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Why moms lie about co-sleeping

Five reasons moms lie about co-sleeping.

“Put the baby down on her back, in her crib, while sleepy but awake.”

You’ve heard it a thousand times, right? From your pediatrician, from the pamphlets sent home with you from the hospital, from the smug parenting books you’re supposed to read while pregnant. I just want to go on the record and say that IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. Well, at least it didn’t for us. Let me level with you and tell you what actually happens and why more parents co-sleep than are letting on.

This time a year ago, we were putting the finishing touches on Baby G’s nursery. I had delusions of putting the baby in her crib and watching her escape to dreamland by her whimsical mobile.

The peaceful little nursery where Baby G would sleep every night.

The peaceful little nursery where Baby G would sleep every night.

Then when Baby G arrived, I tried it. Within 30 seconds my 3-day-old infant was screaming herself to oblivion, choking on her spit and splitting her vocal chords in two. WHAT DO I DO NOW? The hospital pamphlets didn’t mention what happens next. You just put the baby down in her crib and she falls asleep!

Not so for Baby G, and I suspect we’re not alone.

Because I’m not a sadist, I wasn’t cool with letting my 3-day-old cry until her lungs collapse. So I pick her up and rock her and she calms down. I put her back in her crib. The screaming ensues. I pick her up and hold her close. She quiets down. This pattern continues for hours until we are both so sleep deprived I carry her to bed with me, and hold her on my chest where she sleeps soundly for a 3 hour stretch. Then she stirs and I nurse her and we both doze off again. My sleep is fitful. Am I doing something dangerous and horrible? I went against everything I had read.

A sleepy girl tucked in my arms.

A sleepy girl tucked in my arms.

But the only way Baby G would sleep was tucked next to another warm human. So Joe and I took “shifts” and held her so the other one could have a break. My mom and mother-in-law also stayed over a few nights to take shifts as well. After a few weeks, we fell into a rhythm where Baby G would sleep next to me in bed and I would nurse her every few hours throughout the night. The whole family got sleep (albeit, interrupted for me) and we never had to let Baby G “cry it out” in her crib.

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I started doing research on co-sleeping and found that the research on its safety is much more mixed than western doctors let on. I confided in a good friend who has two children, and she said she did it too for the first eight weeks. As I opened up and talked with other women about co-sleeping, it turned out that most of them had done it or were still doing it with their own children.

But still, in many circles, I felt compelled to lie about our co-sleeping habits. Here are five reasons we mothers do this:

1) Your doctor will lecture you. Some mothers I know said their doctors turned their heads when they heard their patients were co-sleeping. One doctor even confided in my friend that she herself co-slept with her infants but that the American Association of Pediatrics forces her to advise against it. My doctor warned me against co-sleeping, but when I asked him what I’m supposed to do when my baby is screaming her head off in her crib, he didn’t have any valuable advice.

2) Idiots will tell you things like: “Better kick that habit right now or else she’ll be sleeping with you when she’s 16!” Even my lactation consultant told me that, which kind of floored me, considering co-sleeping is one of the best ways to support a healthy breastfeeding relationship early on. The thing is, this kind of sentiment is said by people who really have no idea what they are talking about. There is research out there to say that co-sleeping actually fosters independence, not dependance. I am glad to say we proved them wrong, because at six months, she made the transition to the crib and it was not nearly as much of a struggle as I thought it would have been.

3) Somehow, deep down inside, we worry that we are putting our baby at risk for SIDS. The thing is though, there are safe and unsafe ways to bed share, but the whole thing has been lumped into one. Modern Alternative Mama separates the two and gives tips for safe co-sleeping and Kindred Community really breaks apart the research on both sides in this article on co-sleeping.

4) You’re sick of people telling you you’re spoiling your baby. If meeting the needs of my newborn baby is “spoiling” her, then I hope she is the most spoiled baby in the world. The funny thing is, the whole “cry it out” method is more steeped in patriarchal 1950s culture than science or medicine, as described in this Psychology Today article on crying it out. (Seriously, read this article. It’s enlightening.)

