Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The accidental co-sleeper

I never wanted to be a co-sleeper. In fact I was adamant about Eggbert sleeping in a crib. While I am not against co-sleeping in general, in our case, it seemed inappropriate for several reasons. First and foremost, Mystery and I are flailers. We both toss and turn, and have (accidentally, I swear) each awakened the other with a smack across the head more than once. So, we are particularly poor candidates for co-sleeping. In addition, I have a (perhaps irrational) fear that co-sleeping with an infant will lead to co-sleeping with a 10-year-old. Mystery and I like having a little "us" time in bed, and I don't like the idea of being accompanied by even the delicious Eggbert for years and years. Also, I have a friend who lost a six-week-old baby to SIDS, and while I am not completely convinced that co-sleeping is intrinsically a risk factor (the studies suggesting that it is are seriously flawed), I know I'd never forgive myself if something happened while co-sleeping. Finally, we do plan to keep Eggbert in our room for at least the first year, so having her in the bed too seemed a bit much.

That was then.

My plan was simple. I moved her crib right next to the bed, so that when she woke up in the middle of the night, I could pick her up right away, move to the glider (also conveniently placed nearby), feed her, and then lovingly return her to her crib. Putting her down while sleepy, but not asleep, would teach her to put herself to sleep, and ensure us a lifetime of all-adult bed time. Are the moms out there laughing hysterically at my naiveté yet?

Eggbert's plan was also simple. She would cry anytime I put her in the crib alone. Ever. After I fed her into a nice stupor in the glider, she would respond to my slightest movement toward the crib with howls. After several almost completely sleepless nights, I got the brilliant idea of nursing her in bed, so she'd already be lying down on her back, and I could just gently shift her to the crib without waking her. In response, Eggbert developed an exquisite radar system that allows her to detect breaches of the crib perimeter with uncanny precision, leading her to sleep soundly until my hands lowered her within the border, at which point she started awake and began whimpering.

We went back and forth for the first few nights, with her falling asleep in my arms, or later in the bed, but waking the second I put her in the crib. Then it happened. I fell asleep with her in the bed. We got four hours of delicious sleep, but I was absolutely horrified. I confessed to Mystery (who had adjourned to the guest bed prior to this incident in an attempt to both get some sleep, and give me more room in the bed to nurse Eggbert). He promised to check periodically to make sure that we weren't co-sleeping. And it worked. A few times. By worked, I mean that I fell asleep with the Egg in the bed several more times, and a few times he came in and noticed, and put her in the crib, at which point she howled.

I also won a few battles. Once in a while, she fell asleep and stayed asleep for a few hours in the crib. After a while I thought we were making real progress, when she spent over six hours in the crib each night.

Then we went to the US. In Korea, we can keep our tiny apartment at about 75 degrees F without much effort or expense. However, it would be impossible to raise my parents' house above 70 F without depleting the entire strategic oil reserve. So, the Egg no longer required her uncanny senses to determine that she was alone. The absence of a nearby adult was immediately detectable through a several-degree drop in the local air temperature. No matter how warmly she was dressed, she never slept for more than a couple of hours in the crib that her grandparents had so lovingly provided. I told myself that the (increasingly frequent) co-sleeping was temporary, and that we'd get back on track once we were back in Korea.

Now here we are, and last night she spent four hours in bed with me, and four hours in the crib. Can we call that a tie? I would, except that after a 1:30 am feeding and diaper change, I caught myself putting a sleepy Eggbert back in bed with me after the diaper change. The diaper change had been precipitated by a feeding (you've gotta love that gastro-colic reflex), so I couldn't even pretend that I was putting her in the bed to feed her. It's now official. She has trained me to co-sleep.

Now what to do? We're working on getting her to take naps in her crib (not easy after two weeks of being held 24-7 by a team consisting of both parents, two grandparents, an aunt, and about a million other visitors), but even that is hard, and generally results in very short naps. Does anyone have any tips for how to get the baby back out of the bed into the crib where she belongs?

