Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How I became a bed sharing mama

When I was newly pregnant, I began making lists.  List making is a favorite personal past time.  The first list was Needed Baby Items.  To begin with, it was a short list: crib and stroller.  I knew very little about what babies needed, but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that a crib and a stroller were essential.

So, I went about getting a crib.  I researched safety ratings and recalls; I considered colors and styles.  Then, I haunted the cribs section on Craigslist and found the perfect crib at the perfect price.  Great!  I might not be too bad at this parenting thing!

I tell this story to underscore my complete lack of knowledge regarding co-sleeping in general, and bed sharing, specifically.  To my way of thinking, a baby slept in a crib in another room.  End of story. 

My view began to change as I did some cursory information gathering on breastfeeding.  I learned that a sidecar bassinet would assist the breastfeeding relationship, in the beginning, and it seemed like a pretty sensible idea.  So, again, my search began and I found a very nice Arm's Reach Co-sleeper at the consignment shop.

(Unfortunately, the bassinet didn't help the first couple months, as much as I thought it would.  Even though the baby was sleeping within arm's reach, I still got up every two hours to change his diaper and breastfeed him in a chair!)

As my son got bigger and neared the age where he would outgrow the bassinet, I started experiencing anxiety about moving him to the crib in the other room.  I didn't think there was anything I could do about, I just thought it was one of those things where I would have to push through the fear.  I mentioned it to a few people and they confirmed my thoughts: it might not feel so good at first, but ya gotta do it.  It's just the way things are done.

Luckily, in pregnancy yoga class, I had been introduced to a place called The Breastfeeding Center, and I had attended a few of its support groups for new breastfeeding moms. As the day I would need to move my baby to the crib loomed and it weighed heavily upon my mind, I heard at the support group about co-sleeping.  I began to wonder, was this something I could do?

Finally, I had to do something.  I started to consider bed sharing.  I read books, I looked at websites, I asked other people.  When I knew what I wanted to do, I asked my husband.

My husband and I often don't see eye to eye on parenting decisions.  He is much more mainstream than me.  I expected his resistance and had my retorts at the ready.

To my surprise, he had no objections whatsoever and thought it was normal.  As it turns out, in his culture, nearly all babies sleep with their parents.  That's when I learned that most people in the WORLD share this belief and practice.  How did I not know this?

Well, I know it now.  Bed sharing is not only essential to my breastfeeding relationship with my son, but as a mama who works full time outside the home, I would be bereft  if I did not have those precious 8 hours to connect, body and soul, with my sweet baby.

That's how I became a bed sharing mama.  I never could have imagined bed sharing as part of my parenting, and yet it is essential.  I wonder how others came to their decisions about sleeping and parenting?

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