5) You just KNOW that people wonder when/if/how you are intimate with your partner when you share a bed with a baby. But this is no reason to hide the fact that you co-sleep. Most people are way too scared to ask, so I say let their imaginations run wild.

Maybe this has not been your experience. Maybe your baby did just as the books said – maybe he fell asleep on his own, by himself in his crib. In that case, hooray for you! But I so identify with “Thirty Something Mummy” in her story about how she judged moms who bed shared and swore she never would herself … until she had her first baby.

My favorite saying about the whole crib vs. co-sleeping debate is the arrangement that gives the whole family the best sleep is the best arrangement for your family.

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24 Comments

  1. Poekitten on November 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    I knew Munchkin wouldn’t be in her nursery in a crib, so we bought an arms reach co sleeper so she could sleep next to us. It seemed like the perfect solution! yeah, no. 16 months later and Munchkin is still bed sharing with us. I love it and it works for us. We’re going to start to transition soon (we hope. If it doesn’t work we’ll wait a little longer) to her toddler bed. I don’t lie about it though. It works for us and that’s what’s most important:) Though I think we’ll transition to a crib a lot sooner with the next one. As much as I love cuddling with my baby. I miss cuddling with my husband:)

    • creatingmom on November 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      That’s awesome you knew before you gave birth. You must have done your research, or had another mama friend who went before you. Yeah, I felt like six months was “time” for us. Baby G stopped sleeping soundly next to me (too distracted with constant access to milk!) and I wasn’t sleeping as deeply as I could either. But I do miss those cuddles, especially the ones first thing in the morning.

  2. Kelly on November 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    We totally co-slept with one of ours until he was 6 months and the other until he was 11.5. Worked great for us! I miss it, honestly 🙂

    • creatingmom on November 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      Great to hear! I miss it in some ways, too. But I do love being able to sprawl out on the bed. 😉

  3. Janelle on November 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Like you, I didn’t plan on co-sleeping, but ended up doing so for about nine months because my son just wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve since done research, and looking back I feel like we made the right choice (my son sleeps wonderfully by himself all night now), and would feel confident in doing it again should the situation arise. Thank you for sharing this!

    • creatingmom on November 9, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      HAHA yeah Janelle, I never was “into” the idea of co-sleeping but Baby G called the shots early on. Next time around (if we get a next time), I’m not going to be so freaked out/embarrassed about it. Glad to hear your little one sleeps so well. Ours does too. We put in our time and it’s paying off.

  4. Paula W on November 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I think it helps to know the different schools of thought for pros and cons and just ideas if you ever get stuck, but I am a firm believer of “no one knows what’s best for baby better than momma.” You know what she needs and what your family needs. There are also different external situations, plus different temperaments to complicate things, and there is no one solution that works for all babies. I think you did a perfect job being sensitive to your baby and just going with it. Your next one may be the complete opposite and may prefer other sleeping arrangements from the beginning.

  5. Paula W on November 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    We were able to have Baby O in her own crib at night from the beginning, and she slept there no problem… we kept the monitors on high and checked on her often, but I felt comfortable with the arrangement and it allowed me to get the rest I needed to function and be the best mommy I could be. But O is a pretty mellow baby and it was what worked for her. Sometimes I would let her sleep on me for naps though because she was a horrible napper in the beginning. Letting her sleep on my chest was the only way to start getting her nap lengths longer and give her sleep rhythms a chance to develop a pattern. Once those were set we went to crib during the day too but she didn’t really have a problem with it. Even then some days if she was feeling sad or sicky we would treat the situation special and sleep cuddle. So I always tried to go with what worked best, and not be so stuck on rigid rules. Eventually we all want them to be able to sleep in their own beds, but momma knows best when that is, or how gradual or quick that transition is.

    • creatingmom on November 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      I think you nailed it on the head Paula, every baby is different and there is no one “right way” to figure out the sleeping situation that works best for your family.

  6. Jenna @ A Mama Collective on November 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with doing what works best for your family 🙂 I also agree that people definitely feel compelled to lie about this situation, which is SO unfortunate that we can’t be honest with each other as mamas!

    Found you on the Mommy Monday Blog Hop!

    • creatingmom on November 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks, Jenna. Love your blog!

