The Great Sleep Debate

It is said that the only continent to take such an obsessive interest in infant’s sleep is North America. Indeed, there are about a million different opinions on newborn sleep. Where they should sleep, how they should fall asleep, when they should go to sleep, and the list goes on, and on, AND ON.

I don’t know how many times I get asked about how McKenna is sleeping, and where. It’s starting to drive me a little crazy.

We still bed-share. And for some reason, I have been feeling guilty about this. Guilty because of the opinions of others, telling me things like: a) it will be impossible to get her out of our bed b) that it’s not healthy for her independence, or my favourite –  c) that it isn’t safe. For each of these reasons I can find you an argument to the contrary. That mothers bed-share with their children all over the world because it is what comes natural to all parties involved. That bed-sharing MOTIVATES independence, as a child feels more secure in their relationship with their parents. I can point you to numerous articles about how bed-sharing is just as safe, then infants sleeping alone in cribs.

There is no perfect place for an infant to sleep. All we can do is take the proper precautions and do what we can to make their choice sleeping environment as safe as possible.  

Matt and I take all the proper precautions when it comes to having McKenna in bed with us, and trust me, I WOULD NOT BE DOING IT IF IT WASN’T SAFE. Why would I EVER put my child in harm’s way unnecessarily?

Because of all of the opinions I had been hearing on infant sleep and the family bed, I felt a real pressure to get McKenna to sleep in her crib. So, I tried putting McKenna in her crib at night every night for one week. She cried each and every night. Then, on one night, it seemed as though she was about to fall asleep, and I nearly cried. Nearly cried that it might be the first night the two of us would be separate in a long, long time. She did eventually wake up, crying harder than before. She wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. So why were we forcing it?

I have found in these past 20 weeks that we all get the best sleep around here, when we stop obsessing about how to get it. So the next morning, I sat down, took some time and really thought about what I WANTED. And when i really thought about it afterwards, my wants, line up almost exactly with what McKenna seems to need right now.

My wants:

  1. McKenna in bed with us until she is at least 6 months. For several reasons. The obvious and foremost being we love the quality time we get from sleeping together as a family. There is really no better feeling than waking up in the morning next to your happy, smiling baby. The second is the ease of night-nursing. I can’t say enough about the amount of time it saves.
  2. McKenna out of our bed by the time her daily calories consist of mostly solids. This would take away one of our major benefits of bed-sharing; the night-nursing element. By this point, she will likely be sleeping through the night and won’t require any feeds.
  3. The transition from our bed to crib to be as easy as possible, with little to no crying. This is of most importance to me. We, as a family, do not want to practice the cry-it-out method. It works for some families, I know, but it is our personal preference to not participate in this particular sleep training method. For this reason, McKenna will continue to nap exclusively in her crib. She will have play times in her crib too, so she learns that it is a safe and fun place to be.
  4. McKenna to be able to self-soothe. I put McKenna down for naps and bed when she is drowsy, not asleep. We do not rock McKenna to sleep, but on occasion, if she cannot settle, I do nurse her to sleep. I would like for her to be able to soothe herself to sleep, so I will continue the practice of putting her down drowsy, and try to intervene less and less so she can learn good habits of soothing herself.
  5. McKenna to take longer and fewer naps during the day (one or two 2 hour naps instead of four 45 minute naps). I am still trying to see what I can do to help obtain this goal. I have been told longer naps come with age, and her nap-times have started to increase. But if any mama’s out there reading this have any tips, I would LOVE to hear them!

The next day, I brought all of this up to Matthew. I asked him how he felt about having her in bed with us, and he said it didn’t bother him one bit. That he loved having her near. Even though he sometimes is awoken by our nighttime feedings, he said he has no issues falling back asleep and doesn’t feel any more tired in the day than he did before.

So, as you can see, the family bed is working for us. It has been a positive experience thus far. If it one day becomes a negative experience, we will then have to re-evaluate and change our plan accordingly.

As a mama, I am learning I need to have absolute conviction in the decisions I make for my child. There are going to be many, and they are going to get increasingly tougher.  And all I can do is what is best for my daughter, stand by that decision, and stand firm.

Do we eventually want our bed to be back to just us two? Of course. We do miss out on quite a bit of quality time by making this choice. But it is just that, it is a CHOICE, a choice that works for our family.

So I am, as of today, no longer going to feel the need to justify that choice. What works for my family may not work for yours. I would never try to push bed-sharing onto anyone who wasn’t comfortable with it; because each family is different.

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2 thoughts on “The Great Sleep Debate

  1. It’s funny all the things you say when your pregnant in reality don’t always transpire. Myself and my husband vowed we wouldn’t co sleep with our little one but when your sleep deprived and your baby is waking every hour you do what you can. And it makes perfect sense that your child would want to be close to you and falls asleep in a second when snuggled up in between their parents. You’re not alone in your views, we all just do our best and try to ignore people’s questions about why my 6month old isn’t sleeping through the night.

  2. Good for you for finding something that works for you and your family and sticking with it, in spite of other people’s objections. My son was sleeping in his own crib by 2 months old, but I’ve started taking naps with him in my bed during the day. He sleeps way longer and sounder laying next to me, and I love the time together with him. Great post!

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