off bed, don't let baby sleep by someone using drugs or alcohol, etc. (Dr. Sears has a Do's/Don'ts list here) and felt that we all slept better with him close. Aaron no longer was awake and trying to comfort a screaming baby. I would just roll over and feed him before he got to that screaming/starving/feed-me-now point. I didn't have to go across the cold house with a flashlight to get Tyler from his room because he was right next to me. And of course Tyler was happy to be fed without having to wake up much at all, I picked up on his feeding cues right away and he'd be right back to sleep. So he slept in our bed.

We ended up getting a toddler bed like this from Craigslist when Tyler was about 8 months old and he started taking naps in his big boy bed. We tried a few times to transition him full time to his toddler bed but we all slept better when he was already next to us. So sometimes he'd nap in the toddler bed but every night he was in our bed.

Fast forward to May of this year, Devon was born and we knew we wouldn't use a crib. We had a co-sleeper set up next to the bed again and Devon slept there for the first couple of months. Once we felt he was "big enough" we bought a bed rail for our bed (he was about 3 months old). In our king sized bed from the bed rail sleeps Devon, then me, then Tyler, then Aaron. Yes it's cozy but we like it.

our family bed

Of course there are risks we take with sharing a family bed but there are many risks we take every day with our children. How often do we think about how dangerous riding in the car is? We take precautions by buckling kids into their car seats and driving safely. We need to do the same for sleeping. Weigh the risks and then make a decision for our own family.

The Milwaukee Health Department is doing a good job of getting people's attention but I think we need to focus on safe ways for babies to sleep instead of the obvious ways not to.

Do you bedshare or co-sleep with your children? Were you planning on it or did it just evolve like it did with us? What do you think about the new ad campaign?

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