I should mention that:

A) I never move when sleeping anymore. I wake up aching from head to toe from having spent the whole night (or at least the most recent sleeping bout) in exactly the same position. So, I'm no longer worried about Eggbert's safety, but I'm increasingly worried about my own.

B) Aches aside, I must admit that co-sleeping is the most delicious thing on earth. However, I still don't want to co-sleep with a toddler, and I would like to let Mystery back in the bed on a more consistent basis some time soon!

The lovely M-B asked for photos, so here she is:


Rachel Inbar said...

She is gorgeous!!!

I am also against co-sleeping (I just don't sleep as well) but I wouldn't worry too far ahead, since everything changes so quickly with little ones...

Thalia said...

Wow, she is absolutely gorgeous! NO wonder she has you wound around her little finger!

Re the sleeping, I'd say do whatever works. Time enough to fix any issues later. ~Babies this young can't learn anything, so all that stuff about putting them down in the crib awake is pretty much nonsense, don't let it make you feel bad!

Jamie said...

She is so beautiful! What a doll!

I have no advice about co-sleeping. We've managed to keep Bo in the crib so far... Granted, there have been nights when I have really considered bringing him to bed a few nights but so far we have made it. My mom keeps telling me that will change...

hadjare said...

We co-sleep in our bed with Morella using the Sassy sleep care system until she was officially diagnosed with severe reflux. Then I switched to a bouncinette (elevated her at a good 45 degree angle and KEPT her there) and put that in the cosleeper which is attached to the bed. So she has officially moved to that...but is still within an arms reach.

We don't have a crib yet, but it's in the future -- maybe in a couple more months? After the 6 month mark is when SID's decreases, right?

Rose said...

Hi Sara,
Well, I have to admit that if I had a baby as cute and cuddly as Eggbert, I would want to spend every waking (and sleeping!) moment with her...
That said, I am taking notes, as I realize that however much we read up on sleeping habits and everything else, the problem is that our baby hasn't read those books!
But if you have the time and the inclination, try this site:
Let me know if you find it useful.

Marie-Baguette said...

Oh she is GORGEOUS!!!! She is absolutely beautiful! I have the same issue: Max falls asleep on the breast and wake up as soon as he is in crib. I have noticed that very slow movements, keeping him against me and then very very slowly putting him in his crib works. Also I have to wait when he is deep asleep to do it. I am against co-sleeping for the same reasons as you. Also Max needs to be ultra comfy to sleep, so having him in a sleep sack works best. And if I may, I would recommend moving her to her own room, it will do wonders for your quality of sleep. It was hard to do, but I feel like my old self again since he moved to his room (I am not sure if you do have a baby room though). Good luck with everything!

misschrisc said...

I am an accidental cosleeper too as I learned with my son, oops. You can read about all my cosleeping adventures linked in my sidebar on my blog.

btw Dr. Sears claims on his website that studies show cosleeping actually reduces the risk of SIDS because mother and baby are breathing in unison, "reminding" baby to breathe. And mother´s instinct will keep baby from getting squashed as you´ve discovered. The problem is lack of sleep for mom!

JENN said...

Sara - our co-sleeping started off like this as well. By 3 months we had her completely in the crib. It was just a matter of putting her back in her crib after she fell asleep again. Pretty much what you are doing. After a few more weeks you will start to come out of your "pregnancy/labor haze" and be more aware.

Now, due to moving and traveling a lot Little Bean is back in our bed so I am no "authority" on this issue (she is a toddler now for those who don't know me).
So in the end, I say do what come naturally.

triLcat said...

She is SOOOO sweet.

Co-sleeping is believed to reduce SIDS. However, blankets and pillows in an adult bed can be a suffocation hazard. (making the mortality rates similar if not worse.)

It's almost unheard of for a mother who isn't 'under the influence' to smush her baby.

For our baby, we found that we had to wait until she was asleep about 10 minutes to keep her from waking up when we put her down. Check if she's all the way asleep by picking up one arm. If it flops back down, she's asleep. If she does anythnig to control floppage, wait a bit longer.

Lut C. said...

Accidental co-sleeper, that's very wel put. After a while, my girl just didn't mind being in the crib anymore, and I miss her in my bed!