This post probably won’t win me a lot of approval in the natural living community. Don’t get me wrong; I hate doing things just because it’s the “norm” or what’s expected or commonly accepted in American society. I do not choose independent sleeping because co-sleeping is frowned upon in our society. I just want to clear that up!
I’m a big fan of many “attachment parenting” techniques, but co-sleeping isn’t one of them. Wearing your baby (can anyone say hands-free breastfeeding, cleaning, grocery shopping and spanking of older children?!), breastfeeding (yay for post-baby weight loss and countless health benefits for mom and baby!), and fostering a loving and nurturing relationship with my children are all very important to me. I value closeness with my children. However, when it’s time to sleep, I prefer everyone have their own space.
I know, I know, many of you will disagree. Many proponents of co-sleeping insist that making a child sleep in their own bed or even (gasp!) room, will cause lifelong insecurities and attachment issues. I simply disagree. I have two extremely independent children, now toddler- and preschool-aged, who each sleep in their own bed in their own room and know they have two parents who love them. They receive all the cuddles they desire. (In fact, I don’t think they give ME enough cuddles!) And should they need some attention in the middle of the night due to a nightmare or some other unforeseen cause, of course, I don’t turn them away. But everyone just seems to sleep better when we sleep in our own beds.
So, why am I such a fan of independent sleeping? When I was preparing for the birth of my first baby, I was anything but natural-minded. We’re talking potato chips and candy bars every day. The only thing I was certain of was that I wanted to get the best sleep possible after my son was born. A friend lent me the book “Babywise,” which discusses sleeping and eating habits for babies. I honestly don’t remember a lot of the book now, but the main principle of the book is this: your baby needs a cycle- eat, play, sleep, in that order. The reason this is so important is that when you insert a wake/play time between eating and sleeping, baby can learn to fall asleep on his own, without depending on nursing to fall asleep.
While I’m a huge fan of breastfeeding, I have never liked developing the habit of allowing my baby to fall asleep nursing (although, this is nearly impossible to avoid during the first 1-3 months of life). When the baby does not associate the act of eating with falling asleep, he can develop other ways of falling asleep. I am a huge fan of not having to jump through hoops to get my babies to sleep. If I can lay him in his crib, walk away, and be able to drag my tired self into my own bed to sleep for what little time I can before he wakes up again, I am on board!
Additionally, as your baby gets bigger and you start getting more sleep at night, that little thing called intimacy begins to reappear in your marriage. Your husband is a huge fan of THIS. I just don’t see how a marriage can foster intimacy if there is always a child between you in the bed. Raising babies is utterly exhausting. After a long day in which your children are always under feet, when do you get to spend time with your husband if your kids join you in bed? For this single fact alone, I reject co-sleeping. I think the sooner your baby can learn to sleep on his own, the sooner normalcy can begin to return to your marriage.
Now that we are a few short months away from having our third baby, and I’m doing things MUCH differently this time around, I wonder if any of my opinions will change now that I’m much more naturally-minded. As far as co-sleeping goes, I doubt it. I plan to do things in that one area as I always have. The payoff of teaching my babies to sleep on their own from as early an age as possible is huge. Having older children who fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night is priceless.