  7. Julia on November 10, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Coming over from Mommy Monday! This is a wonderful post. All my feeling exactly! I ended up co-sleeping all night until 8 weeks and then just the morning until about 8 months. He wouldn’t sleep any other way. Now it’s nice to sleep and not worry about him next to me. But we do co-sleep for naps, so I still get my snuggles! I definitely felt judged by a lot of people. But every baby is so different so it’s not fair to put your judgements onto other parents. Really love this post!

    • creatingmom on November 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      Julia, we might be kindred spirits. 😉 That was our situation too. But you know what? For every one judgy person out there, I found 10 gracious, understanding people I could be honest with.

  8. Brittnei on November 11, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    This is such a great post. This is pretty much what happened to us when our baby came home almost 19 months ago too! We co slept for a few weeks and then he would sleep in th cosleeper/bassinet that we had near the bed. We did this for 3 months. At around 4 or so months he kept waking up so often I decided to bring him back in the bed. He’s been in there ever since. I do get comments about in once in a blue and about still breast feeding him but not too often. I just don’t talk about it often but if I’m asked I tell the truth and then do what hubby says I should do most often which is “deaf ear” people who make stupid comments. There are ways to safely cosleep. If you are drinking or taking medication before bed in most cases you should be fine. Thanks for sharing with us on Mommy Monday. Pinned this one for you!

    • creatingmom on November 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      Hi Brittnei, so glad to hear you share. Your husband sounds wise. It’s so nice to have our men “on our side” … helps us deflect the naysayers out there. Yes, I’ve read over and over that almost all of the danger related to co-sleeping involves parents who abuse drugs and alcohol. It’s not fair that we are put in the same boat as parents who do that.

  9. thechicsahm on November 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

    We partially co-slept with our daughter and we’re doing it now with our son. He’s four months old and I’m breastfeeding. The kids always start off in their own bed. When they wake up for a feeding they just stay in our bed. My daughter is three now and she sleeps in her own bed every night. I think people fail to realize that sometimes co-sleeping is for the Mom just as much as it is for the baby.

    • creatingmom on November 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Agreed! Because seriously, how much easier is it to breastfeed when your baby is right there rather than trudging to another room 100 times per night? 😉

  10. Melissa on November 12, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Guilty as charged! My 3 yr old still sleeps with us. It’s sleep deprived lunatic mom or everybody’s cozy, snuggled and happy…ah no brainer for me.

    • La Maman Heureuse on November 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      Totally with you on that! Sleep deprived lunatic mom is so not an option for me!

  11. mychillthoughts on November 13, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Guilty here, too! Though we share our bed with our almost-2-year-old, I would much rather have him in his own bed. Eventually he will crave that space, too – I HOPE!

    Great post!

  12. La Maman Heureuse on November 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Hopping over from the Mommy Monday Blog Hop 🙂 Love this post, over here in Belgium, it’s so not done to co-sleep with your child. I always said I never do it, but somehow we did and I still love nothing better than have her beside me. I just sleep a whole lot better when she’s close and I love the feeling when you feel those little hands on you in the middle of the night.

    People look at us like we’re some kind of bad parents, and whenever I say it’s a cultural thing and like in the States it’s a whole lot more common to do so, they always look at me like: how do you do?

    And I had to laugh so hard with your remark that no 16-year old will ever sleep with their parents, so true. As a kid I loved co-sleeping with my parents, I always made me feel safe. Yet now there is nothing I rather do than just sleep alone (except for the little one).

    Nice to know I’m not the only mama out there who feels like that!

    • creatingmom on November 20, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      Wow, a reader in Belgium! Awesome. Thanks so much for your thoughts. I’m sorry that you deal with more prejudice there for co-sleeping. You are certainly not alone though. Anytime you want to chat more, write me. 🙂

  13. Chelsea on January 21, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    I refused to co-sleep with my girls. I lucked out though. I didn’t breast feed and my oldest started sleeping through the night after one week and my youngest after after 7weeks. My doctor actually told me that this was bad….but it was their own natural sleep schedule.

    • creatingmom on January 21, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      Whoa, you lucky lady. Enjoy that sleep!

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